yelp hateYelp has been surrounded by controversy for years. The review giant has been accused of taking down positive reviews of companies that cancel or don’t subscribe to their advertising, and these accusations culminated in the first major class action lawsuit in 2011.

Since 2011, Yelp has been accused of extortion and been sued many times, and from what I’ve seen, almost every case has has been dismissed. However, the New York Post reported on one case where a California judge ruled against Yelp. The Honorable Peter Doft actually likened Yelp to a “modern-day version of the Mafia going to stores and saying, `You want to not be bothered? You want to not have incidents in your store? Pay us protection money.’”

Despite the setback in the aforementioned case, and the consistent negativity surrounding Yelp, they’ve been clear in their stance that they do not extort people. Yelp admits that in an effort to fight fake reviews they may be removing legitimate positive reviews unintentionally. That’s simply how their algorithm works.

That’s fair and understandable. However, what isn’t fair is blatantly manipulating whatever “automated” process is in place for weeding out reviews.

While I have yet to have any clients experience this loss of positive reviews, I do have a unique example of a client who’s main profile image was altered shortly after they cancelled their advertising plan. If you’re unfamiliar with how your photos appear on Yelp they make it clear that all photos and videos are “automatically sorted,” and you have no control over the order or which one’s show up on your main profile page, unless you purchase their slideshow upgrade.

My client’s Yelp page showed their logo and other business photos while they were advertising.

Within only a couple weeks of cancelling their advertising plan their main profile page images suddenly changed. The new highlighted photo that replaced their logo was a negative image uploaded by a patient.

Keep in mind that this is a 4 star medspa with only a handful of negative reviews over the past 8-9 years. More importantly, the patient who uploaded the photo later amended, and upgraded, their review.

So let me get this straight, for two and a half years, while advertising with Yelp, this photo never showed up at the top. Now, all of the sudden after cancelling the advertising plan it shoots to the top? I call BS.

If you’re a business owner with experience with Yelp, good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts below.