Last week we discussed which websites feed the most restaurant reviews into Google’s Local Business Center (LBC). While Citysearch impressively captured nearly 47% of the restaurant reviews appearing on Google Maps, it was Yelp’s complete lack of reviews that inspired the most curiosity here at EZlocal. Our crack SEO team has been helping small businesses get found on Google for a few years now, during which time we grew accustomed to seeing Yelp reviews in Google’s LBC. Now, finding a Yelp review in Google Maps is almost unheard of. Why?
As near as we can tell, the reviews disappeared from the LBC after acquisition talks between the two companies disintegrated back in December 2009. It is reported that Google offered $550 million for the San Francisco based review company. A tentative agreement was struck, but later undone when Yelp came back to the bargaining table boasting of a higher offer from another suitor. At this point, the details become sketchy. Some say Yelp walked away, comfortable in the knowledge that they could score a bigger payday at a later date. Others believe that Google walked away, calling Yelp’s potential bluff. In any case, Yelp reviews have become an endangered species in the LBC.
So how hard is it to find a Yelp review on Google? Well, as of today, I have cataloged 8,936 reviews across the following categories: Pizza restaurants, carpet cleaners, handymen, locksmiths, tailors, chiropractors, dentists and pharmacies. Of those nearly nine thousand reviews, only two are from Yelp (there were five, but three have since been deleted). This means that, on average, you would have to browse 4,468 reviews in Google Maps in order to find a single review from Yelp.
Further adding to the oddity of the rare Yelp reviews is their link structure. A normal Yelp review has a link that looks like this:
The “/biz/” indicates the page is a business profile, where one would expect to find reviews. However, most of Yelp reviews in Google Maps link back to a Yelp user’s profile page, where their recent reviews are displayed. These links look like this:
A week ago, when I first began to gather data on reviews fed into the LBC, I found three Yelp reviews that had “/user_details?/” links. At the time, our programmer speculated that these were anomalies, stray links Google had not yet cleaned up. Indeed, as of today, all three of these links have been removed.
This leaves my dataset with only two Yelp links, both belonging to the Rite Aid Pharmacy on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, MI:
So, why do these Yelp reviews show up in the LBC? The vast majority of “/biz/” reviews were taken down months ago. Are these two reviews stragglers that Google has missed thus far? Our programmer is willing to bet they are and I’m not inclined to bet against him.
What does this mean for small business owners who encourage their customers to get online and leave reviews? For some, the answer is simple: avoid Yelp. Nick Barber, President and CEO of UMoveFree, has this to say about Yelp:
We avoid them like the black plague. You can find a lot of articles on the subject so I won’t get on a soap box…but we’ve had around 30 satisfied customers post positive reviews on Yelp and none of them posted to our profile. [Source: blumenthals.com]
Avoiding Yelp entirely may be a little rash, as they are a major destination for local business reviews, boasting 26 million users, 8.5 million reviews and 25 million unique visitors per month. However, since their reviews are not picked up by the LBC, encouraging Yelp reviews will do nothing to strengthen your small business’ Google Maps profile, which remains the most important profile to optimize, as 90% of internet consumers use search engines, but only 48% use internet yellow pages sites like Yelp [source: kelseygroup.com].
As always, a careful balance must be struck, make sure your review campaign is properly targeted to optimize all your profiles, not just a handful. Or, since I will never pass up the opportunity to plug EZlocal, let us strike this careful balance for you with EZlocal Premium. Our local search engine is still very young—you won’t find any EZlocal reviews in the LBC (yet), but our SEO team is very experienced and ready to go to work for you. Let us build your small business’ local web presence, it’s our passion.