Do you Yelp? If you do, you're joining millions of people who use Yelp.com to read or write reviews about businesses in their local areas. Yelpers, as reviewers are called, are able to comment on their favourite - or least favourite - local businesses, such as restaurants, salons, dentists and gyms. If an entry for a business doesn't exist - like that new sushi place on the corner - any yelper can create it and put up the first review.
Anyone can use yelp.com. You simply search by subject on the site to see listings of businesses that have been reviewed. Click a listing and you're taken to a page of user-written reviews and ratings (1 to 5 stars), contact information for the business and a link to their website. Many pages contain pictures of the business, particularly in the case of restaurants and bars.
Yelp started with reviews in the San Francisco Bay Area. While initial core contributors to the site were urban dwellers between the ages of 22 and 40, yelpers now represent a wider demographic. Yelp.com has sites for most major metro areas in the United States and is fast spreading to suburban communities. Yelp sees itself as a community tool and the Yelp team continually works to make the site ever more informative and fun to use.
Using Google Analytics, the Yelp team was able to see the origins of their traffic, referring websites, keywords and even their visitors' specific browser versions - critical data for their webmasters and business. The geographic location reports were the most helpful. Since Yelp sites are regional, analysing geographic trends that occur in response to launches, content changes and marketing campaigns is essential.
Google Analytics' free price tag made it attractive to the nascent Yelp and many of its startup dot com peers. But Stoppelman explains that a particular trend in Silicon Valley has begun to make Google Analytics essential to new ventures. "We've noticed that metrics in Google Analytics are becoming a new success benchmark in the discussions between startups and venture capital firms in the Valley", Stoppelman says. "Startups can use it to demonstrate their current success, as well as possibilities for their business based on what content is getting attention. For instance, what effect did an ad placed on a certain page have? Can we make projections?"
As Yelp grew, cost became less of an issue and they decided to survey other web analytics products. While they found that competing products report on similar metrics, the team concluded that Google Analytics offered not only the feature set that they needed, but also the reliability and ease of use that is necessary for a large website with a dispersed staff. The team also noticed large discrepancies between what other web analytics solutions reported and what they found in their own log server analysis.
As is so often the case with Internet ventures, the team at Yelp reflects a broad range of skills and responsibilities - from programmers to user experience specialists to marketers and beyond - and virtually all of them need to base decisions on web analytics information. Web analytics is no longer the domain of a few analysts, it's used in different ways by different people across the enterprise. Stoppelman explains that Google Analytics distinguishes itself in this regard: "It's able to meet the needs of our diverse team. The user interface breaks information down into digestible, high-value call-outs that are easy to share and act upon, such as bounce rate visualisations. And anyone at Yelp can access the reports".
As a social network site, Yelp is always striving to improve the user experience. They have a number of competitors in the local business space and the team works hard to offer innovative features and an informative experience for visitors. Constant innovation is essential in order to keep visitors - and advertisers - coming back. The team expects the same level of innovation and responsiveness from Google. New features such as improved geotargeting capabilities, internal site search reports and industry benchmarking continue to make Google Analytics ever more relevant to the fast growing, evolving website.
Yelp's community of reviewers, businesses and readers is the most exciting and fulfilling aspect of the job for Stoppelman and his team. Yelpers are the reason that Yelp is in the business of local information exchange, and understanding the audience is crucial. "We look at Google Analytics as a decision support tool," says Product Manager Bryan Byrne. "It reinforces subtle everyday decisions that we make, or shows us that we should try a different direction. Most employees with any responsibility for products or traffic have access to our Google Analytics account." According to Bryan, the team looks at content reports that show where users spend most of their time, and how changes to navigation flow affect traffic patterns.
As more and more people hear about Yelp, they are getting yelped in a way by being referenced by more sources on the web. Using Google Analytics allows the team to stay aware of what people are saying and where they're coming from, and to improve its own presence on the web.
Thank you for the yelp, Yelp, and for being part of our community.