NEW YORK, NY -- (Marketwire) -- 01/21/13 -- It is commonly accepted that the U.S. Government is privy to a wide range of data and information -- some of which remains confidential, and some of which the Government is eager to share. The latest example of government-approved information-sharing comes in the form of an innovation to Yelp.com. Yelp has long been an Internet hotspot for online reviews and ratings of local businesses, and in particular local restaurants. Now, in select cities, user-submitted restaurant reviews will share space with hygiene and sanitation scores, provided by applicable governing authorities. This latest Yelp innovation has won the attention of many online pundits, including Richard Gorman.
Gorman -- a long-time advocate of online reputation management, and a frequent commentator on matters related to Yelp -- has weighed in with a press statement. "As with all things related to Yelp, there are two ways in which this development must be considered," offers Gorman, in his comment to the press. "First, there is the level on which this impacts consumers, and as far as that goes, it is difficult to see this as anything but an advantage. Now, in addition to finding out what fellow diners thought about a particular restaurant's service or cuisine, Yelp users can also obtain official information about sanitation and health -- ensuring that they can avoid any red flags, and know just how high their favorite eateries score in terms of health and cleanliness."
The flipside, according to Gorman, is what this means for businesses. "For restaurants, this makes online reputation management even more important," Gorman remarks. "More than ever, users are going to take Yelp.com seriously, because the site now provides official government information, in addition to user-generated reviews. And in addition, it must be said that it is now more crucial than ever before for restaurants to work on obtaining the best possible health and sanitation scores! A bad rating posted on the restaurant's wall is bad enough, but having it plastered all over the Internet is even more detrimental."
The Yelp.com innovation will affix health inspection report scores to the business pages for local restaurants, beginning in just two cities -- San Francisco and New York. Yelp has made clear its intentions to roll out similar features in cities across the country, as soon as local authorities are persuaded to provide the pertinent information. Philadelphia is rumored to be the next city to join this program.
The new feature is prominently featured on Yelp.com, on each individual restaurant listing. The health score appears -- as a number out of 100 -- in large, unmissable font. "Certainly, there is no way for restaurants to hide or obscure their health scores, once they are posted to Yelp," says Gorman. Users can click on the health score to obtain a full history of the restaurant's sanitation inspections, using this information to inform their decisions about where to dine.
According to Gorman, the implications of this new development are numerous. "To begin with, there are definitely some positive things about this," he explains. "The most obvious point to be made is that helpful, practically useful government data is being made available to consumers -- and frankly, that is a big win for the Internet, and a real validation of just what online technology can do."
Still, Gorman reiterates his words of caution for restaurants, particularly those located in these cities. "Sites like Yelp.com are massively influential in shaping consumer behavior," he explains. "What this means is that a bad Yelp review can all but kill a business -- and a bad health score could prove even more dire. Restaurant owners are urged to make online reputation management a major priority, now more than ever before."
Richard Gorman is currently active on Google+.
Richard Gorman is a marketing trailblazer, a serial entrepreneur, and a foremost name in the direct response marketing field. He is best-known for his Direct Response blog, where he gives away millions of dollars in trade secrets, to fellow online marketing professionals. Gorman is also a technology pundit and commentator, opining on matters related to e-commerce, online reputation management, search, social media, and more.
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