Yelp Adds Videos — But Not Necessarily For Reviews

June 4th, 2014 by Search Influence Alumni

A couple of weeks ago, Yelp leaked to Business Insider that they will soon allow users to add 3-12 second videos to their reviews. When I initially heard this, I was thrilled, because I have been waiting for this feature for some time now.

However, when I learned that these videos are intended to simply to add more media to the reviews (in the photos section) and not actually stand as reviews themselves, my excitement waned.


Rather than video reviews, what we are getting is a way for Yelpers to capture the atmosphere of a venue or more likely, selfie videos of them stuffing their faces at their favorite eatery. Yelp’s mobile product manager Madhu Prabaker explained the purpose of adding the video as “a reward for businesses that go to great lengths to achieve a certain ambiance, whether by having a certain lighting or the music at just the right level.”

Was anyone else as let down as I was when they heard this? I feel as if this new platform change is being wasted on the business aesthetics such as atmosphere and showcasing products, where pictures were doing just fine. The photo capability has been around for years—nothing new there.

What I see as the future is a full video review platform where consumers can turn the camera on themselves and tell us how they feel about the businesses they interact with. There are plenty of platforms out there to help SMB’s solicit reviews such as DemandForce and Customer Lobby, but there are no pure play platforms dedicated to helping users generate video testimonials. However, this functionality could ultimately rid business owners of the demon that is the Yelp review filter. (Business owners with less than stellar Yelp reviews, you know what I am talking about.)

What’s With The Filter Anyway?

Yelp’s justification for not showing certain reviews has always been that they appeared to be less than trustworthy. What could legitimize a review better than a video of the person posting it?!  No more having your real user reviews taken down and your competitors’ employee-generated or otherwise fake reviews staying up. Real live video testimonials from your customers would become the gold standard for authenticity on Yelp.

While this version of Yelp videos may help to drive new business by showing a scrumptious plate of food or even a clean car that just went through a car wash, I believe that Yelp is missing out on a huge opportunity. According to SO Media, Video has 400% higher engagement rate than static content. That means that a video testimonial will most likely bring on an action, whether that is a like, comment, or share leading to more significant actions like phone calls and getting directions.

So, How will Adding Video Effect The Yelp Review Filter?

One can only hope that allowing customers to add videos to their reviews will serve as positive reinforcement that their opinion of your establishment is a credible one. One can only hope…

If Yelp factors the use of rich media (namely photos and videos) into review filtering, it hasn’t publicized this. Will they start giving these media reviews priority?

Industry experts have consistently pointed to the importance of users having a profile picture, connections, and several reviews as the keys to success in building an optimized Yelp profile.

I personally believe that video will soon become an important part of this conversation of what a truly optimized Yelp user profile is. While I understand that photos might not have been a large piece of the puzzle in the past, I would contend that the rich content in user videos will be of much greater influence in helping build authority and the perception of local business leadership.

Why Are Your Reviews So Important?

We’ve long known the importance of having a Yelp business profile. It’s so important, in fact, that according to the Boston Consulting Group in 2013, a business who even has a basic and free Yelp profile will make on average $8,000 more in annual revenue than a business without a Yelp profile. And this is where Yelp gets its leverage. It’s also a great reason to be so selective about which reviews they show.

As the video feature rolls out only to Yelp Elite users this June, we will have to wait until it makes its way to new users to really see how it effects the review filter. The reason being, Yelp Elite user reviews always show up when posted. The filter’s most negative impact comes to those newer users, without perceived authority on Yelp.