We live in a big country. There are differences in behaviors between men and women, rural and urban and regionally. This is as true on line as it is offline.
Those who leave reviews are not a uniform lot nor are their preferred review sites. In my recent research as to which sites US internet users prefer to leave reviews, it was a 1,2,3 finish for Google, Facebook and Yelp. But there were interesting difference by gender, urbanicity and to an extent income as to which sites reviewers preferred. There are likely other differences as well but the sample size was not large enough to make conclusions.
There was little gender differences among those that left reviews at Google, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List or YP.com with each site having roughly equal number of males and females that preferred each site. Perhaps it is self evident but women comprised a significant majority amongst those that left reviews at Facebook. Yelp had a similar tilt towards men.
There was little difference in preference amongst those living in suburbia, rural or urban environs on Google, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List. YP.com and Citysearch. But there was a distinct urban bent towards Yelp amongst its users and a definitive tilt towards suburban and rural users amongst those preferring to review on Facebook.
TL;dr: Amongst consumers that leave reviews more than once per year, which sites do consumers prefer for leaving reviews? The answer might surprise you. Google is number one overall but Facebook made a strong showing and outpaced Yelp for the number two spot as a preferred site to leave reviews.
Reviews have two sides:
Where do people read them?
Where do people like to leave them?
I suspected that the answers to these two questions might not be the same.
Facebook reviews received more of my attention with the Big Earl’s controversy in early June. It elevated Facebook on my radar and I started gathering anecdotal evidence that Facebook was making inroads into the local review space despite the fact that they are not highlighting reviews in any significant way.
I also saw the phenomenon on Barbara Oliver’s FB page despite her making no specific effort to get reviews there, they were piling up at a steady rate. I was even seeing Facebook ratings and reviews in industries like insurance that are notoriously hard to get reviews in.
To that end I created a large scale consumer survey at Google of US Adult internet users to first figure out who left reviews for local businesses regularly and then amongst those users, what sites they preferred for leaving reviews.
Using Google survey, I created a filter question to identify users (self reported) that left reviews at least once per year and eliminated from further study, those that rarely if ever left reviews.
We asked 2671 respondents the following with a choice of 5 possible answers: After purchasing from a local business, I will take the time to leave an online review for that business (% response in parenthesis):
-Almost never – less than 1 review per year (19.6%)
-Occasionally – 1 to 5 reviews per year (15.7%)
-Somewhat frequently – 6 to 11 reviews per year (4.2%)
-Very frequently – 12 reviews or more a year (2.4%)
The vast majority of respondents noted they never or almost never leave reviews (77.8%). Is it any wonder that getting reviews is hard?
The 703 of those respondents (22.2% of the total) that answered occasionally, somewhat or very frequently were then asked a follow up question where they were asked to indicate their preferred site:
When you leave a review online for a local business which site are you most likely to use?
The margin of error in the survey is such that Google’s “victory” is statistically significant. And one could argue that the difference between Facebook and Yelp is such that we can’t really tell which is actually in second place.
But this survey is confirmed by a second survey I conducted where users were allowed to pick ALL sites they are likely to use (1002 responses).
Yelp is obviously very, very good with their SEO. They apparently have the ability to sculpt their internal link values to highlight what appear to be the most popular local businesses in the Google local results.
Apparently their ability to do that in their strongest markets is even greater than elsewhere.
These results, first highlighted by Matt Storms on G+ (h/t to Max Minzer) well before the current local algo update and they are still seen in the SERPS. They reflect on Yelp’s ability to manipulate the search results and reflect poorly on Google’s acceptance of those practices. Yelp, though, needs to be careful of soiling the bed in which they sleep. Although I suppose they could fall back on their all too successful (but BS) cry wolf strategy if Google were to clamp down.
Look at these searches (I am sure you can find more):
I am just returning from the SIINDA conference in Budapest. SIINDA is the newly formed association born out of the combined efforts of the EASDP, the European Association of Search and Database Publishers (YPs), and EIDQ, the Association for the Directory Information. Most of the attendees at the conference were Yellow page companies that were in various states of conversion from print to digital. Many were fairly far along and appeared to be succeding with the transition. It was an incredible personal AND work learning experience.
One of the speakers was Karen McGrane, who if you haven’t followed you should. She has really thought through the idea of systems to allow content to be re-purposed and right purposed. A critical question for any pre-digital organization that is sitting on a ton of great content as well as new media companies.
