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  1. #1
    Member Since
    Jul 2012
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    Yelp: When the Hard Sell Goes South

    Greg Sterling wrote last week about the on-going resentment that SMBs display towards Yelp. It seems to me that the intrinsic contradiction of selling low value, high priced ads against reviews that many businesses dislike, creates an inevitable conflict and distrust. But when you add high pressure, hard sell techniques to the mix it becomes […]Related posts:
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    3. Yelp Reviews Back in Google Maps as their .COM Growth Stops

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  2. #2
    Member Since
    Nov 2012
    Washington, DC metro region
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    Re: Yelp: When the Hard Sell Goes South

    That particular story is quite sad. I do hope that person gets her monies back and there are no penalties.

    I'd like to point out a few things:

    Yelp has earned its bad reputation among smb's by a long series of less than nice offerings for many years. I've some experiences with Yelp salespeople from several years ago and more recently within the last year. I'd say that there is less "arm twisting"/ implied or unimplied threats recently than several years ago. Still there is nothing "sweet" about them.

    I believe Mike suggests that selling ads on the essence of reviews is not the best sales vehicle around. Maybe. Maybe not. Its yelp's content and frankly it is significantly more compelling than other content. And its more visible to searchers than any other content in that Yelp has currently or recently done a better job of "winning the google ranking wars" by having highly ranked content than any other similar type of web site.

    I've seen that reviews do drive sales in our examples. Yes google has reviews also.

    The issue though is that google has this incredibly enormous monopoly on all things search. Most IYP's show weak in search and end up delivering scant traffic to most smb's. There are virtually no competitors to google's presence and effort to suck up all ad $$ on the web. Yelp, which in essence lives off of google search, is a competitor of sorts. It should be celebrated rather than ripped. There are few real others.

    There are other evil players in the market IMHO. I've experience with some of the google local ad resellers: Google's "partners" so to speak: ReachLocal and Yodle in particular.

    Google "blesses" these businesses by making them reselling "partners". Yet what they have done is essentially mark up adwords campaigns by roughly 2-2.5 times the cost of an ad...and provide smb's with dramatically weak, often unproductive ad campaigns that result in huge churn, turnover and often deeply unhappy customers. The mark ups are currently available to be seen though neither the resellers or google offers to tell a customer how to find that information and its incredibly difficult to uncover.

    Its another totally slick sales effort that can hurt smbs. I have seen it turn at least one customer off of any local seo or subsequent adwords expenditures after a complete failure and lying campaign.

    As problematic and unsavory as Yelp is in the eyes of many smb's ...its simply not the only dirty player around....and frankly....think of how few players that are viable aside from google.

    I don't mean to exonerate yelp. But it wouldn't surprise me to see them continue to be a presence in high rankings and continue to have a shot at advertising. Its probably in Google's best interests to ensure that after all, Google has slowly but surely knocked virtually everyone else out of the search advertising box. (except for its "partners")

  3. #3
    Member Since
    Sep 2012
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    Re: Yelp: When the Hard Sell Goes South

    Until all the rumors and speculation and assumptions disappear, Yelp will remain a hot topic for a long time. I've been able to see both sides of the issue with two different clients. I think it boils down to an SMB making a decision without understanding what is involved or being delivered.

    Last year I took on someone who was being "extorted" (their words) by Yelp. I took a look at the contact and it was so vague that it wasn't actionable. Since they had agreed to the six month minimum, they were stuck.

    The upside was that there was a sales person to help with edits. The false assumption on the part of the business was that the ad buy would help them.

    It simply gives you a certain amount of impressions and removes ads from your page while still allowing the listings of your competition on the sidebars. Seriously a questionable practice.

    But, paying for the ad also gets you a live person to help you navigate and get edits live when needed (good for reverse engineering) or to tell you where to go review the TOS and how to proceed to get reviews removed or filtered.

    We had some success with 90-120 days of work but it seems that the algo gets stuck on whatever dominates. In the case of that business last year that was getting 2-3 stars or less, it filtered the 4-5 stars and highlighted the other less desirable reviews. This was seriously bad since most of the filtered reviews (50+) were higher stars.

    Then, even if you find the TOS loophole to file a complaint and ask for removal, the human editor doesn't always agree and you have to live with it.

    We have always encouraged our clients to use a review inbox to handle both complaints and good reviews. This allows them to then take action by working to solve the problem and/or asking the person to leave a review at another site. It helps them make a different decision rather than default to Yelp.

    The upside to Yelp? Well, if you handle the consumer correctly, they can go back and edit the review. Also, if you get good reviews (like a current client) the algo seems to favor those. Social proof drives the rest.

    In the case of the current client doing well on Yelp, they continually get 4-5 star rating and use the check-in deals to ramp up the activity driven by the impressions so they actually convert.

    From a consumer perspective, Yelp has been around, is familiar and so remains easier to use than trying to figure out other options online.

    Unless SMBs get educated on this issue and also educate or direct their buyers toward other options, this issue is likely to remain a big one.
    Online since 1995, Team ARK offers assistance with business reputation, marketing, lead generation, online business training & more.

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