We've had all kinds of issues with the independent sites (verification, fake reviews, monetisation models and more) but overarching all these was the question of long-term visibility; put simply: where would our clients' hard-won reviews be seen by the most potential customers? And the answer kept coming back, ever louder and clearer, 'Google'.
So now the penny has finally dropped with investors. Here is a chart of Yelp's share price * performance from its high of over $84 last September to today's $33 (and underperforming the NY stockmarket indices by over 50%):
And the reason(s) for this sustained and dramatic fall? The dawning realisation amongst the investing community that Yelp is completely Google dependent. If Google alter their algorithm to the detriment of Yelp (as they have), Yelp visibility and revenues suffer. And the same applies, to a greater or lesser (mostly greater) extent for all other review sites.
We look at this even more simply: whose reviews does everyone see first? Answer: Google's.
So that's where we focus our efforts on behalf of our clients, and, until something happens to dictate a change in these fundamental circumstances, we will continue with our mantra:
"Get reviews to your own website and on to Google"
*and for those of you wondering about TripAdvisor? Off over 20% from it's 2014 high as well. UPDATE 29.07.2014: Yelp share price off 30% at today's opening: $24.