How Apple's iOS 6 changes will affect mobile local search
By Chantal Tode
October 16, 2012
Local search results in Apples Maps use Yelp
Apple’s newly released mobile operating system iOS 6 appears to be presenting local businesses with significant challenges in terms of having an efficient mobile local search strategy.
It has been widely covered that Apple may moved too quickly when it replaced Google Maps with its own Apple Maps in iOS 6, as users encounter numerous issues finding what they are looking for in the new maps service. There are significant implications for local businesses as well, as Apple Maps replaces Google Places with Yelp to deliver local search results.
“There are over 110 million people now who own smartphones in the U.S., and that trend is going to continue to grow,” said Ray Galan, president at RG Pacific, Los Angeles. “And almost 50 percent of those searches are local based-search queries.
“Mobile search is quickly becoming a target for local businesses with a sound online marketing strategy, and local listings, whether it be through Yelp, Google, Angies List, and other local directories, are becoming crucial.
“Now that the iPhone has replaced Google with Yelp, a lot of businesses are now either revisiting their Yelp listing or are scrambling to setup a Yelp listing altogether.”
Yelp’s mobile strategy
Google Places was always the first priority for marketers looking to create a local-based online marketing strategy, with the focus on being visible on Google and attaining solid reviews there.
However, with so many consumers on the iPhone, the replacement of Google Places with Yelp means local businesses need to be putting a bigger focus on building a presence on the local search engine.
The iOS 6 changes speak to not only the ongoing competition between Google and Apple but also to Apple’s desire to control as much of the user experience as possible.
“This is a great move by Apple in the short term - Yelp is an industry leader in the category, and Google Places is still out to prove itself,” said Michael Muse, vice president of product and operations at LocalResponse, New York.
“To clarify, this doesn’t fix the problem, just the symptoms,” he said. “Unless they buy Yelp or ink a very long-term contract, they are still susceptible to being held ransom for a better deal.
“Switching the end user experience back and forth is really bad for confidence and weakens the 'it just works and it is easy' mantra.”
The move could impact Google Places position in the market while also giving a boost to Yelp.
“It’s definitely a blow to Google Places,” Mr. Muse said. “But Google Places isn't a standalone product – Google Maps and Plus both rely on it, as well as a lot of 3rd party developers – while this integration will certainly affect its ubiquity, it's not going to undermine it, by any means.
“It’s obviously a fantastic boon for Yelp, where this is a total game changer for their mobile strategy," he said.
A challenging situation
Local businesses may find some challenges in their efforts to create a stronger mobile local search strategy on Yelp.
One of the issues with Yelp is that because anyone can create a “your business” listing, this leads to a lot of problems such as multiple listings, incorrect info, and bad reviews done intentionally, per RG Pacific’s Mr. Galan.
Additionally, if someone writes a bad review intentionally, Yelp will not remove it due to policy. Because Yelp is a public directory, it will only allow the business owner to issue a rebuttal at the end of the review.
In comparison, Google has a team dedicated to verifying both listings and reviews, and will resolve issues in many cases.
The challenges with Yelp in terms of multiple listings and no way to fully clean up listings coupled with the inaccuracy issues plaguing Google Maps right now means local businesses are faced with significant hurdles in trying to have an efficient Yelp strategy.
In Apple Maps, users can search by business name, address and Yelp Category, which is a more limited selection of options compared to Google Maps. As a result, users may have a harder time finding what they are looking for.
For businesses that have focused a lot of effort on building their local recognition on Google Places this is a problem, as they may not show up in a Yelp search.
“Local search optimization has gained more attention and focus as mobile has scaled as a primary access device,” said Howie Schwartz, CEO of Human Demand.
“Local businesses need to review their Yelp listings right now for accuracy,” he said. “And pay special attention to their Yelp categories - since categories are helping to 'drive' local search on iOS6 Maps.”
“Yelp local optimization needs to go to the top of the list, alongside of Google Places if you want to focus on mobile local.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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