Yelp has been the defacto business directory service for the last 10+ years, but will it continue to dominate? How does Google's strong challenge affect Yelp, and more importantly, your business?
Yelp's Early Dominance
Yelp certainly didn't invent user-generated reviews, but they were the first company to bring it to the masses; first in the email format (by sending recommendations and reviews via email) and then via an App (with the release of the iPhone).
This first-mover advantage (in the local business reviews space) has propelled Yelp into a household name and made it essential to all small businesses - with over 180 million reviews and 30+ million monthly mobile app (unique) users.
The Love-Hate Relationship With Yelp
In the vast majority of cases, Yelp has had a positive impact on small businesses - increasing their brand awareness, which results in more leads and customers.
On the other hand, many businesses have had a negative experience dealing with Yelp. For example, their aggressive sales tactics. Also, it is no secret that Yelp treats non-paying and paying customers very differently; this leaves a sour taste in most business owners' mouths.
Internet is littered with fake reviews, so while Yelp's fake reviews may hit the news more often, Yelp is certainly not the only company dealing with this problem - both Amazon and Google have publicly acknowledged this issue and are actively trying to weed them out.
Google My Business (Yelp's Alternative)
Even if you are not familiar with "Google My Business" you probably use the service every day. For example, if you use Google Search to find a local contractor, you will be presented with a map and a list of local contractors in your area. Like Yelp, Google will show basic information about each business, and most importantly, reviews.
In our opinion, having a presence on “Google My Business" is essential because most Google search queries will land on a business listed in "Google My Business", and not Yelp.
Irrespective of the love-hate relationship you may have with Yelp, it will remain highly relevant. It's important to note that Bing, Yahoo, and Apple display Yelp reviews, so while "Google My Business" will undoubtedly continue to grow in popularity, Yelp is in no danger of becoming irrelevant.
For a long period of time, Yelp was the only game in town, but this is certainly not the case anymore. Over the last few years, Google has gained ground quickly, and has established itself as a serious competitor to Yelp.
As the saying goes, don't put all your eggs in one basket, so having all your social proof (e.g. reviews) on a single platform (e.g. Yelp) is not advisable. Instead, build your presence on "Google My Business", but also continue to invest your time and resources into Yelp. Even if you have some reservations about Yelp, they will continue to play an integral role in building your social proof - as long as Bing, Yahoo, and Apple continue to highlight Yelp reviews in their results.
Competition usually leads to a better outcome for customers and end-users, so Google's fast rise in the local business directory space will only make our experience with these services better.
Finally, social proof is critical in easing concerns and nudging a consumer towards a purchase; hence, why reviews, ratings, testimonials, and endorsements are so vital. And for small and medium-size businesses, Yelp and "Google My Business" play an essential part in building this social proof.