Sometimes in life, you have to choose. You probably don’t carry an iPhone, an Android phone and a Blackberry, even though each has its advantages. Why do you have to choose one? Because you probably only need one phone, and more important, each one costs money. If all three were free–the phone and the service–you’d probably go ahead and get one of each.
That’s the beautiful thing about many of the top online marketing options: In and of themselves, they have no cost to the business owner. Sure, you can spend some money to help extend the reach of those options and make them more beneficial to you, but the basic services are free.
That doesn’t mean you should spend your time taking advantage of every marketing service on earth–time is a resource too, so the key is to take advantage of the free resources that are most beneficial to you. That’s why we’re going to focus on the two review-oriented platforms you need to concern yourself with right now: Yelp and Google + Local.
Yelp has taken the lead in the online review community. In the early days of online business reviews, Yahoo Local and Citysearch were the go-to options. Yelp came in and cornered the market in no time. With its much more ambitious approach, Yelp has passed the 17-million mark. It doubled its review rate of reviews with two million new reviews added just in the first quarter of 2012.
Does this mean you can ignore Yahoo Local and Citysearch? Well, you should always be aware of what people are saying about your business. If there are particularly negative reviews there, it’s always good to post an explanatory comment and offer the user another opportunity to try your business. But for the most part, the eyeballs just aren’t there anymore.
Yelp is the big player in town, but Google + Local–which also used the name “Google Places” for a while, but it’s since dropped that name–is likely to be encroaching on its territory soon. Remember, there was a time when every band had to have a MySpace page, and Facebook wasn’t even a player. Now, the online community has departed MySpace in droves, and Facebook is the place to be. That’s why establishing a great presence now on Yelp and Google + Local is so important.
Part of the reason Yelp has been so successful is its focus on adding social features to the site: Reviewers can friend each other, rate each other’s reviews, and build virtual communities based on their shared interests (shades of Facebook). Google + Local hasn’t gone as far as Yelp with these features, but it’s well on its way.
One big thing to remember is that Google has popularity and capital to pretty much take over any industry it likes. It has far-and-away the biggest search engine on earth, and its advertising capital remains enormous. That doesn’t mean Yelp is going away anytime soon, but given the popularity of Google, and particularly Google Maps (the most popular app on Android), it’s fair to expect Google+ Local to grow rapidly.