I need to try to be fair to Yelp. A reader sends me some second-hand comments from an ex-employee at Yelp:
He absolutely believes that there is no way for Yelp to hide or promote reviews just based on who the company is. This doesn't mean that they're not, of course. What my colleague says, though, is that the overriding criterion that they use to determine if a review should be "recommended" is if they can verify that the writer is a real person.
There are a couple ways you can do this, but two that will actually cause all of your past reviews to suddenly become recommended:
1) Work for Yelp--not really helpful, I know. I am told that Yelp will instantly fire anyone who leaves reviews while working there. But, once you leave, all of your reviews will always be recommended.
2) Connect your Yelp account to your Facebook, then connect with 100 friends.
There are other ways to have past reviews always come up recommended. If you post a review or several reviews, and, in aggregate, you get four interactions (they are marked as funny, cool, or useful), this will happen.
So I went back and looked. To see if one's reviews are in the non-recommended purgatory, you have to log out (Yelp will pretend to you that you are recommended until you log out**). Sure enough, all my 9 reviews seem to be in purgatory. In other words, any effort I expended on reviews has been wasted, because Yelp does not show them. I tend to write longer reviews, so apparently writing fewer more detailed reviews is not a practice Yelp wants to promote. Do they prefer folks who spam lots of short reviews? I can see how that may be, since more reviews bulk up Yelp's numbers.
I don't know what to make of this feedback. At one level, it seems right and makes sense. There are a lot of not recommended reviews where the review has just that one review. But not always. For example, for this store, reviewers with no picture, no name (just initials), just 2 total reviews and no friends are recommended, but someone who has a picture, a real name, 1 friend and 31 reviews is not. I have to say that either their algorithm has some purposely random element (to defeat reverse engineering) or else there are other factors involved than just the ones listed above. Also, some of the advice above simply has to be wrong. For example, the last sentence makes no sense since it is impossible to upvote or favorite reviews in not-recommended purgatory (they don't even give you the buttons to do so).
I will post some more reviews over time to see if I get pulled out of spam status by their computer, or if I am permanently exiled based on a corporate complaint.
** By the way, this could be the subject of a gripe in and of itself. It should not be so opaque that one's posts are all getting sent to the Yelp spam folder. It is kind of insulting to invest this effort and then find out later Yelp is trashing everything I write.