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Yelp Cries Foul at Google's Mobile App Ad Declaration

Another tweak from Google, another beef with one of its noisiest rivals.

Clash of Clans / Supercell

Those ads that splash on your phone, nudging you to install an app? You know the ones. Earlier this week, Google released an internal study showing that these app download “interstitials” were not merely obnoxious but ineffective, hindering the intended goal of encouraging app installation. Google said it was retiring them and asked the mobile Internet to do the same.

Some were pleased. Some were not.

Firmly in the latter camp is Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp CEO and frequent Google sparring partner. On Friday, he pointed to the study and cried hypocrite.

Here’s the background: Google’s test paired the full-page ads against subtler banner promotions on mobile websites. Nine percent of mobile users tapped through to the app from the first ads, while 69 percent ran away from the site. With the second version, Google reported an uptick of 17 percent in traffic to the app.

Innocuous enough. But Stoppelman is not just accusing Google of a double standard (running its own app ads while nixing others). Behind his beef is the suspicion, percolating in the mobile industry now, that Google is trying to replicate its Web search position with apps. In the past year, Google has pushed aggressively to index the entirety of the app world, while positioning itself, through deep-linking features like the upcoming Now on Tap, as the facilitator. And with Google as facilitator, that leaves less room for other app go-betweens, a la Yelp.

It doesn’t help Google’s case here that the interstitial study relied on its own Google+ social app, a Google application that, to be kind, is not terribly in demand.

Yelp, of course, is a public company that makes revenue from mobile app ads. And its dispute with Google is long standing, dating back to Google’s acquisition of rival Zagat in 2011. Yelp is one of the more vocal complainants in the current EU antitrust case against Google’s comparative shopping service. The local reviews company recently published a study, with legal analyst Tim Wu, claiming Google is flaunting monopolistic behavior on the desktop.

Now, Yelp is dropping the M-word about apps.

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