Microsoft and Yelp recently announced a major local content deal. Bing’s local search results will now be “powered by Yelp,” with the traditional Bing content fields being replaced or augmented with Yelp data like rich review snippets, photos, and business attributes.
This Yelp integration is basically a total overhaul of Bing local – the front end has completely changed, and the data backend now heavily depends on Yelp. However, this doesn’t mean that Bing’s local search system is gone entirely. The official Yelp press release is titled “Yelp to Power Bing Local Search,” which might give the misleading impression that Yelp will exclusively power Bing local search. In fact, Yelp content is simply being integrated within the existing structure of Bing local search.
For brands and local businesses, this means that claiming listings on Bing is still important – you can’t just ignore Bing and focus on Yelp. Of course, the inverse is also true, in that having a well maintained and complete Yelp profile is now important for maximizing Bing profile quality.
Bing/Yelp and the Local Search Landscape
This is a pretty substantial deal with a relatively major impact on the overall local search landscape. Firstly, the deal is a big win for Yelp, which is getting some very serious exposure – every Bing local profile now features a prominent “powered by Yelp” logo. In combination with the upcoming Apple Maps deal where Yelp will be powering local business content, Yelp has had some seriously productive bizdev lately.
For Bing, the value of the deal is perhaps less obvious. While this is definitely a win in terms of profile quality, it ultimately doesn’t add anything permanent to Bing. Keep in mind that this is a content licensing deal only – Bing doesn’t actually own any of this Yelp content, and local profiles are working to generate reviews for Yelp, not Bing.
It’s easy to strike a comparison between Yelp/Bing and Google/Zagat. Clearly both engines see the tremendous importance of local reviews. From a competitive perspective, Yelp is obviously the more valuable property, compared to Zagat. While Zagat does have great brand equity, Yelp’s sheer volume of reviews and mindshare make it a dominant player in local search.
However, remember that Google actually owns Zagat, and all the reviews that get generated from the newly integrated Google+ Local profiles are Google property. Overall, the competitive positioning of Yelp/Zagat feels very similar to the position that Google and Bing have taken regarding social search. Where Bing chose to partner heavily with Facebook, Google created their own social network. It might not be clear which approach will lead to better long-term success, but it will be interesting to see how these two strategies compete.