Yelp vs. Citysearch: Who’s Winning?

TechCrunch (now down) uses comScore data to compare growth and engagement at Yelp vs. Citysearch: “Yelp Is Growing 80 Percent A Year, While Citysearch Remains Flat.” I only saw an excerpt of the piece so I don’t know all the points/arguments made.

Here’s what Google Ad Planner has to say about both sites:


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Note the engagement metrics: time on site, page views, visits per visitor.Yelp is driving higher engagement — almost double the time on site despite having only slightly more uniques.

All this appears to validate the thrust of what TechCrunch is saying. Here’s Compete data showing he sites in a virtual dead heat, with Yelp slightly ahead:

Obviously the local space is not a “winner take all” segment; however the trend data — to the extent it’s accurate — is probably worrying to Citysearch.

Yelp’s mobile efforts (originally an afterthought) have become more and more strategic (the site just launched for BlackBerry w/Bing Maps). This has helped boost Yelp the brand and user loyalty. By contrast, Citysearch’s site relaunch and Facebook Connect integration appear not to have done much to help the site (unless it would be further behind and those changes helped retain users).

I don’t have time to do it but it would be worthwhile to take a number of sites that have integrated FB Connect and do traffic and engagement comparisons before and after. We may have an “emperor has no clothes” scenario here.

Thoughts? Opinions?


Update: A number of people have made the fair point that if ad dollars are considered then it’s a different picture. Citysearch is effectively a local ad network and has many more SMB dollars than Yelp at this point, although I don’t have exact numbers. Anyone care to estimate?

13 Responses to “Yelp vs. Citysearch: Who’s Winning?”

  1. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    Imo, Google is the winner right now.

    How do you beat a user experience that comprehensively aggregates the best content from any and all content providers (Yelp, Citysearch, TripAdvisor, SuperPages, etc.) and then provides simple tools to summarize, sort and filter?

    Eg: Want the best sushi in Queen Anne Seattle? No problem:

    Plus many of us have a Google search box somewhere in our browser page at all times so they win on convenience too.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    It depends on what the criteria are: absolute traffic numbers, advertising revenues, brand value, etc. Citysearch makes quite a bit more than Yelp from advertisers.

    Google has more traffic but it’s not as engaging as Yelp.

  3. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    I’m sure Google is beating everyone one on local search traffic and monetization, which are the key criteria in my book. I agree Yelp is more engaging, but usually I just want a quick “recommendation” so I can move on to getting the place booked and telling everyone where to meet.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Agree with traffic statement. But local isn’t winner take all IMHO.

  5. Ben Saren Says:

    Greg, I’m not sure I understand why traffic is the only metric for success in this discussion. I completely understand that value of traffic, retention, engagement and all that jazz. But at the end of the day, isn’t local equally, if not more, about SMB advertising dollars? Isn’t that the market opportunity? Maybe I’m just a little more traditional or old school, but it seems like that’s what we should be talking about…

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Right. I say that in the comments above. If ad dollars are the metric, then Citysearch is winning big a large margin so to speak.

  7. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    In local search, like any market, I would submit that profitability is the primary metric for success. And traffic is the primary driver of local search revenue and profits, hence the interest.

  8. Ben Saren Says:

    Malcolm, I think if you look at Citysearch’s revenues in comparison with Yelp’s, I think it pokes a big hole in your theory. I could be wrong, it’s happened before! 🙂

  9. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    Ben, You’re right that traffic doesn’t always drive revenue. But revenue is almost always driven by traffic. So perhaps I should have said primary “predictor” of revenue vs driver. It all depends if the traffic owner has a decent monetization engine. Google does, YouTube and Facebook don’t (currently).

  10. AhmedF Says:

    In the context of ‘Google is the winner’ – just look at each site’s top referral sites.

    Metromix: 29.4% facebook, 21.5% Google
    Citysearch: 32% Google, 26% facebook
    Yelp: 45% Google

    Mind you these %ages are of their total referred traffic, not total traffic (which really would be more useful).

    As a comparison – see what a site-based-on-SEO does: Citysquares: 81% Google

    Metromix: 29.4% facebook, 21.5% Google
    Citysearch: 32% Google, 26% facebook
    Yelp: 45% Google

    Mind you these %ages are of their total referred traffic, not total traffic (which really would be more useful).

    As a comparison – see what a site-based-on-SEO does: Citysquares: 81% Google

    If you want to use global #s, Alexa does provide total visits from a referrer:

    Metromix: n/a (one of Alexa’s annoying habits – it merges metromix into and no way to let Alexa know they are two separate sites now)
    Citysearch: 51% Google
    Yelp: 55% Google

    Lastly – Citysquares: 74% Google

    Imo any large local website that is <50% for Google is doing pretty well.

  11. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    You make an excellent point. Imho, the way to beat Google is to provide a user experience that Google can’t replicate. That inspires users to come to your site directly. The reverse is also true. If the majority of your traffic comes from Google (or a competitor’s website since local search vendors offer host each others’ links) then you probably need to work on differentiating your user experience.

  12. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    In for a penny, in for a pound. Let me clarify that my suggestion is not “Google wins all” but that Google is currently “the one to beat” wrt user experience.

    As an experiment, try to find a top-rated sushi joint in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle on all the leading local search engines. Then ask yourself which provides a better user experience than my earlier link: I’d say Yelp maybe, everyone else, probably not.

    User experience drives traffic drives revenues (assuming decent monetization engine).

  13. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks for the additional perspective Ahmed.

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