Yelp vs Google

Local ratings and reviews have become a critical part of local online marketing and for good reason.  Take these eye opening stats:

  • Restaurants with 3.5 stars on Yelp are 63% more likely to be full than those with just 3 stars – a half star difference! (UK Guardian 2012) Tweet this stat!
  • 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from real people – Search Engine Land, 2012 Tweet this stat!
  • 68% of consumers go to social networking sites to read product reviews (Vocus) Tweet this stat!
  • 83% of buyers no longer trust advertising but most trust recommendations from users online (Formstack) Tweet this stat!
  • 85% of customers expect businesses to be active in social media (Vocus) Tweet this stat!

It’s absolutely critical to have a social reputation management strategy.

But Google is new to the review game with the launch of Google+Local in May 2012, whereas industry leader Yelp has been focusing on reviews since October of 2004.  As a result, traditionally local businesses have been focusing on their Yelp reviews, but they should start transitioning to focus on Google+Local.  Here’s why Google is going to win in the long term (my 2 year prediction).

#1: Google is Integrating Local Reviews In More Places Than Yelp

Google+Local is the number 1 directory on the Internet if you look at usage, because it is integrated into 83% of local Google searches.   83%!   And the number one maps app on mobile (both IOS and Android) is Google Maps, where Google+Local is also embedded.  That’s game, set and match if you are comparing raw numbers of impressions.

Google+Local Channels vs. Yelp

And Google+Local rankings will increasingly be determined by social signals like reviews so you are going to have to focus on your Google+Local reviews to maintain a high organic search ranking (local SEO).

As Google continues to defend its turf in maps and local info, with purchases of Zagat and Waze as examples, they are unlikely to give up their market leadership to Yelp (perhaps Apple should buy them to make a run of it).

#2: Google Places Can Do a Better Job of Filtering Fake Reviews Than Yelp

Fake Yelp Reviews

Source: CBS.com

Both consumers and businesses alike are infuriated by the Yelp review filter.

Google has access to much more data, including usage of all the other apps like Gmail, Google+, maps, Google Docs/Drive, Android, etc.  Because of all this activity, Google knows I am a real person.  With all of its algorithmic might, Google is much better suited in this critical field to maintain review integrity.

#3: Google Places Has an Advertising Program That Might Work

Google Offers Extensions on the MapGoogle has an advertising program that coexists with its reviews and directory. Google will be using their AdWords programs to promote offers, sponsored pins on the map, etc..  These are both clearly visible and the offers adds value to the listing and the consumer.

How Long Does the Patient Have, Doctor?

doctor marketing and local SEOMake no mistake, Yelp will be a key player for a long time, even just as a counter service to Google that will be propped up by competitors like Apple and Bing.  Being #2 in an industry is a great position to be (GE famously is only in businesses it can be #1 or #2).

But it seems to me to be just a matter of time before Google usurps the consumer and local business mindshare in terms of what’s important.   They have only begun to hint at how to use the metadata they are collecting in new and interesting ways, such as this Google Now commercial which implies it will use reviews to proactively tell you what dishes to order.

2 years from now, consumers will be consulting Google+Local reviews more than Yelp on their mobile devices, which will be the principal interface for researching, selecting and sharing local venues information.   And local businesses will respond by sharing their events, announcements and deals on Google+, so it can be a part of their profile and improve SEO.

Google+ taking off?   Now that’s a wild prediction for 2014.

 

  • Eddie Hernandez

    One thing to note that neither company has done (or done well) is the ability to create different views of the data. Some Yelp reviews are 6-7+ years old… Are those reviews relevant? I would love the ability to filter by time frame, look at trends, etc. Also, some of the most ‘useful’ reviews on Yelp are not really useful Often times a review on Yelp will receive more favorable votes because of the reviewer’s reputation / notoriety vs. review substance. I don’t find this is the case (that often) with Google reviews.

    • LocalVox Media

      Yes, I think Google is early in the sophistication of review sorting, filtering and managing. That said, I have my bet on Google to figure it out, integrate it with other offerings, prioritize based on your social graph, etc.

  • Philip Rozek

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Trevor.

    Not quite sure it’s “inevitable” that Google will “beat”
    Yelp – ever or any time soon. For one
    thing, we need to define “beat.” Also,
    Google is probably going to irritate and deter a lot of people with the new “reviews
    extensions” that just rolled out in AdWords.

