I don't trust it, I know they have sketchy, almost extortion-like practices for owners of businesses. I posted something positive about the hairdresser I switched to, and they wouldn't show it because I was "new." I do read them when I'm doing google searches, but I take them with a grain of salt. A lot of "good" reviews have been outed as employee and owner reviews, too.
My suggestion is to ask your best customers to post good reviews on yelp. I don't even look at advertising but I check reviews. I have heard rumors that they do things to skew the ratings for people that pay. They will hide bad reviews. I don't know if that is true. My auto mechanic has fantastic reviews on yelp and I don't think they advertise. They are fantastic so I don't doubt that one. I think reading the reviews can help me understand more about a place but I have been disappointed. I also think it is important to monitor your yelp site in case you do get a bad review and you can defend yourself. How are your rating on yelp now?
Yeah...I'm not comfortable asking customers to do that, I feel that if they want to post a review they will do it on their own.
One of my competitors gets lousy reviews on occasion (I'm actually surprised there aren't more...they're nasty people) and then within a few days there are a bunch of positive reviews when there hadn't been any reviews in months. It's so obvious that they asked people to post to counteract the negative review. I can't believe anyone would actually fall for it.
I've used it mostly for restaurant reviews. You do have to take the reviews with a grain of salt. I dismiss the ones that are too positive or too negative. Sometimes, though, that's all you find. Most of the people who don't have strong opinions either way probably don't take the time to write a review.
I guess it is all relative. I look at the number of reviews, the dates, what they say, etc. I saw a news show where they exposed companies that employ people that leave good reviews on different sites. Some were teenagers that really knew nothing about the product. I agree probably not nice to ask customers to leave reviews but I have seen signs that say if you think we gave good service, please consider leaving a review on yelp. It is interesting to look up businesses you already use and see what people say. I know the younger you are, the more you do check sites for reviews. I am not engaged in all that but I do check BBB and yelp and look up "complaints" a lot of times before I use a business.
I have used Yelp, but to my understanding businesses are now allowed to pay to have reviews removed. I probably won't use Yelp any more after learning that. For a small time shop the reviews may be more accurate\believable but the larger locations I don't think I could trust their 4.5 scores.
I've been paying more attention to Google reviews recently.
You can't have reviews removed. They do allow the business to respond to a Review publicly...3 times for free, after that you have to pay.
I'm glad to see that most people here are not big Yelp users. I feel that they are doing nothing more than extorting money from business owners. They create a page for your business but post ads for your competitors on your page more prominent than your business info. You can get those ads removed by paying hundreds of dollars per month. They give the public an opportunity to Review your business, but if you want to reply (beyond 3 times) you have to pay...hundreds of dollars per month.
I belong to the National Association of Professional Pet sitters...and they've just had this discussion on their board...
After everything I've read, I wouldn't use them for anything!
Like Marie said, they have some VERY sketchy practices...
So be very, very careful...
I always Google the business first. If I see Google review are available, I read those first. Then I'll venture onto their Yelp or Urbanspoon, etc. reviews. I try to get a general feel of the business from multiple websites, BBB, etc.
I'm somewhere in between "all the time" and "google it and look at a Yelp link if it comes up". I use it mainly for restaurants like most folks here, but I've also used it to find a good hairdresser, bakery, watch repair, tailor, mechanic, and store that sells raw cat food! I like to use it to find general information about a business, too. Things like store hours (open on Sun?), parking availability, menus, links to the store website, and photos all uploaded in one place sure comes in handy. I've started using Yelp since my move to Seattle 9 years ago, when I had no clue where anything was! Even the Safeway store hours here are different, depending on its location. In my hometown, every Safeway is open 24 hours. I knew everything back home, no need for Yelp.
So all in all, I use Yelp to help me find things and get a better idea of the place in general. It has definitely helped me when I'm in a different city or outside my local area. Any negative reviews I read I realize may also be skewed as we don't often hear the business' point of view of an incident, or could be that someone was just having an "off" day. We all have those, regardless of what occupation you have.