Google still has the power to remove one of the websites from its indexes, throwing all traffic which was generated to this website ‘kaput’. That is a very big power to have. Similar power for the social search is getting in the hands of Facebook. Google and Facebook are Enterprises who will definitely have the bottomline pressures on each and every organization. We have seen time and again, when such power is vested in individual interests, people suffer.
The recent events relevant to Yelp seem to point to the same, http://searchengineland.com/yelp-google-told-us-its-our-way-or-the-highway-66417 . Yelp may want to protect its content from being viewable from only its website. A Search Engine’s job is always just to point out where the data is available and not to cultivate that data for its own benefit. Google has delved with such efforts previously too, remember Google Book Search, Google Shopping Search, etc., Now, Yelp has to choose between not being indexed altogether or providing all information for Google to make use of. May not be now, but Google will be called on its goof sooner rather than later. The world is already watching the best it can, like the investigation into Google’s acquiring of the ITA data.
What I would suggest Yelp is to play the SEO game as it should. Don’t expose the User Generated Content directly, but restrict it to intellectual numbers (like number of reviews, hot or not evaluations etc.,) and statistics from the User Generated Content. Facebook does this so nice, like generating a jpg image for the E-Mail information of the Facebook profile – to prevent crawlers and Search Engines not to invade sensitive private information, enabling only a human being to interpret the data.
It is certainly bad business to get all data from others and living by that same data. Google is trying to build its own User Generated Content services and has failed miserably whenever it has put its foot forward. For example, the growing failure of Google’s attempts such as Wave, Buzz, Video, etc.,. For video it has acquired YouTube which was the only worthy adversary and has tried to do the same with other Companies (Yelp is an obvious example) as well. What it has actually failed to realize is to focus on Google’s initial goal, to be the one-stop-shop for Internet Users to discover content. If Google sticks to it, it will definitely create a legacy far greater than what it has created now.
Their renewed focus on their core goal, will enable a world where Google will be inevitable. When making this statement, I tend to remember the world shown in the post-apocalyptic feature film ‘Babylon A.D’, where Google is just everywhere. They still have their chance to become one, its theirs to screw it up.