Interestingly Apple had three people in attendance (but not speaking) at the conference including one from Cupertino that joined Apple from Locationary. When I asked several of the Apple employees if their attendance was an indication of coming activity on the local front I was obviously answered with non answers. Equally interesting though was when I broached the topic with several of the participants (mostly data providers) and they also felt compelled to note that they were unable to respond. Hopefully Apple is picking up some decent local POI data sets that will make their product more useful in Europe. Continue reading Some Thoughts on the YP industry & Google in Europe→
A client, having re-located to a new sub division, contracted with me early last spring to get their new street “on the map” and to clean their NAP. Google, with the help of Dan Austin (a partner on the project) picked up the new streets in about 2 weeks and went live to Maps immediately after. The change of address was equally speedy. OpenStreetMap was about the same.
TeleAtlas, which Apple uses, and Navteq-Here both took almost 6 months to give acknowledgement of the fact that the street reality had changed, another 3 months to get their base maps updated and then with each of their down stream users it was a crap shoot. MapQuest picked up the new streets in January, 2014. Yahoo Maps in February and Apple finally picked up the change this past week. We are talking over a year and nearly a year for Yahoo and Mapquest. Bing, well… we are still waiting for Bing Maps. That’s the Apple (and industry) bad news. Bad but not as bad as Bing and about the same as everyone else. And solely due to their partner TeleAtlas. Although it does not appear that Nav-Teq-Here is any better.
But here is the Apple good news. Once the base street map was correct, we reported the changed address and had a response and a fix in two days. And not just a response but a direct feedback sent to my iPhone. Nice. It actually felt like the Apple service to which we have grown accustomed and that would distinguish them in the market (Google are you listening?). This is not the first report of Apple upping their listing game.
Now if they can get TeleAtlas to fix stuff as quickly we would be going someplace. Or rather we could get there using Apple Maps.
Local U Advanced is returning to Seattle on June 10th with an all new curriculum for 2014.
When asked what attendees liked best about our just completed Local U Advanced in Philadelphia here is what a few of them said:
How intimate the group is and the ability to talk to the presenters before, during and after presentations. All the presenters I spoke with cared about answering my questions and did not brush anything off. This conference is just like the small classroom experience any good college tries to attain. – Zach Stone
The content! Speakers also communicated that content clearly and with enthusiasm (Wil takes the title as “Most Enthusiastic”). But a very close second was that it was limited to 60 attendees. It allowed a more intimate setting to meet and network with fellow agency members and the speakers. – Annie Stern
It’s tough to beat participating in a Q&A session with Derek (from Google) – he provided clarification on many issues important to my team. Also, the discussion with Blumenthal and Mihm answered many questions I had. – Kerry Fager
The upcoming Local Advanced – Seattle will offer the same small, intimate environment, the ability to interact with folks that live and breath local and the same great content (all new from last year’s Seattle event) . Google will be there as will all the folks from Local U. And we are excited that Rand Fishkin will be keynoting the event.
We hope to see you there. You can sign up here and be sure to use the discount code: WS-LUSA10 (case sensitive) to receive a 10% discount. The early bird special ends May 2nd.
Greg did an interesting article on Facebook’s move into the SMB market. Whether their decision to forgo resellers is the correct one, time will tell. But has Greg points out, the real question is whether they can deliver compelling value to SMBs, in an easy to use package that drives widespread adoption.
Many have dreamed of this as the holy grail, few have succeeded. Google has been at it longer than anyone and still have not yet put the all of the pieces in place. Facebook has much less SMB baggage than Google but Google has a great deal more experience.
Rather than reproduce some of my thoughts from G+ I am embedding them here.
It’s time for the annual print Yellow Page count. And I promised last year to stop beating that dead horse… so this year I will beat several. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Page counts in my local print version have declined once again by over 10%. The good news for the Superpage print directory? The rate of decline seems to have slowed. The other good news is that their niche has become clear. They are still doing reasonably well and are still used (believe it or not) in rural areas, the mid-west and by older shoppers (ok very old shoppers). In my research they appear to have a mindshare that exceeds Yelp country wide.
The other good news? Well this isn’t really good news just news that means that the Yellow pages are not alone in the boat. Every other local advertising medium has seen similar declines and similar demographic shifts.
Last week Greg Sterling noted: … Yelp and Google. They’re like Spain and Portugal in the 15th Century — rivals trying to carve up the local globe.
The analogy seemed wrong to me as Spain and Portugal were to a large extent equal in their strength. I noted in the comments that “I see the analogy as more like the US vs the Taliban or perhaps Grenada rather than one of equals like Spain vs. Portugal“.
Is Yelp, as Greg portrays, a powerhouse in local search? Or is their position more one of a far distant second to Google as a general local search site with little hope of competing? Or is the answer more complex than that?
On the surface, my recent consumer survey would indicate that Yelp is running a far distant second (or third or fourth) to Google with little chance of competing:
Yet the answer is more nuanced and complex than that. When you parse the data by age, region and urbanicity the picture changes. Much more favorably for Yelp but even with those changes does the data rise to level of proof of Yelp as a general local search engine?