Classy: Google Is Running Zagat Ads Against Mobile Searches For “Yelp”

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If you search for “Yelp” on Google from your mobile phone the top paid result, even above the organic result to Yelp.com, takes you to Zagat.  I am only seeing this on mobile searches. While it is a common practice for companies to advertise against their competitors’ names in search advertising, in this case it is Google itself which is bidding for that search term and taking the top spot.  A classy move.

Google bought Zagat last September to shore up its local reviews for Google Places, which is its answer to Yelp.  Google Places and Yelp have a contentious history, with Google borrowing liberally from yelp to help build up its local directory.  Now with Zagat, Google finally has a large corpus if its own review, in addition to the ones people are slowly adding to Google Places.  By redirecting some of the people who are looking for Yelp to Zagat, Google is keeping up its pattern of punching Yelp in the face every chance it gets.

Remember, at one point Google almost bought Yelp back in 2009.  But that didn’t work out, and the gloves have been off ever since.  (Sound familiar, Groupon?)

Google is really hitting Yelp where it hurts.  During an antitrust hearing last September, Yelp revealed that 75 percent of its traffic comes from Google in one way or another. A big chunk of that is from organic search.  If Yelp is not the top spot when someone searches for “Yelp” that could have some impact on Yelp’s traffic.  Yelp might have to respond by bidding on its own name on AdWords.  One way or another, Google’s aggressiveness in pushing Zagat is going to cost Yelp.