It seems like there are as many online review sites as there are pores on your face, and Yelp has been the king of them for some time.
Why is that? The developers must have been extremely insightful, as they have recognized the delight with which people share information online and have capitalized on the notion of letting people connect this to their own identity. Yelp users are able to do much more with the site than rant about the terrible service they received at Big Nancy’s House of Waffles.
The social aspect of Yelp allows those who have signed up for it to connect to one another on a personal level through the forums. People get to know their neighbors in a sense and learn to trust their judgment. This dual-birded slingshot gives users what they want while strengthening the primary structure of the website. The tagline really says it all.
It’s also got an intense spam filter that might actually be considered a little excessive. You won’t find that on City Search, which is littered with obviously made up reviews (insultingly so) from companies hired by other companies trying to push crappy products or services upon people they must consider tremendous idiots. I’d prefer to get filtered out by Yelp until my profile is established than to try to sift through the garbage on a site like City Search, which is actually of very little use to anyone.
Yelp’s Achilles Heel:
There is one aspect of Yelp, however, that makes me want to tear my hair out. If you’ve ever wanted to experience a ghoulish nightmare in real life, try to update the information for your business. This content is often “locked” by the administrators. And don’t think you can get a human being or any kind of primate on the phone, because Yelp, like the head cheerleader from your high school days, is too busy for your phone calls.
This is one point where Angie’s List excels. I was delighted to find that upon calling them for an info update, a real live person answered the phone on the first ring (no VNR at all!) and transferred me to another human without any hold time or ridiculous jazz music. And here’s how the conversation went once that polite fellow picked up:
Polite Angie’s List Fellow: Hello, what’s the name of the business?
Me: [I told him]
Polite Angie’s List Fellow: Ok let me pull that up… Oh, it looks like there are multiple listings of this business, I’ll send a request to merge those. What can I help you with today?
Me: Uh that was it and you’re awesome.
Polite Angie’s List Fellow: [laughing] We hope to provide the best level of service to our clients, given the nature of our business.
Me: Hmmm do you think you can you get a hold of Yelp for me?
Yelp’s just got too much on its plate, like Facebook. Got an issue with Facebook? Waste an hour scouring the outdated and unhelpful FAQs if you like, but don’t ever dream of talking to someone from the company.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Yelp, and I hope they don’t over-extend their services the way Facebook has done. But they’ve got some Google in them there, and they stand behind their position to allow free speech without allowing businesses to hush it up with bribes. They’re even open about the criticism they receive on their Yelp review page. And there’s a lot of it.
I think Yelp’s got the business model straight. So long as they don’t get greedy, the entire US will be Yelping in no time. Hurry, go pick out a silly avatar!