Over the past year, the number of reviews on Google increased by 75%, while the number of reviews on Yelp increased by 130% according to a report by investment bank Piper Jaffray. Does Yelp’s growth indicate that it is becoming the clear leader for reviews in today’s market place?
Yelp boasts that it attracts 132 million users a month. Google claims that it has 540 million active users on Google+. The degree to which a user is active on a given site is debatable but still, no one argues that Yelp remains small compared to Google in terms of customer volume.
Yelp has bolstered its user numbers by expanding its reach internationally. This year, Yelp leaped into its 26th country (Japan). Conversely, Google is a player in virtually every market around the world with offices in 60 countries and it’s products produced in over 130 languages.
More than just reviews, Yelp has transformed itself into a social media platform. With the acquisition of SeatMe.com last year, Yelp has expanded the way users interact with its listed businesses. Yelp offers restaurant owners a robust online reservation suite that compares very favorably with industry leader Opentable.com. In addition to the SeatMe offering, last month it introduced a scaled down version called Yelp reservations for new restaurants that don’t need the extensive functionality offered by the SeatMe, for free. Yes, you read that right, it’s free. The idea is to create a space where users share their experiences with fellow users but can also interact in a different way then they’ve been able to do previously.
Google is still bigger but many critics point out that Google+ has failed to create the tightknit community that Yelp has achieved. In fact, CEO of Yelp Jeremy Stoppelman recently gave an interview in which he stated, "I don't really worry too much that it suddenly makes Google a fun destination where people want to volunteer a lot of their time to writing really high-quality reviews." In other words, Yelp isn’t threatened by Google’s ability to create a fun space where users want to spend a lot of time interacting and sharing their experiences with others.
Because more people look for information on Google than any other search engine on the planet, Google reviews will be seen by more eyes than any other review site. That stated, Yelp’s ability to expand globally and create a unique user experience will continue to drive users to seek reviews there as well. The bottom line for business owners is that you want to garner excellent reviews on both platforms. If the overwhelming message on every review site is that you’re business does excellent work and has a history of satisfying a wide variety of customers, you’re going to be the one’s to receive sales calls by potential clients, no matter where they’ve seen the reviews.