|Photo credit: michperu|
Internet search engines are great a way to find businesses and restaurants in your area, but how do you know if you’re going to get the quality service that you need or the best meal for your money?
Microsoft addressed this issue on June 14 when it announced that its search engine, Bing, has partnered with the Internet review site Yelp to offer users more detailed local search information. This move is seen as a direct response to Google’s 2011 acquisition of Zagat (an established restaurant review company) and the creation of the Google+ Local network site that allows users to view and create local business ratings. It is important to note that Google was in negotiations to buy Yelp in 2009, but the ratings company ultimately rejected the search engine’s offer.
What is Yelp?
Founded in 2004, Yelp is a free Internet service that gives customers an opportunity to rate businesses on a five-star scale, express their opinions, and post pictures. “Yelpers” (as the site calls reviewers) are not paid for their evaluations, and--although the site has guidelines that prohibit inappropriate language and abuse--they are encouraged to be open and honest about their experiences. In order to ensure accurate information, the site also allows business owners to respond to reviews and communicate with customers. Yelp earns profits from advertisements bought by local businesses but says it does not offer preferential treatment when it comes to customer reviews of these companies.
What Does the Yelp-Bing Partnership Look Like?
Unlike Google’s 2009 proposal to buy out Yelp, Bing has committed to being an equal partner with the ratings company. This means that Yelp still exists as an independent website and advertising service. In order to make this partnership apparent to users, Bing includes a “Powered by Yelp” logo at the top of the Bing Local search page and includes a link to reviews on the Yelp website in search results listings.
With Yelp and Bing’s integrated services, users will find that they have all the information they need in order to make an informed decision about a local shop or restaurant. Now, when potential customers use Bing to search for a business, they see a starred rating next to some of the search results. When they mouse over a rated entry, a list of Yelp reviews appears on the screen so they don’t have to leave the original search results page. If they click on the “Local” tab over the Bing search bar, they are taken to a list of businesses closest to their current location. This list includes a starred Yelp rating, price range, address for each entry, and a map off to the side. When they select an entry, they move on to a more specific “Powered by Yelp” Bing site that gives them a detailed business description, map, information about hours of operation, pictures, and in-depth Yelp reviews.
What Does This Mean for Users (You)?
The agreement between Yelp and Bing is one that is intended to be beneficial to both customers and business owners. When you’re searching for the best deal or the tastiest dinner, you can quickly find options in your area and view the opinions of the online peers without leaving the Bing site. If you have your own business, this new search format will allow you to easily monitor client satisfaction and competitor reviews.
But this new search capability is not just for goods and services. Yelp and Bing can also help you become familiar with a new neighborhood or city. For example, if you’re looking to relocate and find a home for sale by owner, you can type the address into the Bing Local search bar to get a list of companies in the area. As you click on each entry, you will be directed to the “Powered by Yelp” reviews, which can give you an overall feel for the community and allow you to judge whether or not it’s the place for you. Overall, Yelp and Bing’s collaboration is just the first step in what will become a more personalized, user-driven Internet search experience.
The new Bing Local search includes five-star Yelp ratings with links to Yelp user reviews.
Stephanie Marbukh is a freelance writer who writes about topics ranging from auto insurance quotes to consumer finance trends to home improvement tips.