One of the keynote speakers at Inman Connect this week is the CEO of Yelp.com, Jeremy Stoppelman. Yelp.com, like real estate sites, publishes local property information. But rather than for sale properties, Yelp focuses on businesses.
Being in the local business information business, Yelp’s obvious competitors include Internet Yellow Pages sites like Yellowbook.com and DexKnows.com. Here is a graph comparing Yelp’s traffic against these large incumbent business directories (The blue line is Yelp. Click the image for larger versions.):
How can a company with a fraction of the employees, a fraction of the budget, and a much shorter history, manage to trounce companies with decades of experience building local business directories? If I had to pick just two reasons, I’d go with 1. Better SEO, and even more importantly, 2. Community contributed content.
On the SEO side, one easily measurable factor is pages indexed by Google. If you run a command for “site:yelp.com” (without the quotes on Google, Google currently returns 1-10 of 10,400,000 results, which means Google can see 10.4 million pages on yelp.com. If each page of Yelp’s site received only one visitor per month from Google, they’d generate a ton of traffic. Compare that to Yellowbook.com (3.1 million) or DexKnows.com (2.9 million) and you can see one of Yelp’s SEO advantages.
But having search engine friendly webpages only takes you so far. The battle for visitors really comes down to the quality of the content people find once they arrive at your website. This is where Yelp destroys yellow pages sites. Here is an example listing for Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis:
This page includes:
– Average Review
– Price Range
– Do They accept Credit Cards
– What Type of Parking is Available
– What Type of Attire
– Are They Good for Groups
– Are they Good for Kids
– Do They Take Reservations
– Do They Deliver
– Offer Take-out
– Have Waiter Service
– Are they Wheelchair Accessible
– Do they have Outdoor Seating
– Best Times to Eat
– Types of Music
– Do they have a Happy Hour
– Do they serve Alcohol
– Do they allow Smoking
– Do they have a Coat Check
– Driving directions
– Send to a friend
– Send to phone
While you may find some of that information on a yellow pages website, you’ll rarely find all of it presented as well as Yelp does.
But that’s where the similarities tend to end. Yelp doesn’t stop there. It also provides:
– Community editing of business information.
– Claiming businesses by business owners so they can keep the information up to date themselves.
– Links to nearby businesses.
– Links to other businesses in the same category.
– Lists of other businesses Yelp users viewed in addition to the one you’ve currently viewing.
– User contributed photos
– Consumer reviews.
– Ratings of the reviews.
– The ability to contact reviewers.
– Reviewer profile pages.
– The ability to follow reviewers you like.
– Lists of businesses that include the business you’re viewing.
While SEO matters a lot, and having accurate objective data about businesses is valuable, Yelp’s community created content is the key differentiator that has allowed it to generate additional consumer-friendly information at nearly no cost.
What does this have to do with real estate?
Take a step back and think about what type of information your website provides. Does it resemble Yelp or the yellow pages?
Who are the Yelps of the real estate industry? To date, the Yelps of real estate have been sites started by real estate outsiders such as Trulia and Zillow. They are both great at SEO, but more importantly, they’re enhancing property listings with help from home owners, buyers, and real estate industry professionals who contribute information to their websites for free. In fact, real estate agents often pay Trulia and Zillow a monthly fee for the privilege of updating more content (aka. going “Pro”).
Yellow pages companies and large real estate franchises continue to buy TV advertising to promote their websites. When was the last time you saw a TV spot for Yelp, Trulia, or Zillow?
Yellow pages and real estate companies continue to rely solely on professionals for content creation while Yelp, Trulia, and Zillow have opened up the door to anyone with a nugget of local knowledge.
Yellow pages and real estate companies continue to hold back data – YP, by charging businesses for enhance listings and real estate by trying to force people to call for more information – while Yelp, Trulia, and Zillow continue to provide more and more information to consumers for free.
The trends seem clear and have already been proven in other industries such as online retail (Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble), automotive (edmunds.com vs gm.com), and auctions (Ebay vs Sotheby’s).
Consumers are turning to the web for easy access to information. Fight or embrace that trend.