That was one of the topics of Luther Lowe’s presentation Tuesday at the annual SearchFest conference in Portland. Lowe — Yelp’s Manager of Business Outreach — gave a generally clear description of what the company says are the benefits of advertising on Yelp. I say “generally” because he said that advertising on Yelp gets a business owner “SEO,” but he really meant to say “visibility.”
These are not the same examples he used during the presentation, but they show the same points he made.
1. Visibility on Yelp search result pages
Advertising on Yelp gives a business the opportunity to show up above the regular search results for category/city combinations, like this search for dentists in Los Angeles.
2. Visibility on other business profile pages
A Yelp ad may show up on a competitor’s business profile, like in this example here.
3. No competitor ads on your profile page
Using the example above, no competitors’ ads will show up on the profile page of that dentist because she’s advertising. She’s essentially paying to keep competitors from advertising on her profile page. But note that Yelp still does show other competitors on the page under a “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed” heading.
4. Added content options
Yelp advertisers can also add extra content to their business profiles, such as a photo slideshow and an extra content spot to post alerts or discounts.
5. Promote a “favorite review”
(Update: shortly after this post was published, Yelp announced the end of Featured Reviews.)
Yelp sponsors can also choose one review of their business and mark it as a “favorite.” In doing so, that review will show up first on the business profile page, as seen here.
Lawsuits: The 800-lb. Gorilla
Before his presentation, Lowe called out the 800-lb. gorilla in the room: the recent lawsuits from small business owners who claim that Yelp has offered to remove negative reviews in exchange for payment. I don’t recall his exact wording, but Lowe rejected the claims of the lawsuit, saying that the alleged behavior — if it were true — would cause Yelp to lose the trust of its users and advertisers.
But from several conversations I’ve had at conferences over the past two weeks, that trust is on shaky ground with some. This isn’t the first time Yelp’s been accused of taking money to remove negative reviews (see Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0 from last year), and some are wondering if the phrase “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” is appropriate.
One suspects that, as long as Yelp offers a way for business owners to manipulate reviews in exchange for advertising (see #5 above), they’ll continue to run the risk of lawsuits — no matter if the lawsuits are justified or just the result of misunderstanding.