August 6, 2014 | Paul Jahn

Is Google Giving Yelp Too Much SERP Love?

I’ve mentioned a few times before how Yelp is usually right near the top for local branded searches. There’s certainly a reason for that: it’s a very popular review site. Popular to the point where people use “Yelp” as a verb, and reviewers are called Yelpers.

In some cases it looks like Google may be giving Yelp way too much love, as Mike Blumenthal explains in a recent blog post. For non-branded searches, full SERPs filled with nothing but Yelp profiles and reviews? That is definitely too much. I’m certainly a fan of Yelp as a consumer and a very occasional reviewer, but if I’m Googling for local info, I want to see a variety of sites to choose from.

As of this writing, I Googled “plumber San Francisco,” “nail salon San Fransisco,” and some other queries…and, just like Mike, I found the first pages of each search full of nothing but different Yelp results. What’s with that?

Let’s not forget, last year Matt Cutts said Google was going to start showing less results per domain in the SERPs:

“As Matt explained, the goal is to strike the right balance between offering diverse results but at the same time returning the best and most authoritative search results for the query.”

Obviously that didn’t hold water; if you journey to the second page of search results for “nail salon San Francisco,” for example, you’ll see several more Yelp listings at the top of that page. I’d venture to opine that 15 out of 20 results from the same domain isn’t the definition of diversity.

As it turns out, this boost in importance for Yelp listings seems to be a result of Google’s recent Pigeon algorithm, as Blue Archer has pointed out:

“Local directories such as Yelp are experiencing rank boast: searchers may not find your website, but they will likely find your Yelp listing.”

But is this “phenomenon” occurring everywhere, or just in the big metros, like San Francisco?

Local Search Examples in the Twin Cities

We wanted to check on some of the same types of queries Mike used, but tweak them to be local for us here at the office. We started with “nail salon Minneapolis:”

nail salon minneapolis yelp serp























Well, the top three results are from Yelp, followed by a local pack. Further down the page, there’s no more mention of Yelp — nor did we see any on the second page’s results. This results page looks much more normal; not skewed in Yelp’s favor as in San Francisco.

…but how about a search for a lawyer in St. Paul?

lawyer st paul mn google serp

























Not bad, Google. A couple of results are from FindLaw’s lawyer directory, followed by a local 7-pack, with Yelp nowhere to be found (on the second page, either). Thinking this was perhaps due to a lack of lawyer profiles on Yelp, we performed a search on for lawyers in St. Paul. Interestingly enough, we found several lawyers listed:

lawyers st paul mn yelp search



















So why wasn’t Yelp showcased in the SERP for this query, when it’s so obviously popular on other searches? Is it because there’s only one review for these profiles, versus the myriad of reviews for nail salons in San Francisco?

Is Yelp Only Getting a Full SERP in its Home Town?

Doing other searches in different metros, I found many more SERPs that had Yelp business profiles as the top three results, although San Francisco is the only metro that I noticed filled the whole first page of search results with them.

I don’t know why this would be. San Francisco is the home of Yelp and does have a fair share of Yelpers (thus, more reviews per business). Maybe Google considers this in their algorithm? Even so, a full page of just Yelp in your results is too much, Google.

It’s not that I don’t want to see Yelp listed in the SERPs, but if there are other directory-type results that encourage full profiles — for example, within the legal industry — it makes sense that these should show up first.

According to Google Trends, current search traffic for Yelp in San Francisco is just a little behind both states of Minnesota and New York, and Los Angeles combined:
google trends 1






google trends 2






So What Can My Business Do to Compete with Yelp?

The old adage is, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Apparently, this currently holds true, especially if your business is located in San Francisco. I’ve mentioned this before, but here’s where you can claim your own business on Yelp for free.

If you’re in a niche such as the legal industry, here are a couple other places where you can claim your business profile for free:

  • FindLaw – The process is a bit tedious, but worth the time
  • Avvo – A must-have for attorneys

These niche authority sites also often come at the top of the search engines.  A plus is that these sites are within one vertical that people often search for. Consumers don’t just want to find your website. They also want to see your profiles on 3rd-party sites to see your experience.

So, be sure to make the best out of Google and optimize all of your web presences…not just Yelp.



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