I got into a conversation today with a lovely independent consultant at the SMX conference in NY. She was a mature savvy marketer and she had a nice rolodex of small and mid-size customers. The conversation was largely about local data management and the overwhelming amount of effort required to clean up the ecosystem for her clients. Dirty data – one of my favorite subjects.
While talking, she brought up the topic of consumer reviews and how she believed that reviews are the next big data issue that needs to get tackled. We talked about Google reviews and, of course, we talked about Yelp.
In January, Mike Blumenthal wrote Yelp: Real People. Real Reviews. Deceptive Sales Tactics and drew further attention to the aggressive and frankly dishonest advertising sales tactics for which Yelp has become known by small, local advertisers.
A vast number of small and medium size advertisers have also come forward with their respective Yelp stories and how they have been pressured to advertise. When they chose not to buy, they claimed to have been punished by Yelp’s controversial filter. Many of their reviews disappeared and some businesses no longer show up in searches at all.
As quickly as Yelp came up in my conversation today was as quickly as we both acknowledged the diminishing value of their content. We seemed to both be acknowledging that Yelp’s reviews were tarnished. SMX is an industry conference and my counterpart was someone from the industry. We both knew the stories, our perception of Yelp had shifted and their reputation had been soured with both of us.
In August, Andrea Chang expanded her previous coverage of this topic with her article on Don’t trust Yelp reviews? Six tips for consumers in the Los Angeles Times. Andrea took the story to the consumer who is now growing aware of the questionable nature of Yelp content. So I guess Yelp is being called a dirt bag in the public forum. When consumers come to believe it, Yelp’s reputation could be shot.
Remember when Yahoo was the search engine? Do you Yahoo? A brand has made it when it turns into a commonly used verb right? Xerox it. Of course when people found out about paid inclusion, that advertisers paid to be included on page-1 of organic results on Yahoo, they were heavily disenchanted with the brand. The fact that a slick, new clean page offering search results with the words “Google” on it had shown up right around the same time eventually led to our Googling it for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps the fall of Yelp’s reviews will pave the way for yet another Google product to rise to the top as well. After all, Google does a pretty darn good job at managing their rep.