Report: Google exploring sale of Zagat reviews

According to a report appearing in Reuters, Google’s parent Alphabet is considering a sale of reviews publication Zagat. The company was purchased in September, 2011 for a reported $151 million in the wake of a failed deal to acquire Yelp.
At the time Google needed local reviews content to better compete in local search with rivals such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and others. Marissa Mayer was responsible for the acquisition. Less than a year later Mayer became Yahoo’s CEO.
The Reuters report says, “Google has held informal talks in recent months with multiple companies about offloading Zagat . . . Any deal would likely involve the Zagat brand name and website . . .”
Whether the sale will actually happen and any potential purchase price are uncertain. If Zagat did sell it almost certainly would fetch less than what Google paid for it. Its brand has undoubtedly declined in value during the nearly seven years Google has owned and managed it.
Google clearly

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Google again showing third-party reviews in local results

Google is integrating third-party reviews into the Knowledge Graph for hotels. It apparently has been happening since 2016 and is entirely opt-in for the provider.
Google works directly with the third-party review source (e.g., TripAdvisor) to integrate the content. In the example below, TripAdvisor reviews for Southern California hotel Terranea are available under the “view Google reviews” link in the Knowledge Panel.

Google got into trouble roughly seven years ago for “scraping” and incorporating third-party review content from sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp into Google Places without permission. Yelp saw the move as a kind of antitrust “extortion” and mounted a vigorous campaign against it.
One of the provisions of Google’s 2012 antitrust settlement with the FTC was that the company would allow publishers to block Google from including third-party reviews in “vertical search offerings” without their being excluded from the general index. According to the FTC statement announcing the settlement:
Google also has promised to provide all websites the option to

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3 inconsistencies in Yelp’s review solicitation crackdown

Last month, Yelp doubled down on its war on review solicitation. Yelp has long given mixed signals about whether you can ask customers for reviews on their platform, but they seem to now be unifying their message against review solicitation.
In November, they began sending messages like this to businesses and agencies:

Disclosure: We (Go Fish Digital) received the email above. However, they must not have really done a lot of research to compile this list, as we do help clients with reputation management, but we do not solicit Yelp reviews on their behalf. We don’t do any review solicitation.
This new crackdown is a little disturbing, and in many ways, quite misleading. Here are three ways in which I view this all as quite hypocritical.
1. They LITERALLY told us review solicitation was OK
I once emailed Yelp support and asked them directly if review solicitation was OK. The wording on their website was ambiguous, so I wanted a clear answer

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Coming to terms with fake reviews

Consumers overwhelmingly expect the reviews they peruse on Amazon, Yelp, Google and other review sites to be trustworthy, neutral and objective. But this reasonable expectation is frequently thwarted by the efforts of aggressive marketers who pay third parties to create phony reviews in exchange for compensation or incentivize existing good customers to leave reviews with discounts or free products or services.
These deceptive practices — termed “opinion spam” or “sock puppetry” — are a form of information pollution with multiple victims. Opinion spam blinds the consumer to the truth and poisons the reputation of the review site where the fake review appears. When detected, it may subject the marketer and/or opinion spammer to criminal and civil penalties.
Unfortunately, opinion spam — despite the best efforts of review sites to control it — appears to be a permanent, intractable feature of the e-commerce and local business information ecosystem.
Not that reviews sites aren’t trying. In 2015, Amazon filed a lawsuit against

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Yext begins to verticalize local business listings syndication with ‘Yext for Food’

Business listings with more content see more engagement, tend to rank higher and perform better overall. And as more searches take place on mobile devices (and eventually smart speakers and virtual assistants), marketers will need to expose more local business attributes and enhanced data for discovery and competitive advantage.
According to previous Google research, 50 percent of smartphone users conducting local-intent searches visit business locations within 24 hours. These numbers are even higher and more immediate for restaurants, which often see searches translate into visits within a few hours or less.
TripAdvisor found that “Restaurants with hours of operation on their TripAdvisor listing see 36 percent more engagement than those without them.” Yelp reports, “Businesses who complete their profiles see, on average, 5x the customer leads each month.”
Both sites also point out the importance of images on profiles. TripAdvisor said restaurants with between 11 and 20 photos see “double the amount of diner interaction over others with no photos at all,”

