Quick Followup to Yelp / Scream

July 5th, 2008 by Will Scott

I placed a comment on Greg Sterling’s writeup of the Yelp issue pointing him to my post.

In a reply to my comment Greg Sterling says , and I totally agree:

“There also need to be clear rules at these sites to that SMBs understand the “Hows” and the “Whys” of these systems and they’re not surprised by something they thought was OK.”

This triggered a thought process which reminds me of a discussion I often have with prospective clients and other interested parties.

I believe in links! In fact I believe links are often more important than content.

So I’m often asked “why do these sites want to link to you”? To which I reply “because we give them content”.

  • Directories: the content they want is business listings
  • Article sites: the content they want is information
  • Press release sites: the content they want is news
  • Content exchanges with other sites: the content they want is… content (and links back too)

So lets be perfectly clear about the motivations of these free sites. They’re not free! They need the critical mass of listings, articles, news, reviews or whatever to continue to be “free” because they’re selling advertising!

Sure, the business who lists their site for free isn’t paying, but we’re paying. Every time we click an ad, watch a video or in other way interact with an advertiser we’re paying for the site’s operation and we wouldn’t be there without the content.

Traditional print publishers have had hundreds of years to get used to the idea of their responsibility. Online publishers fewer than 20. Unfortunately it appears Yelp is about to learn this lesson in court.

So, it ain’t free. It’s barter. Our content, their links — and they’re the ones getting paid.


Great quote from TechCrunch:

“Their goal is clearly to make businesses need Yelp, but not to expect a lot of help when it comes to disputes. Complain all you want, you’re just proving that you need Yelp more than they need you.”

And another update from the comments of the original post in response to Dave Ingram of Brown Book:

“I think you make one particularly interesting point which I missed in my rant.

The idea of businesses recommending one another is an offline behavior and attempts to squelch it online only serve to enforce an unnatural order.

Think of every networking group you’ve ever been in. I’m a member of BNI, for instance, and even though I might not have ever used the guy in our group who sells granite, you can bet I’ll recommend him because I know him.”