First - Yelp is by far the biggest general review site on the planet. Second, because they have bought Qype (for $50m - that's $25* a review!) to boost their presence in the UK and Europe at a stroke.
So far neither Yelp nor Qype have made a big impression in the UK (although we're already seeing potential clients with damaging reviews on both). That won't last long! Yelp IPO'd on the NYSE this spring and now has a market value just short of $3bn - that's serious financial muscle by any measure. And now that financial muscle is being applied to get reviews in the UK - of your business!
Why do they need reviews of your business (and how do they get them)?
Simple answer? So they can sell to you. Yelps sales staff (who are also inveterate reviewers) sell on the basis of page views - and every review is a page view.
You will see the Yelp 'Elite' button next to many reviewer's names. Elites are chosen on the basis of the number of reviews they write (and other subjective criteria). In return they are invited to 'events' at various watering-holes and eateries (and write reviews of them). So there's a big incentive for Yelpers to write as many reviews as possible of as many (kinds of) businesses as possible.
Yelpers aren't all quite as nice as TripAdvisor reviewers (or even AllAgents reviewers). Yelp prides itself on 'freedom of speech' which all-too-often translates into 'freedom to pan' and woe betide the business that gets on the wrong side of Yelpers (their active 'community' can quickly gang up). Think of Yelp as 'Facebook for reviewers.'
|Click to enlarge - a Yelper reviews his letting agent in London|
Like TripAdvisor, Yelp has an algorithm for ranking businesses, and it's just as shrouded in mystery. Unlike TripAdvisor Yelp has a 'filter' and this has caused many a small business a great deal of anguish (positive reviews not being displayed, but negatives showing).
This point is raised by the Los Angeles Times at 1 minute into this video...
Also, like TripAdvisor and AllAgents, anyone can write a review. ANYONE. Have a look at Qype's entry for Le Gavroche. Is it just us, or do we think maybe just a few of these reviewers have never set foot inside Le Gavroche (or maybe even in the UK)?
In the past Yelp US has been the subject of criticism about its sales practices...
There's a similar report here
What action do you need to take?
Just as Dialogue defends our clients against the vicissitudes of reviewers on TripAdvisor, AllAgents and Google, so it will for Yelp/Qype. Make sure all your customers are invited to review you through Dialogue and you should be insulated. We will keep a close eye on Yelp's progress in the UK and keep you posted.
*Wow - that would value our sister site - helphound.com - at $5m - thanks Yelp!