Yelp Replaced Google Places in the New iPhone 5 Maps App – The Good and the Bad for Local Business

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The new highly anticipated iPhone 5 has come with several new features; a bigger screen, faster operating system, lighter design, and more. Business owners, though, are noticing something critical - Yelp has supplanted Google in listing businesses on Maps. RG Pacific discusses how this impacts businesses nationwide.

The highly anticipated iPhone 5 has come with several new features; a bigger screen, faster operating system, lighter design, and a list of other new tools and gadgets. In light of this, business owners are bound to notice another crucial change- Yelp is now the main source of business information on the new Apple Maps. Gone is Google Places, which has been the only targeted network for local businesses since the iPhone's inception (Neslon Ireson, Fox News, 9/13/12).

What does that mean? RG Pacific, a Web Marketing and Development company in Los Angeles, mentions that, through their experience, businesses never really have considered Yelp as important as Google to penetrate a local market online. Especially on mobile search, Google Maps and Places have, for the better part of a decade, dominated Google's first page local search results.

So how does this impact a business? Ray Galan, President of RG Pacific, says that the impact is significant. For starters, he says, "if a business is not listed on Yelp, it now certainly has to be. When someone searches for a business address, phone number, or location information, Yelp is now fully integrated in the new Apple Maps app for all local search on its iOS. People can even leave a Yelp review with a click of a button. Google is not integrated at all in Apple Maps, also not providing driving directions on the iPhone anymore as well".

Is Yelp a good thing or bad thing for a business?? Well, for many business owners, Yelp is both a positive and a negative, depending on personal experience. Galan mentions that the thing that many business owners dread is that, unfortunately, anyone can leave a review on a Yelp listing, good or bad, with no consequences. Many business owners have had an experience where an ex employee, or even a competitor, writes a damaging review and Yelp was not able to remove it, as per their “guidelines”.

Yelp seems to only allow a rebuttal. Why? Well Yelp isn’t really a business directory, says Galan. its a social business network. Since Yelp is not regulated like other web directories, the company is not directly liable for both good and bad reviews. "It has an automated system that regulates reviews and wants to show balance", says Galan. With over 8 years of experience in the industry, he has seen how Yelp has grown and taken shape with many local businesses in the Los Angeles area. "So, even if you have 4 new customers write great reviews about your company, the bad review will usually still show at the top of the page in order to show the reader a fair analysis." But, as mentioned, there is no filter for bad press, so if someone runs into a situation where a bad review or two are written, it can be damaging to their online brand.

Now that's not to say Google Places was a completely better alternative. There was and still is a lot of bad practices and similar bad tactics used with it as well. But, unlike Yelp, Google has a special team that eventually hears and settles complaints from business owners. There has been no indication from Yelp that they are going to legitimize their business listings as of yet.

Overall, from a competitor standpoint, many see Yelp replacing Google Places and Maps by Apple as a personal attack on Google due to the many current Apple vs Samsung patent lawsuits going on, sources like TechCrunch have most recently reported. As you may have read, Apple is suing Samsung, which has smartphones running on the Android OS, the arch rival of the Apple OS, over similar features found in their phones. For example, the Chicago Tribune and other news outlets have suspected that alienating Google from one of the most used iPhone apps is intentional, since the Android is now advertised as the most used mobile platform. For business owners though, it is now an ideal time to revisit Yelp as part of their local marketing strategy.

What can a business owner do now to become proactive? Well, taking a strong and new approach to Yelp is key says Galan. Regulating and cleaning up their Yelp page is the number one priority. Many business owners have said that if they become a paying Yelp customer, it becomes easier to get the Yelp team to help you with negative reviews in some cases. That is something that may be an added advantage in the end. With new advertising programs such as Yelp Deals and current pay-per-click systems like Yelp Ads, it makes sense for local businesses to invest. The initial first step though is to CLAIM A LISTING on Yelp. To do this one must create a free Yelp business account, not a regular account. Knowing the difference is necessary.

"Local Web Marketing for businesses has been expanding rapidly the last few years, and with the re-emergence of Yelp, businesses owners need to now definitely take note and control their online visibility before their competitors do" says Galan.

No one knows for sure what impact Yelp will have with local businesses, but several industries like restaurants and local services already know the vitality of an online business listing.

Every business organization must monitor their Yelp account constantly now, even as much as a Google Places account. Yelp is now positioned to re-emerge as a strong local search player, so staying up to date on new tools that they are surely to deploy soon is critical to staying ahead of competitors. Most importantly, getting new clients to write positive reviews is a way to combat bad press, that will, eventually, happen, good or bad- deserving or not.

With the importance of social media and the internet overall to their bottom line, successful business owners understand how critical your reputation online can be. With their new found emergence, hopefully Yelp realizes that the opinions on their listings matter again, and lets see how quickly they address that fact.

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Ray Galan, MBA
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