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Yelp says Google violated ‘do not crawl’ provision of 2013 FTC settlement agreement

Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com
Yelp has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asserting that Google is improperly using Yelp images in local search results in violation of its 2013 antitrust settlement with the regulatory agency. Yelp also circulated the letter to several members of Congress and state attorneys general, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The 2013 settlement concluded nearly two years of investigations and political maneuvering. As part of the agreement, Google said it would:
[M]ake available a web-based notice form that provides website owners with the option to opt out from display on Google’s Covered Webpages of content from their website that has been crawled by Google. When a website owner exercises this option, Google will cease displaying crawled content from the domain name designated by the website owner on Covered Webpages on the google.com domain in the United States. Website owners will be able to exercise the opt-out described above by completing a web-based

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Business profile and review best practices from TripAdvisor and Yelp

TripAdvisor and Yelp are two of the most powerful local search and review sites online. According to consumer survey data from Burke, review sites drive more immediate actions (i.e., phone call, store visit, website visit, email) than social media or search.
This consumer behavior is because of review site content and because they’re often consulted lower in the funnel. That’s why it’s important for local marketers to take full advantage of these sites — for multiple reasons, including SEO purposes.
TripAdvisor just released a diner engagement study. Yelp also has data on what drives engagement and conversions on its site. Below I’ve distilled findings from the two sources.
Claim and complete profiles
TripAdvisor found that “Restaurants with hours of operation on their TripAdvisor listing see 36 percent more engagement than those without them.” And Yelp says that “Businesses who complete their profiles see, on average, 5x the customer leads each month.”
Add at least 10 photos
TripAdivsor explained that “restaurants with 11 – 20 photos see double the amount of

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Yelp, TripAdvisor: Google’s mobile ‘best-of lists’ hide our content

Last week, Google announced local “best-of lists” content will start to show in its mobile app search results. On August 4, the company posted, “Starting today in the US, when you search on your Google app for the best spots to eat and drink, you’ll have access to reviews from top critics and best-of lists from reputable publishers.”
The idea is to offer more local search content to mobile users on the go. Below is an example of what it looks like. However, Google’s rivals don’t think this improves the user experience. They see it as anticompetitive.

Recode captured tweets from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer that were highly critical of the move. Stoppelman tweeted that “Google monopolist not satisfied with above the fold they’ve now claimed “‘page 2.’”

Google monopolist not satisfied with above the fold they’ve now claimed “page 2” cc @kaufer#byeorganicpic.twitter.com/qGXmt2Z5K5
— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) August 5, 2016
Asked for a comment today, a Yelp

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Expand Your Search Presence With External Sites

Don’t limit your SEO strategy to your own website. There are many ways to increase your brand’s exposure in search by optimizing social profiles and getting other sites to rank for your brand in search. This can help you 1) protect your online reputation by dominating the first page of search for branded search, and 2) rank for keywords faster than you would be able to with only your own domain.
Optimizing Social Profiles For Branded Search
Your own site cannot dominate the first page of search results, which leaves you vulnerable to having negative content on other sites rank for your brand name. In order to protect your brand’s presence in search engine results pages, you should create and claim profiles on social sites.
Every site is a little different, but optimizing for your brand is usually pretty similar across sites. For example, on Pinterest, use your brand name as the business name and username, and write a brief description also containing your

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Local Traffic “Diversion” — Google Claims It’s A Bug, Yelp Says It’s Intentional

Local search represents between 30 and 40 percent of mobile search results. Local is critical for consumers and represents billions in annual ad spending. And it’s a high-stakes area for all the companies involved in serving or selling to local businesses.
Over the weekend, the following exchange took place on Twitter regarding Google’s local search results:

The problem identified in the above Twitter conversion is that for some local navigational searches (e.g., “TripAdvisor, Hilton”) on mobile devices, Google is not showing the “intended result” and instead is showing its Local OneBox at the top of results.
After this exchange and a subsequent article, Google described what happened as a “bug.” Yelp, by contrast, sees intentional behavior. I spoke to Yelp at some length about this today.
Yelp asserts that one of the ways that Google identifies local-intent searches is through so-called “co-occurrence signals” (Google’s term) — essentially searches that yield Yelp or ZocDoc or TripAdvisor or other local results. Yelp claims

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