​A new study suggests Yelp shows more 1-star and 5-star results, despite more middle-ground posts going live on the network.

​As local search takes its rightful place in broader internet marketing strategies, brands with physical locations are learning more about what Yelp can do for them long term. Brafton recently reported that the review-based company aims to connect search and sales with a new call-to-action feature that guides consumers toward a specific result. Some highlighted examples are reserving a table at a restaurant, purchasing a ticket for an entertainment venue or scheduling services elsewhere.

To some extent, the Yelp CTA function largely relies on brands’ ability to compel users to leave positive or helpful reviews, but a new study suggests Yelp may not always assist companies in showcasing their happy customers. According to “Fake it Til You Make it: Reputation, Competition and Yelp Review Fraud,” by Michael Luca and Georgios Zervas, Yelp hid more than 50,000 out of the 316,000 reviews it studied on the platform – approximately 16 percent of the pool.

Yelp surfaces extreme reviews, and highlights contributions from newer members more than any other type of post.

The two researchers wanted to understand if there was a pattern that led Yelp to hide certain reviews. Their findings found two things in common: Yelp surfaces extreme reviews, and highlights contributions from newer members.

The study found that Yelp showcases more 1-star and 5-star ratings compared to the volume of posts with those actual grades. That means Yelp disproportionately displays online content, and while more 2, 3, or 4-star posts may be published, consumers will often see fewer of those results on the site. More, the study found that 70 percent of the posts featured on Yelp were from people who have only written a few posts in the past. Research suggests that Yelp will often position this web content higher in results than contributions from long-term Yelp members.

What does this mean for brands that have put a lot of resources toward maintaining high-quality reputations on Yelp? They must reevaluate the customer experience they offer online and offline to generate as many 5-star reviews as possible.

Of course, every company wants to garner the best-possible results, but it’s more important than ever before, with local search and Yelp becoming integral components in search marketing. Content creation may be able to help. Brands that provide site visitors with as much information as possible about products and services can help set realistic expectations, so when users do visit brick-and-mortar outlets, they know exactly what they’ll get, and will showcase their satisfaction through positive reviews online.

Ted Karczewski is an Executive Communications Associate at Brafton. He works to develop his own voice and apply his passions to the evolving world of SEO and content marketing, but he doesn't shy away from writing for fun. After graduating from Suffolk University, Ted used his Communications degree to test out Sports Journalism before Marketing at Brafton.