Google Might Buy Yelp

UPDATE: Yelp Walks Away From Google Deal

Would you trust the review site Yelp more if Google owned it? Today everyone is reporting that Google is in talks with Yelp Inc. to acquire the business for “more than $500 million.” The biggest complaint we’ve seen readers make against Yelp is that they don’t trust the reviews; maybe if Google acquired them and folded the service into the rest of its ad display empire, the site would seem more trustworthy. What do you think?

“Google Said to Be in Discussions About Acquiring Yelp “ [Bloomberg]

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  1. thompson says:

    I probably would. It seems that every story that has implicated Yelp in some sort of “pay to play” scheme has related to their advertising/sales teams — if that gets folded into the Googleplex, I don’t see where there would be any motivation to skew results and reviews.

    • Fred E. says:

      Surely Google will find a way to clean up that pay-to-play/blackmail issue. If not, it will reflect poorly on Google. The problem I have using Yelp is that I don’t trust the opinions of the mass of reviewers because they just don’t seem very discerning.

  2. duckfat says:

    Good idea only if Google will invest some money into finding a way to rank opinions and weed out obvious false positive (or negative) reviews. I have no idea how to do that and unless Google has figured that out it’s stupid to buy an almost useless site. I’ve contributed honest reviews to Yelp but got burnt on a false positive for a local kabob shop.

    • MaytagRepairman says:

      I was looking for a good auto body shop. Noticed some places were getting 5 star reviews over the span of just a few days. Discovered 3 of the reviewers had made over 200 5-star reviews of nothing but auto body shops with nearly identical text.

      Google will need to put some money into figuring this out because the value is in honest reviews. These lazy shill reviewers are easy enough to weed out but they will just use better tactics next time.

  3. tbax929 says:

    I’m distrustful of most online review sites, including Yelp. I just think it’s too easy for someone with a vested interest to post something positive.

    • Tim says:

      That’s definitely valid, but in many situations, it’s your best bet to get real information about the place from actual customers. Do you have an alternative?

    • bennilynn says:

      That’s why I always find the negative reviews much more illuminating. :) It’s less likely that a company will pay someone to post bad reviews. I mean, sure, it happens, to folks trying to mess with a competitor, but not nearly as often as the opposite.

  4. Chongo says:

    I don’t think its a bad thing if google buys it. I think people (like myself) who use yelp regularly can weed out the false reviews, or the obvious vindictive ones. I myself might still try a place if I read a review that says the waiter was a jerk… However, I still don’t know what to do about visiting the stores of the places where the owner tracks you down and tries to get inside your house

  5. Etoiles says:

    I’m just really tired of this trend towards leaving as few remaining companies as possible standing. I mean, I know it was ever thus, but I find it irksome.

    That said, I wouldn’t trust the reviews any more or any less. I never trust a single review, anyway; I always look at the aggregate trend and sort by date.

  6. PsiCop says:

    No, I wouldn’t. I’m wary of anything that’s “crowdsourced.” It’s far too easy for it to be gamed by interested parties (either in favor of a business by its cohorts, or against it by its competition). Yelp has, in the past, paid people to write reviews, and has also charged businesses to remove negative reviews. There are now firms that businesses can hire, to manipulate reviews and ratings on sites like Yelp.

    The bottom line is that these sites cannot overtly be trusted. And Yelp’s willingness to “help” businesses that pay it money, certainly doesn’t help. I don’t see that Google can really change that, either. It’s all well and good to point to “the wisdom of crowds,” but in this case, that presumption is not supported by the evidence.

  7. He says:

    One of the nicer things about bing is the yelp reviews are displayed inline with their restaurant searches.

  8. Esquire99 says:

    I find all of the conspiracy theories regarding Yelp to be amusing. If you use the site and base your decision to go on a single review, you simply don’t know how to use Yelp. As others above have mentioned, you have to take the reviews with a grain of salt, and it’s necessary to read them in the aggregate. If ALL of the reviews are 100% positive, you can be pretty damn sure the place is great. If the are ALL negative, it probably sucks. The hard ones are the 3-3.5 star places. There, you have to read the tone of the reviews and figure out what the person was made about; was everything terrible, or did they just not like a particular item they ordered? Was the entire waitstaff outright rude?

    • Dondegroovily says:

      No, if all the reviews are good, it could be an infrequently visited business that is posting shills.

