Google and Business Reviews: just a little bit of history repeating?

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And here is yet another story of a scuffle between Google and other people due to content re-distribution. This time — business reviews. As the official blog reports, Google Places will no longer feature reviews from Yelp and other sources. Yelp did pull the content from Google before but after some time there was an agreement, and reviews were back. But not any longer.

Essentially, Google used Yelp to pre-seed the database (so you don’t get that dreaded gray star on every new place) and now, that they have some directly generated content, it’s over. And Tripadviser results are also gone from Places. Well, there are still links at the bottom of the page, but numerical values and snippets are no longer shown. And while the number of reviews is down significantly (for example for Guu Izakaya 63 reviews vs 150 from other sources) would users really click through to Yelp or UrbanSpoon? I kinda doubt it — if someone wanted to read Yelp reviews they’d probably go to Yelp directly and search for the place there.

I have to admit, I like Google’s search interface more than Yelp — it’s cleaner, faster, doesn’t annoy you with “would you like to join spam-li err… we meant special daily deals list” pop-ins, shows directions and is generally better integrated. The only thing going for Yelp is volume of content and trends (though those are useful only under certain conditions, to see if the place is getting better of worse)

Oh, and unlike the Places page, the search results actually do include Yelp snippet(s). The question is for how long.

While I’m firmly with Google in newspapers case due to the fact that Google simply aggregates news instead of producing their own reports, I have mixed feelings about use-and-dump of Yelp reviews. Ideally, I’d love Places to include Yelp reviews again because it’s convenient for me. Yelp may have its own problems (with periodic accusations of extortion by their sales people), but they have a lot of content. Being a byline at the bottom of the page means not that much of a traffic. Showing snippets only adds traffic when snippets are enticing and the review is sufficiently long. Plus, once user has been slapped with a giant ad pop-in, will anybody want to click at all?

For TripAdvisor it’s a direct trip to the FTC with a complaint about preferencial treatment of Google Places over links to them on the search results.

If only they all could play nice… Sigh.

p.s. I also wonder what will happen to Product Reviews. Sure, for now Google just aggregates the content. But who can guarantee that they won’t slap Write a Review link on the product page, dump all other content to the last line of the page and stop showing syndicated content as well? Food for thought.

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