Big Changes to Google Places Spell Trouble for Yelp

Like you, I hate Yelp reviews. People are by turns obsequious, angry, and disingenuous. The experience was like reading a YouTube comment thread for people who have just been out to eat. Nearly every restaurant ended up in the 3-4 star range, rendering the rating system nearly meaningless. To judge a place, you had to perform a complicated multivariate analysis of the reviewers and their reviews to come up with anything like a gestalt impression of whether you'd like the restaurant. Even closing your account requires emailing their customer service reps! The microhate of a thousand bad interactions had blossomed into full macrohate.

And yet I have used Yelp nearly every day for years thanks to their good friend, Google. If you typed a restaurant name into Google's search engine, the Yelp link was nearly always near the top and often featured. The site became the de facto homepage for the restaurants, aided by the proliferation of Flash-heavy, crappy restaurant sites with PDF menus.

But that could be changing, and fast, Search Engine Land points out. Google will now link you to its own "Places" page for the restaurant and is obviously trying to get people to write reviews within its own system, not at Yelp. Snippets from Yelp reviews are gone now, too.

I'm not saying that this is an end-of-days scenario for Yelp. They've clearly got some loyal community members. But the casual browser already inclined to skip the site may be more likely to do so now.

Via Marshall Kirkpatrick Google+ thread.