For restaurants and products there is rarely a shortage of reviews, good and bad. The average restaurant has far more reviews than the average contractor or repair shop. The only reason someone would be compelled to write a review for a service business is after a negative experience. For that reason service businesses often resort to asking customers for reviews after positive experiences to balance out the bad. Unfortunately Yelp prohibits businesses from asking for reviews and can filter them if they think you might be doing so.
It doesn’t take much to figure out which reviews have been fabricated. I can usually read through a list and figure out which reviews are written by friends and employees because they are overwhelmingly positive, and often not very specific. I think someone would rather read 10 questionable reviews, than give the user no information at all. Filtering the most questionable reviews in a list of 50 makes a lot more sense than filtering 5 of 5.
For these reasons I think the Google places, online yellow pages, and the other local business directories are a better choice for service businesses than Yelp.
Why the reviews filter is unfair
Distinguishing real reviews from fake ones is a nearly impossible undertaking. There are basic restrictions, for example not being able to sign up for multiple accounts from the same IP address. Also, I don’t think the business owner account can write a review for his own business, but after that it becomes very difficult.
Many reviews are filtered because of the status of the user account. If user signs up for an account and posts a review it will be filtered unless they continue to use that account to review other businesses. I have heard of other companies that will have their employees “season” Yelp accounts. They have people use these accounts under fake names so that they appear to be very active Yelp accounts. Then they collect testimonials and post them using these accounts.
Furthermore, there is no effective way to prevent business owners from asking for reviews. If a business creates any sort of offline effort to ask for reviews there is no way Yelp could be aware of that. Yelp should not penalize business for actually getting customers to post reviews, rather than hiring someone to “season” accounts that can be used to get by the filter.