What A Google-Yelp Deal Might Mean For SMBs - InformationWeek

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12/18/2009
07:48 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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What A Google-Yelp Deal Might Mean For SMBs

Google is reportedly working on a $500 million deal to buy local reviews site Yelp. On the plus side, the deal might make it easier to find small and local businesses on Google while also helping to clean up some of the controversy surrounding pay-for-play allegations on Yelp. Or it could make things worse on both fronts.

Google is reportedly working on a $500 million deal to buy local reviews site Yelp. On the plus side, the deal might make it easier to find small and local businesses on Google while also helping to clean up some of the controversy surrounding pay-for-play allegations on Yelp. Or it could make things worse on both fronts.The deal would reiterate Google's focus on the local business market beyond its Local Business Center, and give Yelp access to all the capital and market presence it could ever need. But for the millions of small and local businesses reviewed on Yelp and listed on Google Places -- and who use those services to market their businesses -- such a deal could mean big changes.

While Google Place Pages is a largely automated directory, from the listings themselves to the ads they run, Yelp has 26 million highly engaged users constantly updating reviews and listing data -- not to mention a real live sales team calling on local businesses. Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land and suggests that Google could use Yelp for

  • Distributing geotargeted display and text ads on Yelp
  • Using Yelp as an onramp for Local Listing Ads, which will reappear next year

So, best case scenario, a Google-Yelp combination makes it easier for small and local businesses to maintain accurate listings, and to deal with the reviews they get. Google smooths out Yelp's alleged tendency to manipulate reviews based on whether or not the business advertises on the service. And businesses get a real live saleperson to interface with the newly combined operation.

Predictably, the worst case scenario is pretty much the opposite: you get Google's high-automation, no-customer-service approach mixed with Yelp's oft-questioned business practices.

Either way, if this acquisition goes through, it will be a big deal for small and local businesses. Sterling calls it an "earthquake."

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