    Which leads me to another point I’ve cleaned from helping SMBs
    with reviews every day: Yelp’s review filter pisses off business owners, but
    not more than Google’s track record on privacy irritates users (AKA reviewers). Customers don’t want to set up Plus profiles
    just to leave a review, partly because Google asks too many questions during
    the setup (the fact that you can skip them isn’t apparent to most first-time
    Plussers). One site makes it hard to
    businesses to get reviews, another site makes it hard for people to leave
    reviews.

    Yelp will be around for a while, and it and Google will be
    the two Big Boys for quite some time to come, I expect.

    • LocalVox Media

      Agreed. It is too hard and I certainly overcame it for the same reason I think most industry folks use Google+ –> SEO. But if they make it easy because you already have a gmail account, they put it all together. So the question of what is “beat” is important. If you look at number of impressions, Google has already one. To me, it is more mindshare. At what point do people go to Google for reviews and do businesses care more about Google than Yelp about their reputation. I think that day is coming fast…

  • embraceinteractive

    I think that it’s much more likely that a consumer will search for a business on Google than on Yelp. Would love to see/find some statistics to back this up. If this is the case, Google are obviously in a great position to demote Yelp organic results and give more real estate to Google local listings.

    I’m happy that Yelp has a genuine competitor in this field now. I felt as if they were taking advantage of their ownership of the online reviews market. Maybe now they will clean up some of their shady practices that have made them so unpopular with small business owner.

    • Trevor Sumner

      Google represents about 50% of local searches so it is already beating Yelp considerably. The question is when it will win the review game. One lags the other.

  • doomedby2020

    It doesnt matter who offers reviews, the more the consumer trusts a website, the more damage the site will cause.
    Unless the business can opt-out ALL review sites are bad for businesses. Yelp is trying to be both a “yellow page listing” and a review site thus why no business can opt-out, can’t change their name (to get out) or even go out of business (to be taken down). Even when you sue Yelp and win, or if Yelp sues you for posting fake reviews they STILL will not remove you [Mcmillan Law Group in San Diego]

    Its more fakery for this modern era….

    • bob

      no getting rid of the filtering and just letting things work themselves out naturally is the solution. opting out would just be a red flag to consumers that this business sucks. If a business is getting a lot of bad reviews they cant all be from competitors trying to sabotage. in fact, this is actually rather rare. bad reviews come generally from pissed off customers.

      • doomedby2020

        ” opting out would just be a red flag to consumers that this business sucks”

        A price well paid if you are being harassed by Yelp, cynical competitors and spiteful customers.

        “If a business is getting a lot of bad reviews they cant all be from competitors trying to sabotage. in fact, this is actually rather rare”

        Says who, you? Sorry pal but i have 1000’s of people who experienced the same thing as me.

        You have NO idea what you are talking about.

        BTW, Google lets you Opt-out.

  • bob

    thank god. I am so sick of Yelp deleting/filtering my legitimate reviews. Of the 20 or so reviews I’ve left all but one got filtered. And yes I read how to beat their filtering system-it doesn’t work. Yelp will be the MySpace of online reviews-I just hope it’s quick. I hate the arrogant way they treat their users. Just hate em, man.

  • Please, both Yelp and Google often permit fake reviews yet frequently delete genuine ones. Yelp (but not Google) deletes all reviews from all users who employ the same IP and/or MAC address. Consequently, that policy eliminates the possibility of two or more users posting authentic reviews from the same VPN, public wifi location, or the like. Both review sites are still helpful if you simply verify the legitimacy of the accounts posting the reviews. For instance, the most legitimate accounts have posted many reviews, have many friends, have been established for a long time, have reviews that do not seem like paid ads, and the like.

    • Cami Bird

      I haven’t seen anything on Google deleting “fake” reviews, nor Yelp deleting ones from the same IP address, could you point me to where you found this information?

    • Cami Bird

      Thanks for sharing these, I’ll have to read through these articles.

  • Jsy

    It’s been almost 3 years since the article and Yelp is still leading IMO.
    I have to admit that the Local Guide program has grown much (I participate) but it’s still lacking awareness.
    It would be interesting to have your up to date feedback.