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Stay away from Yelp. With recent developments, they’ve lost any sense of trust they might’ve had with their users. At this point, Yelp’s reviews have little redemptive value and users should look to an alternative service when finding local businesses.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Keep reading to find out.

What’s Wrong With Yelp?

Just a few weeks ago, Yelp earned court permission to change business ratings for money. For those who are already privy to Yelp’s alleged shady practices, this should come as no surprise. If this is news to you, however, then here’s a crash course on the questionable reputation of Yelp.

The story is always the same:

  • Yelp approaches a business and asks if they want to advertise with Yelp for a modest price.
  • If the business declines, Yelp pursues them with more aggression.
  • If the business still declines, their Yelp rating plummets as their 4- and 5-star reviews become filtered for no apparent reason.

Not surprisingly, this story also flows the other way:

  • Yelp approaches a business and asks if they want to advertise with Yelp for a modest price.
  • If the business accepts, they pay the fees.
  • Coincidentally, they begin receiving good reviews that boost their rating while having poor reviews filtered out.

For testimonies regarding Yelp’s suspicious practices, you can check a few examples from TechCrunch, a Reddit AMA, the Reddit community again, IB Times, SF Weekly, and East Bay Express…just to sample a few.

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Most of these claims against Yelp are anecdotal in nature. In most cases, anecdotal evidence isn’t really evidence at all because they could simply be rumors and hearsay. However, in this case, the anecdote count is so staggering that it’s hard to imagine all of it being fabricated. You’ll have to decide on your own whether you believe it or not. You can go into the whole commotion with Ryan, who investigated the Yelp rating algorithm Investigating The Yelp Rating Algorithm: How Internet Memes Spread Investigating The Yelp Rating Algorithm: How Internet Memes Spread Many small businesses on Yelp believe the review service manipulates its rating algorithm. But is it true? We detail that investigation with first person accounts and interviews with Yelp managers. Read More with a few witness accounts and an interview with a senior manager from Yelp’s PR team.

Nonetheless, this court ruling should horrify all of us. How can we trust a ratings site when they’re legally allowed to manipulate said ratings? We can’t. Ratings lose all meaning when integrity is no longer in the picture, which is why we recommend abandoning Yelp in favor of these alternatives.

If you’re a business owner, protect yourself with this guide to minimizing Yelp’s leverage over you. If you’re a regular user or customer, learn how to detect paid shills and fraudulent reviewers with these tips for spotting fake reviews The Scourge Of The Web: Fake Reviews & How To Spot Them The Scourge Of The Web: Fake Reviews & How To Spot Them "User reviews" are actually a pretty recent phenomenon. Before the prevalence of the Internet, user reviews were called testimonials, and you’d only see them on TV commercials and product pages. Nowadays, anyone can write anything... Read More .

Foursquare

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Regions

Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United States.

Description

A few months ago, Foursquare took the iconic “check-in” functionality and their social networking features and split them off into a separate app called Swarm. As a result, the rebooted Foursquare has improved quite a bit Foursquare Relaunches As Discovery Tool Based On Your Tastes Foursquare Relaunches As Discovery Tool Based On Your Tastes Foursquare pioneered the mobile check-in; a location-based status update that told the world exactly where you were and why – so is the switch to a pure discovery tool a step forward? Read More as far as recommendations are concerned, making it fantastic for making new discoveries.

Availability

Foursquare is available freely on the web and as apps for Android and iOS.  A Windows Phone version is reportedly in development as well.

UrbanSpoon

yelp-alternatives-urbanspoon

Regions

Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States.

Description

Urbanspoon is a regional tool that operates using a “spinner” method to help you find somewhere to eat. There are three factors involved – location, cuisine type, and price range – and you can “lock in” filters for more specific results. Results are ranked according to an algorithm that takes user votes into consideration.

Activating the spinner presents you with a relevant choice but if it’s unsatisfactory, you can keep spinning as many times as you want. All in all, it’s a great tool for making quick decisions Indecisive? Make The Right Choices With These Apps Indecisive? Make The Right Choices With These Apps Have you heard of the paradox of choice? If you're like me and suffer from analysis paralysis, these apps will change your life. Read More when you’re just not sure what you want to eat.

Availability

Urbanspoon is available freely on the web and as apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

TripAdvisor

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Regions

International

Description

TripAdvisor is useful even if you aren’t planning a trip. Use it to find the best hotels, restaurants, vacation rentals, and tourist attractions right in your area. After all, if they’re rated highly for visitors, they’ll be just as good for locals as well. Reviews and ratings are generated by their community of users.