    • MMD says:

      People wouldn’t have “conspiracy theories” if there weren’t numerous reports of Yelp gaming the system. It’s not a theory if it’s true.

    • frari489 says:

      There have been well documented cases of yelp removing/hiding negative reviews if the company paid them. I hardly see that as a “conspiracy theory”

    • PsiCop says:

      First, the reports of Yelp charging businesses to remove negative reviews is not a “conspiracy theory.” It’s been genuinely reported.

      Second, if Yelp reviews must be taken with a grain of salt, as you say, then how valuable can they be? Is it any more of a crapshoot to take a chance on a place with or without looking at the Yelp reviews of it? More often than not, the answer to that is, “no.”

      Third, I’m not even all that confident in the “traditional” review business (e.g. newspaper/magazine reviews or guidebooks). It’s easy enough for “professional critics” to offer skewed reviews. It’s not rational to assume that crowdsourced reviews are going to be any better.

      The bottom line is that Yelp is largely unhelpful. And Google buying Yelp isn’t likely to make it helpful. If anything it’s likely to make people overconfident in it and probably drive more traffic to it … but this will not appreciably change the odds that any given review is accurate. If anything the increased traffic — and exposure to the Yelp service — is more likely to drive up the number of “agendized” reviews, than to reduce them.

  9. The Commenter Formerly Known as StartingAces says:

    Among other things at work, I occasionally manage our Yelp account.

    In 2 years I have yet to get any offer to pay them to remove bad reviews. Not saying it doesn’t happen… just haven’t seen it myself.

  10. rpm773 says:

    Gulp!

  11. mizmoose says:

    Yelp is just like any other website that allows reviews, from Amazon to tiny little sites. LIke the old joke about how everyone has opinions, you get a feel after a while for which ones are valid.

    Reviewers on Yelp are about 30% useful. The rest fit in one of a bunch of groups:
    – The Whiners — Their only reviews are negative complaints about places that So! Offended! them because their little needs weren’t catered to
    – The Drive-By-ers — Look at this guy, he has 100 reviews! But they’re all one line and contain no useful info.
    – The Poets — They’re so busy writing a cool review that half the time they forget to actually do the review
    – The Others — You have to wonder if they actually even tried the place

    Yeah, there are obviously paid-for reviews and the like, but regular readers learn that ohe review is not gospel and to sift and sort.

  12. echovictorecho says:

    I had the dubious honor of being a Yelp “Elite” user for a few years – and yeah, the above breakdown is accurate. The site kind of began to devolve when Craigslist-esque “reviews” of bad dates/parking experiences/TV shows started popping up.

    That said, I’ve taken some recommendations from trusted Yelp users and had some great experiences as a result.

    I’m a Google slut, so I’m for it.

  13. H3ion says:

    No problem in having Google buy Yelp. Google has some other problems, like being fined in France for copyright violations. Yelp would take their mind off things.

    Any review site is only as good as the people doing the reviews. Amazon is pretty decent. Eopinions is not very useful. If Google could tie their search function to a review function, that would be helpful.

  14. BytheSea says:

    I don’t think Google needs to dick around with extortion to generate revenue.

  15. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    obviously we could really use a review site with approved commenters, no ads, real opinions… hrm… hey, consumerist! how about adding a review page for positive/negative experiences with businesses that don’t make the front page of the blog?

  16. FrankReality says:

    Ah, no. I would not trust Yelp more if Google owned it.

    But then, I don’t trust Google either.

  17. flugennock says:

    I would trust them far less — zero, in fact.

    It’s been long established that Google is evil — hell if they actually have to have the slogan “Don’t Do Evil”, that ought to tell you something — and that these days, they’re basically an advertising broker and private surveillance corporation that just happens to run a search-engine site.

    Besides… $500 mil for Yelp? Yo, Google — 1999 just called; they want their insane dot-com business model back.

  18. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    I have a great “deal” going. I have about 11 friends. (not total but in this deal) We contact restaurants and in return for a free meal we write positive Yelp reviews. We each do it over about a 2-month period so Yelp doesn’t get suspicious. We’ve had about 40 free meals. We think it’s hilarious to game the system this way because Yelp is a total scam itself.

    • jamar0303 says:

      So how many places have dismissed you as a crank call or otherwise said no? Not that I have a dog in this fight because I have never used Yelp (I’ve never been dissatisfied at a restaurant in America before even without it; China is a different story but then the food’s cheaper and there’s no tip except at American hotel restaurants).