Google is a very powerful company. So powerful they can completely change the financial outlook of a publicly traded company. This time it is Yelp. In the last several months the Yelp stock has plunged from a high of $87.50 a share in September of 2014 to a multi year low of $35.75 (July 2015). This is not a surprise to me as Google has slowly started to push Google Plus results into the local pack and knowledge graph. For those in the know, it is no longer Google Plus as it is Google My Business. Below is a screenshot of a highly searched keyword phrase:
Notice the absence of any Yelp results above the fold. Google purchased Zagat in 2011 and has slowly worked to integrate Zagat and Google My Business reviews into Google Search. In the screenshot above, the 124, 209 and 285 reviews that are listed are Google Reviews and not Yelp Reviews. With Google pushing their own business review service it makes sense that the number of Google Reviews are going to slowly overtake the number of reviews on competitor websites. The number of Yelp Reviews will likely dwindle.
Having worked with a number of local business owners I know their main objective is to get to the top of page one. If they have to get Google My Business reviews that is what they will do. If they have to get Tripadvisor, Yelp or Avvo reviews they are willing to push their customers to that website. With Yelp no longer taking up the top half of page one of Google more and more business owners are encouraging their patrons, customers and clients to do reviews on Google rather than competitors.
Below you will find a screenshot of a highly competitive local keyword.
Notice that one particular company has a large number of reviews and the rest of the companies have zero. It is safe to say Orthodontics Only was ahead of their competition when it came to getting Google Reviews. The writing was on the wall but many companies did not see it. Those companies that neglected Google My Business are suffering the consequences now, just like Yelp.
Yelp’s Traffic Plunge
With Yelp no longer being in the Google Local search results nor the Google Knowledge Graph it is going to be the case that traffic drops. After seeing this plunge in traffic Yelp put up a for sale sign but there were no buyers. I think there were plenty of “buyer beware” websites explaining why Yelp was not worth $40 or $50 a share. It wouldn’t surprise me if Google bought Yelp at around $25 or $30 a share and started to incorporate it into its local results. Wouldn’t that be something?
Here is a chart of Yelp’s recent traffic plunge:
It is quite obvious that the latest Google algorithm updates have hurt website traffic to Google. For more on all the Google algorithm updates click the link. While website traffic is going to be down year over year it is very important to remember that a large number of Yelp users only use the app on their smartphone.
My Personal Yelp Story
I tend to go on mini vacations with a lady friend of mine. We have gone to Atlanta, Greenville, SC, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in the last two months. She is a foodie. Anytime we go to a new locale we pull out our smartphones and look on Yelp. We have discovered that the larger the number reviews the better the food. We also look for highly rated restaurants but they need over 150 or 200 reviews to be truly spectacular.
If I didn’t have Yelp I don’t know what I would do on these trips. While Google My Business dominates the front page of Google Search, Yelp still has a huge presence in the palm of my hand. I would imagine many others are the exact same. Some of the best restaurants I have ever been to have hundreds of reviews on Yelp yet they have 20 reviews on Google My Business.
It will be interesting to see if there is a shift in the number of reviews over the next few months and years. Until Google My Business shows local restaurants with hundreds of reviews I will continue to use Yelp on my iPhone when I am traveling.