Availability

TripAdvisor is freely available on the web and as apps for Android and iOS.

Google+ Local

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Regions

International

Description

Google Places, Google My Business, and Google+ Local are all related. Google Places is now known as Google My Business, which is the free service that allows business owners to make their businesses visible on Google Maps Become A Google Maps Boss With These 6 Crucial Tips Become A Google Maps Boss With These 6 Crucial Tips How can you make use of Google Maps to the utmost? What sorts of tricks await your utilization? Keep reading to find out how you can become a Google Maps pro in no time. Read More and Google Search. Google+ Local is a review and recommendation service for Google+ users based on Google My Business.

Availability

Google+ Local is freely available on the web but requires a Google+ account.

Yahoo! Local

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Regions

United States

Description

Yahoo! Local is a huge repository of reviews with dozens of categories, including education, entertainment, home & garden, legal services, travel, and plenty more. These reviews also appear when using Yahoo! Maps Yahoo Moves Ahead On The Revival Road With The New Yahoo Maps Yahoo Moves Ahead On The Revival Road With The New Yahoo Maps A refreshed Yahoo Maps for the desktop comes to U.S. users. The new Yahoo Maps comes with a slew of new features and more interactivity but missing an equivalent mobile app so far. Read More . Reviews are mostly written by the community users but Yahoo! also includes reviews curated from magazines and blogs.

Availability

Yahoo! Local is freely available on the web for everyone.

Local.com

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Regions

United States

Description

Just a few years ago, Local.com claimed to have reached the respectable 1-billion-impressions-per-month milestone. For a service localized to the United States, that’s quite impressive. With this site, you can search and find everything from restaurants to sporting events, from dentists to concerts in your area.

Availability

Local.com is freely available on the web and as apps on Android and iOS.

Angie’s List

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Regions

United States

Description

Despite the similarity in names, don’t misconstrue Angie’s List to be a paid version of Craigslist. Angie’s List is a review site for local businesses throughout the United States but access to the information is only available to paid members. Membership starts at $3.75 USD per month.

The largest benefit of Angie’s List is that its level of regulation exceeds most other sites with crowdsourced business reviews and the paid membership barrier often leads to higher quality contributions by members. Businesses with good ratings can pay for advertisement space as long as they grant discounts to Angie’s List members.

Availability

Angie’s List is available on the web and as apps for Android and iOS.

Who Do You

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Regions

United States

Description

Who Do You is a bit different from the usual Yelp alternatives. It claims to “turn advice between friends into recommendations for local businesses,” which is certainly a smarter direction to take. Personal recommendations between friends are also more likely to be authentic, but Who Do You also allows users to write traditional reviews.

Information is aggregated through Facebook but your private information will always remain private Protect Yourself With Facebook's Privacy Check-up Tool Protect Yourself With Facebook's Privacy Check-up Tool Facebook has a privacy problem. It's no secret. You hear stories about that every other day. So to help users understand their settings better, Facebook has released a new tool called Privacy Check-up. Read More . Search categories include services that range across medical, legal, professional, financial, automotive, and more.

Availability

Who Do You is freely available on the web and they recently released apps on Android and iOS.

Knowzz

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Regions

N/A

Description

Similar to Who Do You, Knowzz is a service based on user recommendations rather than straight up reviews. With it, you maintain a collection of your own recommendations for good restaurants, businesses, etc.

You can share your recommendations with friends AND you can search through the recommendations that your friends have made. If you don’t have any friends who use Knowzz, you can still search the recommendations of users in your general region.

This app is still young and the concept will work much better when it grows in popularity, but even with just a handful of people in your network, it can prove quite useful.

Availability

Knowzz is only available as apps for Android and iOS.

LocalFu

yelp-alternatives-localfu

Regions

United Kingdom and United States

Description

If you’re looking for personal recommendations that aren’t based on review scores, LocalFu is the service for you. For $5 USD, you can get matched up with an “expert local” who will ask about your situation (e.g., where should I go for an anniversary dinner, what are some fun local activities, or who are the most reputable dentists) and they’ll get back to you with a personal response.

It may not be as timely or convenient as a service like Yelp, but there’s a much higher chance that the information you get is relevant, authentic, and tailored to you.

Availability

LocalFu is available on the web only.

Where Do You Hunt For Local Recommendations?

Do you still prefer Yelp, or do you have a favored service tucked away in the browser or on an app. Or do you rely on the most powerful testimonial of all — word of mouth? It’s your turn to give us your best recommendations.

Image Credit: Magnified Yelp Via Shutterstock

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