Is Yelp the Wikipedia for Local Search?

Oct 29, 2013

yelp dominates local searchWhen searching online for either an item of interest or local search two websites are often the first source when searched using an engine like Google or Bing. Google’s domain diversity “cluster” policy that now creates a primary heading from the most popular website with the most keywords and all related items from the same site below it. This also allows you to search directly from the one website itself. This may not seem like much of a problem but it has become a nightmare for those who build company websites. If you’re a local business the search will most likely a render result from but how accurate is this?

User Based Content

Yelp consists of little more than user reviews of local service businesses, locations, and just about anything else that has an address. The most popular to review is food establishments but you can review apartments on Yelp. You can review stores and even your public library. This user-based content format is much like a similar website, Wikipedia, where the users provide the content of various subject matters ranging from the periodic table to celebrity biographies.

Yelp tries hard to catch “vengeance” reviews by competing companies or scorned customers but like Wikipedia, the site itself only cross-checks previously referenced material. Wikipedia does this in the form of website referencing where they only check that website exists and is related but not the content itself. Yelp actually does worse in this department as they only check to see if the writer has written similar reviews regarding similar businesses.

yelp the new wikipedia

User Editing/Suggestions

One good thing that Yelp does that Wikipedia doesn’t is provide somewhat of a social networking element. Wikipedia content providers are solely anonymous and not credentialed by anyone. Yelp content providers can comment on other providers’ content and even “friend” them in a similar style to Facebook. This allows Yelp to substantiate good content providers from the bad.

Good content providers will have positive remarks while bad ones will often be reported. This type of honor system seems to work well for this forum but there is often the occasion where one overly sensitive user will report the another because they simply didn’t like the review. When this occurs, the user’s review is then hidden until the conflict is resolved or the provider has been justified in their review.


The greatest argument with both sites is the reliability of the content of the site. Despite many students using Wikipedia as a site resource, most colleges do not accept it as a credible source. This is because the probability of the information within was provided by a non-credible author or simply purged information from another source.

Opponents of Yelp say that in this day of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing, that Yelp has become unreliable as well. It’s been said that businesses give benefits to Yelp reviewers who treat them kindly. Others claim that some businesses actually pay staff to not only provide positive content but to also badly review the competition. With Yelp’s policies, this often comes in the form of simply commenting on other reviews already placed.

So what’s the solution, who knows? One thing is certain, the user-based content model may be a good for a general outlook on information or reviews but it certainly isn’t a reliable source. The best thing is to simply experience it yourself.

  • Jonathan Grant

    Great Article, Thanks!

    • Gary Brewer

      Thanks for sharing and commenting more to come Jonathan!

  • Duane

    I think the fact that Yelp offers a social networking element makes them valuable. Google ranks pages with a strong social connection very highly, so Yelp would be a good source for this


    Buying local has helped sustain many economies. In a farming area, this works. I like the most personal approach as good bad or ugly by Yelp. Great content and a very good point about trust. If I were still in advertising I would promote Yelp as being the place for help where U come first….

    • Gary Brewer

      Great points Mary Helen, thanks for your input!

  • Agence referencement

    Great article, in the french SERPS, we can do Yelp in totaly local requests.

    It’s abused, Tripadvisor is freaking about this new website. Google seems love Yelp, and I love to this service but I think we can’t make compare to wikipedia and yelp.

  • Gary Brewer

    Thanks Agence, are you saying that Tripadvisor can’t compare to them?