Posted April 6, 2010 10:28 am by with 4 comments

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Yelp has been under some fire recently because of its review system and charges of strong-arm sales tactics. These are not the kind of headlines that any company wants to make. As a result, a post in the Yelp blog by CEO Jeremy Stoppleman outlines some changes that have been made by yelp to address some of the controversy.

What was most interesting in the post perhaps was, though, the last paragraph

Most consumers probably won’t notice the product changes announced here, but we hope this new ability to “look under the hood” will help everyone understand the lengths we’ve taken to ensure Yelp is the most trusted resource on the internet for connecting people with great local businesses.

This really brings to the forefront the difference between users and customers in the Internet economy. In Yelp’s case it is the small business owner who is trying to figure out just how yelp’s system works and how they can manipulate it to their advantage through reviews etc that is the customer. The user of the site, the person looking for a review, is not being marketed to because they don’t actually pay for anything. They are a part of the process.

This will always create a tension between sites doing what is right for their users and what is right for their customers. If you make a major change to how your site works but it won’t be noticed by the end user that is interesting. What if the end users were made completely aware of all the backroom activities that result in the review section they rely on? Would they still trust it? Don’t most people just think that a review is a review is a review?

Oh, the changes that were made for the Yelp customer? Yelp is providing more transparency on the review filters that have been controversial and the assurance that they work the same for advertisers and non-advertisers. Also, the addition of video in a business page slide show.

Whoa, wait a minute? Wouldn’t the consumer notice that one? Wouldn’t the addition of video be a boost to a businesses presence on Yelp or are consumers not paying attention to these slide shows? I’m confuzzled.

Anyway, one of the last mentions was the development of a small business group of Yelp ‘customers’

Additionally, in an effort to more formally integrate feedback from the business community, we’ve created a Small Business Advisory Council whose members will provide Yelp management with guidance and perspective regarding the concerns of small business owners.

In other words, Yelp is going to let the SMB mold Yelp into what it needs so you can get more business. Let’s face it, if it doesn’t generate more business then Yelp serves no purpose for them. If no purpose for the SMB then no revenue for Yelp.

So who is the real influencer with Yelp? The reviewer who is supposedly the cornerstone of Yelp’s business or the small business owner who needs to make sure his/her reviews are in their business’s best interest?

I realize I am taking the cynic’s point of view here. What’s your take?

  • Mukul Verma

    At the end of the day, Yelp has a business to run.

    Keep paying customers happiest and other users happy.

    As you get big, there are always haters out there 🙂


  • I love yelp, use it all the time when I go to buy something. I am a bit sorry to see these changes seems as though whenever a site starts to get big they run into lawsuit after lawsuit anymore.

  • This is purely a “CYA” move given the class action lawsuit. It’s so obvious that it’s pitiful they’re trying to make it out to be some grand gesture on their part. While I genuinely like and appreciate Yelp as a whole, their scam selling tactics (as put forth by the people in the lawsuit and which I agree have taken place) need to end.

    Ultimately, if it’s not a service business owners can gain value from (without strong-arm tactics), then all the users in the world will not be enough to monetarily justify keeping it alive and growing. But I also think the new changes will allow more of the negative reviews to be seen. Hopefully. But doubtfully. Given how they still have a “secret” formula for determining which reviews show up. Even with the new ability to see which ones didn’t, how many people are going to click through to that?
    .-= Alan Bleiweiss´s last blog ..Eight Emotional Stages of an SEO Contract =-.

    • I love yelp and the other social review sites. My concern is when they’re used by those with an axe to grind to organize ‘hate’ campaigns against businesses fueled by ‘reviewers’ who’ve never actually been a customer of that business. I’ve worked with a couple of clients now who’ve been subjected to negative reviews by non-customers.