Billion Dollar Bully, “a documentary on marketing giant Yelp and their $3.6 billion racket against small business owners”, has reached its Kickstarter funding goal of $90,000. To read more about their plans for finishing the film visit their website. You can see the documentary trailer here.
The “Yelp is an extortionist” meme is one that continues to dog Yelp and its not clear that it will go away any time soon. One wonders what the exact current basis for it is or if it is just the many hard feelings that have existed over the years projected into the moment.
What we do know for sure is that in the past Yelp has used incredibly hard sell & deceptive tactics* against relatively unsophisticated SMBs. We also know that there is an intrinsic conflict in their long standing business model of selling very expensive ads against reviews. When you mix the hard, sharp angle sell with the emotion of reviews bad things are bound to happen even if Yelp never actually used review removals as leverage in their relationships.
We may never know, in a legal sense, if Yelp actually did use reviews as a hammer but I suppose it doesn’t matter. Yelp’s hard driving approach to the SMB market has come home to roost and until such time as they change their business model, not just their sales practices*, this attitude in the market place is likely to persist.
*To either Yelp’s or the salesman’s credit, in my most recent sales experience last month, the pitch and the process were both more honest and less pushy.
Amazon has been moving steadily into local via their numerous local marketplaces; home services, same day product delivery, restaurant takeout, grocery deliver and hotel bookings. Today they upped their hotel booking game with the rollout of Amazon Destinations as part of local.amazon.com.
The website doesn’t go for the every hotel in the world approach of TripAdvisor and is focused around regional chains, botique hotels and b and b’s and seems to be emphasizing short getaways within driving distance from major metropolitan areas.
From the business section of the local site:
Amazon Destinations helps hotel operators reach millions of Amazon customers looking to book their next getaway. You can provide access to your everyday rates and availability, along with packaged deals and discounts.
Amazon is positioning itself as a high touch, high visibility environment where businesses can increase their exposure and be assured that their customers will receive excellent service via Amazon.
Clearly Amazon is rapidly moving into the local space. They will not compete directly with Google’s approach of providing massive local data and they probably can’t compete with Google in this arena.
But instead of driving people down the search funnel to an ad they will drive people to make the actual purchase. They will leverage the trust people have in their name and the high traffic of their site to compete in local where their brand, marketplaces and customer service gives them an advantage.
There probably isn’t an image of your business that gets seen more by potential customers and searchers than your Google My Business profile image. There isn’t a single image that has more impact on searcher’s behaviors. And there isn’t an image in the online world that is harder to “get right.”
Read my thoughts on how to best optimize your profile image: Your Google My Business Profile Image – The Most Important Image? at Local U.
I have previously noted the growth of “near me” and “near by” in mobile search.
With the advent of mobile computing those phrases have moved rapidly into the search lexicon among phone searches.
In a recent article at Think With Google, Matt Lawson noted: Google search interest in “near me” has increased 34X since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year. The vast majority come from mobile—80% in Q4 2014.. The article also noted that these types of searches were more common amongst travelers, more frequent on weekends and frequently focused on restaurant and food related searches.
Clearly these types of searches occur in some vertical more than others but the “near me” really mirrors the growth of smart phones. I created a GIF from Google Trends that shows the spread of the use of Near Me over the past 5 years:
(click to view larger)
In its place, for slow connection or old browsers, will be a Google Maps Lite Mode, a slimmed down version of the new Maps that eliminates 3D and speeds Maps up generally.
The old Maps was a trusty companion and in its time, an incredibly innovative product. It still has features that will be missed. My top of list request for a feature to be added to the new Maps: The ability to show two or more sequential searches on the map simultaneously. It allowed me to identify a location in relation to other searches, useful in real life AND Local SEO.
But the old Maps had other capabilities as well that were useful, particularly in Local SEO work, that are still missing from the new Map. For example the ability to ferret out duplicate listings easily is now gone. (This makes Michal Cottam’s Page Finder more useful.)
