Yelp says Yelp Sort is applied to all businesses regardless of whether they advertise, but the method raises suspicions that Yelp unfairly manipulates the order. You can re-order the reviews by clicking one of several options, including sorting by date or star rating.
You also can choose to look just at reviews that have been deemed useful by other Yelpers, or read reviews only written by “Elite” Yelpers, people who are extremely active on Yelp and thus expected to be more credible.
—Search for what you care about. Yelp enables people to search for specific terms within a business’ mass of reviews, which is helpful when a business has hundreds or thousands of reviews. For instance, if you want to know whether a restaurant is pet-friendly, search for “dog” within that restaurant’s reviews. You can search for customer service or other terms to narrow results to what you care about.
—Look at an individual reviewer’s statistics. You’re more likely to trust reviews from people who write frequently and who have a good distribution of stars that reflect a mix of positive and negative reviews.
—Check out the filtered reviews. Many business owners who don’t advertise with Yelp believe that their favorable reviews are filtered out, leaving only the negative ones behind. On the opposite end, there have been accusations that Yelp filters negative reviews for businesses that do pay up. If you’re suspicious, scroll to the bottom of a business’ page and click on filtered reviews. Then you can decide for yourself.