Has Google Purged Places Of Yelp? All Signs Point To Yes.

Well, this is curious.

From our checks, it seems like Google has completely omitted Yelp reviews from Google Places. As you may recall, Yelp has been frustrated by Google’s recent decision to pump up its Places service with Yelp’s content— without Yelp’s consent.

During a recent interview with TechCrunch TV, Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said he was surprised by Google’s move but was confident that it was not 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.”

It’s unclear whether this is the “positive” outcome Stoppelman was hoping for (we’ve reached out to Yelp and Google for confirmation and comment). The companies’ ambiguous “talks” seemed more complex than the simple inclusion or omission of Yelp’s data but Stoppelman did say that (prior to Google’s data grab) Yelp was content to be excluded from Places and confined to organic results.

File Google and Yelp’s relationship under “it’s complicated” (— and not just because Yelp walked away from a hefty takeover offer in late 2009).

Several years ago, Google paid Yelp for access to its treasure trove of user reviews, as the company developed the precursor to Google Places. Eventually the partnership fell apart and an unsatisfied Yelp walked away. It was a relatively peaceful coexistence until this summer, when Google unexpectedly started to crawl Yelp’s pages for unlicensed content to flesh out Google Places. As Stoppelman pointed out in our July interview, he was also annoyed to see Yelp’s reviews pushed to the bottom, while official partners, like Zagat, got top billing.

While it’s virtually impossible to check every page on Google Places to verify that all of Yelp’s reviews are now excluded, in a July 26 post, my colleague MG Siegler referenced a few sample pages (like this page on SF’s Gordo Taqueria or Pancho Villa) that were heavily reliant on Yelp’s content. Today, they are both stripped of that data.

Arbitrary checks in other cities yielded the same results.

It was strange (actually, downright eerie) to see pages that were once rich with Yelp’s reviews— now completely bereft of them.  Occasionally, when I was searching for a restaurant I would get a snippet of a Yelp review in the preview pane. However, once I clicked through to the restaurant’s page, the review was magically missing— as in the case of the 95th Restaurant in Chicago (and yes, I went through all 355 reviews available):

We’ll update once we hear back from Google/Yelp.

Update: Google has indeed revised its guidelines for Places. According to their updated policy, Google removes “inappropriate content,” including:

-Nudity, Obscenity, and Sexually Explicit Material
-Violent or Bullying Behavior
-Hate Speech or Incitement to Violence
-Private and Confidential Information
-Intellectual Property
-Illegal Activities or Content
-Spam or Malicious Content

Google classifies intellectual property as: “Don’t infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, including patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright, and other proprietary rights.

We will respond to clear notices of alleged copyright infringement. For more information or to file a DMCA request, please visit our copyright procedure.”

Second Update. It is confirmed, Google has changed the classification of Yelp’s reviews, according to a Google spokesperson. Until further notice, don’t expect to find Yelp in the “reviews” section, however, Yelp may be linked in their “more about this place section,” —- which is the last section of a Google Place page and generally features a smorgasbord of random, albeit related, links.

“Place pages organize relevant information about a wide range of places and locations, and they surface great sources of information like reviews and photos about ‘places’ ranging from restaurants to parks to landmarks to cities.

Regarding the presentation of Yelp review snippets, neither of us was happy with the data as it appeared, so we reclassified results from Yelp while we reviewed our options. This means that, for the time being, Yelp pages may not appear as review snippets in Place page results, though relevant results from Yelp will continue appear in the “more about this place” section, which shows pages about a given location. We are working with Yelp to more intelligently crawl and present results from their site.”

Here’s our July interview with Stoppelman, if you’re interested: