Last week at SMX West I moderated the “Up Close with Yelp” session. It featured Ryan Fritzky from Marchex, Will Scott of Search Influence, Matt Siltala of Dream Systems Media and Dylan Swift from Yelp. Overall it was a very good session. Will Scott “got into it” a little with Yelp’s Dylan Swift.
Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media blogged the session:
[Will Scott spent some time grilling Dylan to see if the numbers he shared from the case studies were really accurate or possibly attributed to things outside of Yelp Deals. Dylan did a good job holding his own. Also, FIGHT! ;)]
Today Lisa offers a long article/opinion piece on the subject of Yelp’s stance against review solicitation:
That slide was part of Mat Siltala’s presentation and gave attendees a simple and intuitive way to encourage customers to leave reviews. Though Yelp wasn’t featured on the slide, session moderator Greg Sterling asked panelist and Yelp’s Director of Local Business Marketing Dylan Swift if Mat’s slide was something Yelp endorsed or if they viewed it was review solicitation. Dylan answered solicitation and discouraged business owners from outright asking or encouraging their customers to write reviews.
She argues that Yelp is taking too rigid a stand in saying that people can’t ask their customers to review them:
Absolutely before you worry about anything else you should be worrying about creating a great business, whether that means creating a great product, a service or a piece of content. But telling people that that’s ALL they need to do is and the rest will take care of itself, frankly, dangerous business advice. I’m not sure if it was Google who started that lie or someone else, but it time for it to die a painful death. It doesn’t matter how great your restaurant is or how awesome the experience you’re creating – if you don’t encourage people to SHARE the experience, if you don’t TELL them to share it, they very often won’t.
I’ve written in the past that Yelp is now “swimming upstream” in discouraging SMBs from asking their customers for reviews. Increasingly the advice coming from multiple places to SMBs is “invite your customers to review you on Yelp, Google . . . ” And increasingly that’s what SMBs will do. The argument that Mike Blumenthal has made is that this is just like asking a satisfied customer for a real world testimonial.
Yelp understandability wants to preserve the integrity of its reviews, which are its bread and butter. However the site will ultimately need to yield on its absolute position. Paying for reviews is unethical and should be prevented but there shouldn’t be anything wrong with saying, “If you liked my service feel free to review us on X, Y, Z site,” especially if it’s merely on a website.
Perhaps Yelp sees that as a slippery slope to financial incentives or rewards for reviews. But I agree with Lisa that it’s not only not unethical it’s actually becoming necessary if you take online marketing seriously as an SMB.