Despite having recently successfully celebrated its 10th anniversary, popular online reviews site Yelp has lately somewhat been under fire. Just last week, a class action lawsuit was filed in San Francisco against Yelp, saying that the site let fake negative reviews remain on the Yelp pages of local businesses in order to extract advertising money.
What makes this worse is that the lawsuit was filed by Yelp’s own shareholders, who are claiming that the company’s executives, led by CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, lied about Yelp’s review policies and business practices in order to inflate the company’s stock price. (Yelp’s stock actually plummeted by 11 percent a day after it posted its first quarterly profit in its history.)
In the middle of all this, Stoppelman has been looking back and assessing what Yelp has done since it was founded in 2004. In an interview with the Associated Press, the CEO of one of today’s biggest online review sites shares his thoughts about Yelp’s past, present, and future. Here are some highlights:
Do you write Yelp reviews yourself?
I do. I just did three or four today. I am at 1,214 reviews as of today. I was on a trip in Aspen, and I just gave a one-star review to this French restaurant. They gave us a hard time. We actually had to walk out. I didn’t even get to the food.
What do you use when Yelp isn’t available?
It happens a decent amount. I was in Croatia last year and there is no Yelp. So, I think you end up in this pre-Yelp world of looking inside the business to see if it’s busy, or you ask the hotel concierge.
Clearly, you believe people are more likely to have a satisfying experience in a world with Yelp to help guide them.
No question. The beauty is when you go on a road trip. Prior to Yelp, you would never have the confidence to veer off the highway and go that extra two miles into town and try out a place. And now you can actually read all about it and understand why you might want to do that rather than just hit the McDonald’s and keep on going up to Tahoe or what have you.
What was it like when Google tried to buy Yelp?
It was an emotional decision. Yelp is my baby, so I wanted it to be in a place where it was going to thrive. As it became more of an auction process where it felt like there was blood in the water and the sharks were attacking, it just felt like it wasn’t going to end up with Yelp in a good spot.
Stoppelman added to these thoughts in another interview, this time with Marketplace Business:
Looking back, how do you feel now about the decision to turn down Google’s offer?
Fortunately, we chose the independent path. And I think the company is much more successful as a result.
How does Yelp help local businesses?
If you think about the world prior to Yelp, it was the world of the professional critic. And so that meant lots of businesses didn’t get any exposure at all and the ones that did had kind of a one-shot deal.