A lawsuit over a Yelp.com review has been settled, but the larger issue of how business owners, customers, and review sites will co-exist online remains wide open.
CNET is reporting that a San Francisco chiropractor and his disgruntled patient have settled their differences over a negative review that the patient posted on Yelp. Dr. Steven Biegel sued Christopher Norberg for defamation when Norberg questioned the chiropractor’s billing practices in his Yelp review. Neither side is discussing the terms of their settlement, but Norberg has updated his review on Biegel’s Yelp business listing:
A misunderstanding between both parties led us to act out of hand. I chose to ignore Dr. Biegel’s initial request to discuss my posting. In hindsight, I should have remained open to his concerns. Both Dr. Biegel and I strongly believe in a person’s right to express their opinions in a public forum.
We both encourage the internet community to act responsibly.
Online reviews are a primary element of local search and small business marketing. In addition to sites like Yelp, Citysearch, and Insider Pages, you have Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and Live Search Maps all encouraging users to leave business reviews in the local search listings.
There’s no question that consumers value reviews online, but business owners often struggle with handling negative reviews. Some sites let business owners reply to negative reviews, but Yelp has had to remove some business accounts for trading positive reviews. And users themselves aren’t innocent, either; some have walked into restaurants, demanded free meals, and threatened to leave negative reviews if their demands aren’t met.
Meanwhile, search engines are also struggling with reviews, but in a different way: The power of reviews on local search listings, and in the algorithms that determine rankings, have created long-running spam problems. I wrote on Small Business Search Marketing about Google Maps review spam that survived 10 months before anyone noticed. Florist Detective has written about similar review spam on Yahoo Local.
So, while this one case may be over, there are bigger issues still to be solved when it comes to online reviews, search engines, small businesses, and local search.