Dealing With An Increasingly Mobile Yelp

Chris CrumBusiness

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Yelp released its Q1 financial results on Wednesday with a 55% revenue increase compared to the same quarter last year, but falling short of analysts' expectations and sending its stock price down. Still, the company grew its cumulative reviews by 36% to 77 million, including a record 6 million reviews contributed during the quarter.

Do you expect Yelp's increasing mobile user base to have an impact on your business? Let us know in the comments.

Mobile Growth

Mobile is a major growth area for Yelp, and businesses should understand the effects of that.

The company reported that average monthly mobile unique visitors grew 29% year-over-year to approximately 79 million while average monthly desktop unique visitors declined 3% to about 80 million. Combined, average monthly unique visitors grew 8% to 142 million. In other words, there are now nearly as many mobile users as desktop users, and it's only a matter of time until the mobile number overtakes desktop.

Keep in mind, the ability to write reviews from mobile devices hasn't even been around for two years. The feature hit the Yelp iPhone app in August, 2013, and then the Android app the following October.

Last year, the company added a feature that enables users to upload videos so users can show various aspects of a business, such as ambiance, lighting, noise level, etc.

They also added a mobile review translation feature, making content more useful for travel.

What Yelp is saying about mobile

CEO Jeremy Stoppelman had plenty to say about Yelp's progress in mobile during the earnings conference call.

"The way consumers contribute and consume content today is rapidly becoming mobile-centric," said Stoppelman. "And as one of the first apps in the Apple App Store, we've been at the forefront of this trend. Mobile has been and continues to be one of our top product priorities and we've seen that focus result in strong mobile consumer traffic and engagement."

Over 50% of reviews and photos were contributed via Yelp's mobile apps during the quarter, while mobile devices accessing the apps grew 47% year-over-year to about 16 million. According to the CEO, those are Yelp's "most valuable and engaged" users.

"If you fast forward a few years in to the future, you can imagine that our business is quite reliant on mobile traffic. And that's where we frankly continue to invest a lot of our time and attention and resources particularly on the products and engineering side," Stoppelman said during a Q&A. "And the good news is it seems to be paying off. Mobile web, if you include mobile web you're looking at 29% year-over-year and then we talked about the app number being even stronger. So we feel good about where the business is headed but it's certainly a period of transition where you are seeing desktop decline as users give up their desktop machines and switch over to iPhones and whatnot."

"One thing we're quite encouraged by, as users do shift from desktop to mobile, particularly mobile app, we do see much higher engagement," he said. "Just as an indicator that we're seeing 65% of searches now are happening on mobile. We're also seeing more and more content, I think it's about close to 50% of content is now north of 50% of content is coming from mobile and of course a big portion of that, vast majority is coming from the mobile app."

He also talked about Yelp's relationship with Apple, and how its review content is consistently surfaced through iOS functionality.

Stoppelman even responded to a question about Google's mobile-friendly update, saying that while it's still too early to say for sure, there are no signs of a massive impact on Yelp's search rankings either way. He noted that Yelp content is largely mobile-friendly, and that he doesn't expect any significant impact one way or the other.

What Yelp didn't say about mobile

What he didn't mention is that another recent Google update has the potential to increase Yelp's search visibility on Android. Google recently started surfacing content from apps in its search results, and if people continue to use the Yelp app, there is some potential opportunity for the company there. In fact, even since Google turned on app indexing as a signal, it has begun showing apps that users haven't even downloaded in search results, encouraging app installs. This could very well lead to more Yelp Android app downloads.

Another major component of Yelp's mobile presence that they didn't really get into on the call was the API, which gives developers the ability to pull Yelp data and use it in their own apps, potentially making your business information available in more places from mobile devices (and the web).

Last summer, Yelp opened up its API to all developers for free, and increased the call limit to make it easier for them to use. In other words, anyone who wants to use Yelp data in their apps or website can now do so easily, without cost, and pull enough data to make actual useful Yelp-related features.