The new Maps, in minimizing business listings, make them very hard for me (I am color blind) to easily parse on the screen. The new Maps makes reporting a problem less functional and accessing a G+ Plus page nigh on impossible.
To some extent I suppose that the era of importance of desktop Maps is starting a long decline into second class status as mobile Mapping takes all the glory. That doesn’t mean that the old Maps won’t be missed.
I have been watching mobile Local Pack results for the past several weeks. This Guide to Google Mobile Local Pack Results catalogued what I was seeing across iPhone results as of several weeks ago. I am now seeing indications that the Local Stack, which requires an additional click to get to the business information, may be heading our way more broadly.
Last week, the Local Stack (aka Snak Pak) was, like the desktop version, only showing on entertainment, recreation, travel and food searches in all browsers and apps where I looked. Now I am seeing it for general search results in Google Now.
To some extent, mobile Local results are flying below the radar. And as I pointed out over the weekend, they vary a lot by device. But it seems that Google is on a path going with these local results from the classic pack with direct call, directions and web links to a more limited pack with just call links and now the Local Stack requiring a user to click in for even the least bit of information.
I am sure that Google would argue that its for the users benefit. Hard for me to see how hiding critical information like calling and driving directions is helping users.
Here is the fairly quick evolution we are seeing: Continue reading Is the Snak Pak the Future of Mobile Local Packs?
Browserstack has an online tool that allows responsive design testing across different mobile devices.
I was curious if it would catch some of the display differences that Google has in representing the local pack across devices with different OSs and display sizes. The differences are interesting and legion.
There are some caveats like the fact that it uses a European proxy server and doesn’t reflect things like Google Now. Who knows how many other display types it doesn’t show as there is often variety by browser types, location and searcher as well as device type. I am not sure that it captures the iPhone 6 accurately either.
Regardless it shows the amazing diversity of how a single local search result might show across devices. When was the last time you saw a 7 pack with red pins on the desktop (Windows)? This variety also demonstrates one of the reasons that ranking tools are often inaccurate.
Click to view the slideshow.
There are several things you should or probably already do know about me:
– I am not particularly fashion driven. In fact I all too often just plain out forget my belt or something.
– I am not typically an early adopter. I have been in the computer industry long enough (35 years) to know that first gen hardware is just that first gen. There are too many quirks still extant to plunk down my hard earned money.
– The last time I wore a watch was 5th grade. I destroyed the watch my Dad gave me playing dodge ball and I felt terrible. Never again I said.
– I am cheap and cautious in my investing. I don’t like spending money when the return is hazy.
– As recently as a month ago, I was thinking of selling my Apple stock. I had trouble seeing how the Apple Watch would succeed. Had Apple jumped the shark?
And yet here I am with a receipt for Apple Watch in hand. It was an out of character move for me so why did I do it?
Apple has positioned the watch with a trio of current functions; time keeping, fitness and notifications from your on-line world. They are using style and fashion to move it into the watch lovers world, some interesting health related functionality for those thinking they are going to exercise more and positioning the notification system as a way to break free from your iPhone.
Some of the ostensible reasons I made the plunge:
Appleinsider erroneously reported earlier in the week that Maps in iOS 8.3 lets business owners claim POIs, removes select TripAdvisor reviews. As Andrew Shotland has pointed out it is true that business owners can now claim their listing via the Apple Maps App but AppleInsider was wrong in that Tripadvisor and Booking.com are still present.
In fact what has changed is that the list view no longer credits Yelp as the sole supplier of reviews at the bottom of the page and each listing receives individual credit for the review source. It would also appear that Apple is using TripAdvisor as a data source as well as a source for reviews.
When reported 4 days list view showed the primary review provider at the bottom of list results. Now the list views associates the source of the review directly with the listing. This strategy allows Apple to further integrate review sources in industries where they can identify appropriate partners. It also removes their sole reliance on Yelp, which wile strong in restaurants and service businesses on the coast, is missing reviews for vast swaths of the US and more importantly the world.