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Mr. Stoppelman acknowledged that the fluctuation of the site’s reviews “flusters and surprises a lot of business owners.” Some explanations are in the site’s “frequently asked questions,” but not everyone reads those.

“We need to figure out how we make this bonk-you-over-the-head obvious, so that everybody understands, ‘Look, this is going to happen,’ ” he said.

Mr. Stoppelman thinks there will always be tension between Yelp and business owners because consumers are creating the content, which is inherently unpredictable.