Google’s been busy (and I’m psychic)

Wednesday night I was boring my wife with my incoherent ramblings that Google was going to either destroy or take over Yelp. Thursday morning, it looks like Google is trying to buy Yelp.

Why This is Important

In case you’ve missed it, Google seems to like the concept of local search. This is perfect for us, the local independent SCUBA instructors and dive centers, because we are a local business. It’s far easier to rank #1 for “SCUBA lessons Boise, ID” than it is to rank #1 for “SCUBA”. Yes, we get lower search volume (if we ranked #1 for both) from the local version, but our conversion ratio goes up because we’re reaching the specific people looking for us.

I did a search for SCUBA in my local area and it’s not surprisingly pathetic. 4 of the 9 results are actually dive centers. The other 5 are restaurants that are showing up for SCUBA because of the comments. Of the 4 on Yelp, there’s a total of 2 whole reviews, both submitted by the same person.

When I do the same search in Google Local, it finds 13 dive centers or instructors. So why are only 4 on Yelp?

How I Predicted the Yelp Purchase

A while back, Google started adding Places to local business results. I thought, “Hmm…kind of like Yelp, but with far fewer features and less brand recognition.” By brand recognition, I am referring to the Local Places vs Yelp, not Google vs Yelp.

This immediately told me Google sees value in what Yelp does.

Last week, Google began shipping QR codes to local businesses. The idea is that a consumer can use a smartphone, scan the QR code and immediately be taken to that businesses Local Place page on Google.

This told me Google wants consumers to have even easier access to local business  information on the go and would probably need to beef up their Local Place pages.

(This could also compete with social games like Foursquare and Gowalla, but Google is in the information business, not so much the entertainment business, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.)

Add all of that together and you have a prime acquisition target in the form of Yelp. Why not just compete with Yelp? Because Yelp has a great user base and advertising model and it would be much faster just to absorb them. Plus, Google can easily afford Yelp.

Our Lesson

We need to constantly be looking at online information providers. Yelp was an obvious one for local business. Lala was an obvious choice for online music (Google integrated them into search results, tried to buy them, but lost to Apple). Google already owns Picasa and YouTube and content on those sites can easily draw engagement and search engine optimization benefits.

Just having your site indexed by Google isn’t enough anymore, we need to branch out.

Who do you think will be the next target of Google’s?

Photo via idealisms

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