Is Yelp Violating Google’s TOS by Mandating Do-Follow Links?

I’m hoping to start an open-ended discussion about big brands, proper attribution, and Google Webmaster Guidelines through this recent discovery I’ve made recently.

I understand the importance of properly attributing an image / original work, but I noticed this on Yelp’s Display Requirements page:

yelp do follow link


Originally I was scanning through Yelp’s FAQ and noticed that part of their TOS forbids webmasters from using Yelp content without a link back.

yelp faq



Yelp continues to elaborate on their attribution requirements in their API terms of use where it is mentioned several more times.


Proper Attribution or Blatant Link Scheme?

There is no doubt about it that Yelp is a mega brand and gets thousands of legit links from many reputable sources.

The question remains: Is the fact that Yelp requires do-follow links a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines, or is it fair to say that if you use Yelp’s content it is fair that they ask for a link?

I’ve spoken to several people about this example over the past few days, most of them agree that requiring webmasters to insert a do-follow link to your site can only mean one thing: you are in it for the PageRank.

In my opinion, it is one thing asking for attribution but requiring users to insert a do-follow link from their site / app /API

Google’s definition of a link scheme is laid out pretty clearly. Links should be placed organically and those that were not editorially placed or vouched for will most likely be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

I think it is very important to discuss these situations openly. It seems like these grey areas are coming up more and more often in the media so it is always good to get feedback from those that might have dealt with a similar situation.

Patrick Coombe
Hello I'm Patrick Coombe and I'm the CEO and Founder of Elite Strategies, an agency I started in 2009. One of the main reasons I love blogging about SEO is the research it takes to come up with the posts. It allows me to not only write about what I love, but to learn more about the industry in the process. I hope you enjoyed this post, if you did consider sharing it or even better linking to it!
  • Written by: John Rosato

    I think this blatant ask for a follow-able link is asking for trouble – I think we saw a similar thing with Thumbtack last year.

    Blatantly promoting link schemes in the public eye is asking for trouble.

    While I think the strategy is sound, potentially Yelp are better off simply asking for attribution while providing examples and then scaling outreach to tackle those not linking.

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