“Thousands of companies have used Yelp’s API to build local information into their products and services, giving consumers even more access to great Yelp content, like Yelp review snippets, photos, ratings and business listing information,” said Yelp VP Business & Corporate Development Mike Ghaffary in July. “Developers have turned to Yelp because of our trusted, high-quality local data, which, through an empirical study, is shown to be more reliable and consistent than other sources of local data.”

What can businesses do to deal with increased mobile use of Yelp?

Well, there's probably not a lot to do in terms of mobile Yelp optimization beyond the things that apply to the desktop. You should make sure you've claimed your business, and add photos, business hours, and other important information. Respond to customer reviews (in a professional manner). You can create deals or mobile check-in offers to try and increase conversions.

"Optimizing your Yelp listing is equivalent to optimizing your website for search engines such as Google," writes Amanda DiSilvestro at Search Engine Journal. "You want to utilize keywords in your business listing, and try to earn backlinks wherever you can either through guest posting, press releases, or better yet, naturally."

"Yelp also offers social features for users to help them find their friends on Yelp and see what they have been reviewing and what they recommend in any given area," she adds. "This is more of a feature for users than businesses, but it's good to know it exists in case your business ever wants to check out what people are saying about businesses in the area (your competition maybe?). You can check out these social features by clicking Find Friends' at the top of a Yelp page. If you don't already have an account, it will prompt you to add in information and confirm your email address. You'll be set to go in less than two minutes."

DiSilvestro also recommends including a link to your Yelp page on your website and/or in your email signature.

Just be careful about asking for Yelp reviews, because Yelp considers this spam. “Don’t Ask for Reviews” is one of Yelp’s guidelines. They have a whole page on it in their support center.

Under the “Why does Yelp discourage businesses from asking for reviews?” section, it says:

1. Would-be customers might not trust you. Let’s face it, most business owners are only going to ask for reviews from their happy customers, not the unhappy ones. Over time, these self-selected reviews create bias in the business listing — a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away. No business is perfect, and it’s impossible to please 100% of your customers 100% of the time.

2. Solicited reviews are less likely to be recommended by our automated software, and that will drive you crazy. Why aren’t these reviews recommended? Well, we have the unfortunate task of trying to help our users distinguish between real and fake reviews, and while we think we do a pretty good job at it with our fancy computer algorithms, the harsh reality is that solicited reviews often fall somewhere in between. Imagine, for example, the business owner who “asks” for a review by sticking a laptop in front of a customer and smilingly invites her to write a review while he looks over her shoulder. We don’t need these kinds of reviews, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when they aren’t recommended.

It later goes on to say, “There is an important distinction between ‘Hey, write a review about me on Yelp,’ [BAD] and ‘Hey, check us out on Yelp!’ [GOOD]. It’s the difference between actively pursuing testimonials and simply creating awareness of your business through social media outlets.”

Last last year, Yelp gave businesses their own mobile app, enabling them to get to get real-time notifications of new Yelp messages and reviews. This should help businesses keep a closer eye on their Yelp presence and be able to jump in and respond to any negatively quickly.

In December, Yelp said consumers were sending an average of 55,000 messages each month to businesses through its Message the Business tool.

Business owners can also use the new app to view their business page activity, such as the number of user views and customer leads they have generated over the past 30 days. They can respond to reviews by private message or public comment, and respond to customer inquiries from the Message the Business feature.

Advertisers can also use the app to view reports on ad clicks from Yelp users.

Overall, the more Yelp's mobile user base grows, the more businesses are likely to be affected by Yelp, because when users can leave a quick review for a business from the device in their pocket while their experience is freshest in their mind, it only makes sense that reviews will happen more frequently.

Yelp also expects to open up mobile ad inventory and programmatic advertising this year.

On the earnings call, Yelp also talked about how its ramping up its salesforce and trying to get more advertisers. More on that here.

Do you think increased mobile usage of Yelp will help your business? Discuss.

Images via Yelp

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.