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"Billion Dollar Bully" - Upcoming Documentary on Yelp Directed and Co-Produced by Kaylie Milliken and Co-Produced by Michael Levine


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I'm going to catch that film.   I'm interested in the content.  I suspect that the timing on this is off.  If businesses and consumers want to see the real manipulative "animal" in search I think its google and not yelp, and the very significant changes occurred in two parts, one about a year ago and one in the last two weeks.

Now I've probably fielded over 20 sales calls from yelp sales people over the last couple of years.  They have been for multiple small businesses but not for restaurants.  Besides the bar school in my signature there are some other small business websites I work on.  Some of them started accumulating enough yelp reviews that they started getting calls from yelp.

I have no doubt yelp is a manipulative SOB of a business.  I think some of our smb's have experienced it.  At this point, and in general with regard to the law and the internet, yelp, google and other sites that have web content have an advantage in the courts.  Plus our businesses are small.  They are big.  We aren't going to sue.

But one can work with them. If you can't beat them, you don't have to "join them" but you can figure out how to "work with them", even without buying their ads.  None of our smb's have purchased yelp advertising of any sort.  Yet.   (never say never)

Now as to google.   Google search generates dramatically more views than yelp.  For any industry.  Even for restaurants.  I have some scant data on that, but way more people use google than they use yelp.

A year ago google changed the way one would find restaurants, hotels or local shows, attractions etc.  Before that if one looked up restaurants DC, Arlington restaurants, Bethesda Seafood restaurants, etc etc. one would see a group of 7 restaurants in google with links to the websites, addresses, phone numbers and some other data.

No more.  For the last year its been only a "pack of 3" and no links, no address, no phone numbers.   WTF??????   How could the info be so bad?

About 10 days ago google changed the presentations for all local small businesses.  Same type of view.  Only 3 such businesses showing for a search such as divorce lawyers Bethesda, Vets Fairfax, dentists Arlington, etc etc.  If you sell shoes or provide services of any type locally google only shows 3 such businesses and doesn't give helpful necessary data.  No phone numbers, no addresses.  Not great links.

Now google is used probably 20-30 times as much as yelp to find local businesses.   That is significant.

Why did they do this?   To extract ad money.   No other reason.   There could be a lot of google hype and PR about it, but its to increase ad revenues.

After the change about 10 days ago I spoke with someone who handles web marketing for a subgroup in the hotel/hospitality industry.  Someone I know a bit, and they know me.   They handle over 500 different businesses providing websites and web marketing.

Those businesses had more in common with the local doctors and lawyers, and dentists, and phone stores, and shoe stores than did restaurants and large hotels.   What was the sense from the 500 plus businesses?   The one's that were in the 3 pack were happy.  The one's out of the 3 pack saw their leads dry up very seriously.   WHOA!!!!!   that is called business "death".   Since the main source of finding them dried up they had to have to do a hundred other things to get visibility.

Or they can pay google for ads.  Or do both.   Basically google doesn't really communicate with them directly unless one buys ads.  Then you can get customer service which is pretty responsive, on the phone.

Over the several years I've fielded yelp calls, I haven't been hit with any real hard handed "mafia like demands".  During the earliest calls from several years ago, the yelp salespeople were tougher and less friendly.  Now they are friendlier.  I still haven't been hammered by one with any kind of threat.  OTOH, I think they jerked one of our sites around after some period of communication after we decided against advertising one firm in one way.

So you can pick your poison.  Frankly with google's size and power I think they are a larger problem for most businesses.

Oh...a couple of other things.  In the last year since google seriously diminished visibility for restaurants for searches by type of restaurant and location  (a HUGE segment of search).  Really huge....US independents really haven't upped their advertising on Google.  I don't see it and neither do others I know in other regions.

I think the restaurant industry is sort of oblivious to google.  But restaurateurs would have to speak to this.  As a business person it is hard to equate and value a website visit from a certain source (such as google) to a diner.  Very hard.  Its easy to equate a reservation on OT with revenues, but not a web visit and revenues.   When you are looking at 20, 30, 50, 200 or more seatings a night, its hard to put numbers to where the people are coming from and how they got there.  OT does give a real sense of value there as does any source with significant volumes of feedback.

So is yelp a billion dollar "bully".  Well probably in the eyes of many.  And its been direct.  Is Google a $60 billion+ bully?  I think so.

btw:  If you want to see some of the current unhappiness with this google change that hit businesses across the board you can visit and read the comments here  Its in the comments where you get a sense of the dissatisfaction.  BTW:  They come from around the world.

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That don't be evil crap was a very effective PR line.  Its clear that the public buys into it. Still does.  Hey google is providing free stuff, fiber, coming up with driverless cars, and whatnot.  The "marketers and some business people in the comments section I referenced have tended to buy into it.  I couldn't understand that over the last few years.

Bunch of malarky.  

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