Friday, July 04, 2008
Those well versed in the search game can easily chronicle how the act of social linking gave way to the link economy. When Google gave quality links value, the game was all about how to get them. Can't get favorable external mentions? Swap links. Google discounting reciprocal linking? Join up in a large, elaborate interlinking scheme that passes PageRank to members. Oh, but you knew Google would get wise to that too, didn't you? And that they would introduce Other Ranking Factors and spam tests to try to get the real good stuff to bubble back up to the top again?
Now, word's out that Yelp management won't take such schemes lying down when it comes to local business owners banding together to write positive reviews in order to boost each others' reputations and rankings in category listings. The business owners protest; Yelp sticks to its guns. Is it Orwellian? Consumer friendly? Or should anyone get their shorts in a knot about a few glowing reviews of the local pull-taffy-and-bubble-tea emporium? I mean, who doesn't like taffy?
Well, maybe it's a bit of both. Google's practices and philosophy are very similar. To paraphrase: "We reserve the right to torch your rankings if we suspect any shenanigans. Sorry."
It all boils down to the fact that neither Google nor Yelp ratings are literally "correct." Both are open to interpretation and game-playing. However, in a more comprehensive sense, businesses can develop strong reputations by being visible on these properties, and they can do so without cheating. For now, the publishers' attempt to stem cheating will be tinged with arbitrariness. Some howls of protest might be legit. Longer term, these sites will allow for deeper probing into claims: peers will be able to find peers and get a better sense of what's real.
Make no mistake about it, though: relevancy rankings, and business ratings and reviews, are serious business. Consumers depend on them. Businesses with strong ratings often deserve them. It would be a huge shame if the Googles and Yelps of the world were forced to give into scaremongering about their imperfect technology; perhaps left to plaster For Entertainment Value Only across their pages, like some cheap carnival psychic.
In case you missed it: National Taffy Day
Labels: local search, relevance, reviews, search engine relevancy
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Greg Sterling (via Matthew Ingram) provides full coverage of a brouhaha about a cafe in Oakland that stipulated "no Yelpers"! With Greg, of course I agree that online reviews are here to stay. Yet some business owners seem not to be able to deal with it.
In the field of online reviews I'm deeply involved with -- home renovations -- I don't know if any of you saw the 20/20 episode about the bad contractor in Maryland. He even went ballistic about the private online reviews shared among the membership of Angie's List. This contractor, who had defrauded a bunch of homeowners 16 years previously before being banned from doing business in a county, switched counties and began racking up complaints again. When customers began banding together and expressing their opinion, he became threatening, figuring that his bluster was going to turn out to be bigger than the whole phenomenon of consumer reviews. All that did was land him on national television, painted into a corner.
For businesses that want it all to go one way, there is hope. OurFaves.com, a Toronto-based Yelp-ish creation, encourages users to stick to the positive. At first I was sceptical. But you know what? It works. Most of what I want to post about local businesses is in fact positive, and the ones that go the extra mile, be it the drycleaner who undoes the problems the previous drycleaner foisted on me; be it the great unsung Persian restaurant at Richmond and Spadina, or 1,000 other great local spots... they need all the help they can get from customer advocates. OurFaves.com keeps it light and positive... and I admit, it is growing on me.
Labels: homestars, ourfaves, reviews, ugc, yelp
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