I recently discovered a disparaging fact, Yelp and Google are manipulating search results for the sake of commercialism, or so it appears.
Yelp boasts itself as; “the ultimate city guide that taps into the community's voice and reveals* honest and current insights on local businesses and services on everything from martinis to mechanics.”
Google says, “Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.**”
So, what is the truth? Let’s start with Yelp. While the Yelp idea sounds great, there is a curious dent in their mantra. It all started with a review I posted about Cirque road show, Kooza, which is now playing in Chicago (see original post). A fellow Yelper discovered this dent;
(Yelper): so if anyone wants to play yelp conspiracy theory for a minute... or rather, just to see what exactly money can buy...context... kooza is the sponsor of this week's yelp newsletter....now google “Cirque Kooza Road Show a Bore” in quotes (SEE RESULTS); it doesn't come up in google. (the text does come up from the "recent conversations" list in the sidebar of items that were indexed, but not a link to the thread itself). Google any other topic name in quotes. It more than likely comes up. I was able to find one topic that didn't come up as well... "$4 a day" ...and I have a feeling it has something to do with the $ or just the shortness. (filter google results to only show yelp results if you want by putting site:yelp.com in the search).
Yelp-relating Resources: Yelp-Sucks | I Hate Yelp
Is this odd? YES! How is Google involved in this mess? I then decided to Google my blog post (SEE RESULTS) about the Cirque show in Quotes, “Cirque du Soleil Road Show is Boring” (original blog post) and it comes up with a different post. This led me to believe that Google is involved in this conspiracy. I decided to do the same test with other posts on my blog; they all came up high in search rankings on Google.
Google Resources: Google Watch | The Biscuit Report
So, why has the not-so-positive Kooza post being suppressed? Unfortunately, I can only speculate that Cirque invested money to have these negative posts hard to find, replacing the old search results with more positive listings. But, if Yelp and Google manipulated organic searches that are supposedly built on a foundation of integrity, then we have trouble. Be aware consumers, user-generated content may not exist, as the almighty dollar can seemingly fix anything.
I contacted Yelp and Google about my findings. Yelp has responded (7/24/2008): they did not address the Yelp ranking issue, but spoke to Google's proprietary algorithm.
* If it is true, and businesses are allowed to pay and maniuplate organic listings, this comment is false.
** I do not find it universally useful when I input an exact search for a title and it does not appear in the results.