Yelp's CEO On Google: We Were Suprised…I Don't Think It's A Permanent Situation

Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman deserves credit for trying to play nice with Google, even appearing onstage at the Social Currency CrunchUp with John Hanke, a Google VP of Product Management. As expected the tension was palpable, as Hanke and Stoppelman discussed Google Places and the goliath’s heavy reliance on Yelp’s content.

As an increasingly robust aggregator of local reviews, Google Places is turning into a formidable opponent. Several years ago, Google paid Yelp for access to their huge database of reviews; however, eventually Yelp terminated the deal. All was well until Google started crawling Yelp’s pages for unlicensed content to populate Google Places. Adding insult to injury, Google often pushes Yelp’s data to the bottom of its review areas, favoring instead licensed partners like Zagat. Oh, what a tangled web of reviews we weave.

Beyond the professional veneer, there’s no question that Stoppelman feels burned.

The recent developments, he says, were unexpected:

“Well I think we were surprised because we hadn’t participated in Place Pages over the years. Like we were in sort of the precursor to Place Pages back in something like 2006 and then we left because we weren’t really happy in the direction it was going and we thought OK we’ll just show up in organic results and everybody is still happy. And then yeah, we found our content was showing up there and it is ranked dead last right now. I don’t think that’s sort of a permanent situation from what we gather from talking to Google, they are sort of  headed in a new direction that which hopefully will be more positive.”

Yelp, of course, is not always the victim. The site has been criticized for ripping Foursquare’s techniques, with this year’s introduction of check-ins, leader boards, badges and the not-so-subtle “dukedom” honor. Now, Yelp is tiptoeing near Groupon’s turf, as it tests limited deals in cities like Sacramento. During our post-panel video interview, we got a chance to talk to Stoppelman about Google Places and Yelp’s budding rivalries with Foursquare and Groupon. See full video above— below are a couple key highlights:

On Check-Ins
-Android has been a particularly strong platform— the number of Yelp downloads grew 40% week over week for about a month. Now, its growing 15% week over week.

On Limited Sales
-Yelp will eventually roll out a product that will capitalize on its strength as a destination for time sensitive searches. “We have all this traffic, we have 35 million monthly visiting the site and so what could we do for people that are actually looking for a massage right now versus you know alerting them hey there’s this deal is available. So are there some interesting twists on just the Groupon model that we can apply because we’re Yelp.”