Spotlight On: Yelp’s Rosie Akenhead

Content Takeover Mobile & Local SearchLocal search is increasingly going mobile, and Yelp is no exception to this trend. By the end of last year, Yelp had 135 million monthly visitors, the majority of whom access the platform from their mobile devices, according to Rosie Akenhead, Yelp’s manager of local business outreach for the U.K. and Ireland.

Search Engine Watch recently spoke with Akenhead about the role mobile continues to play in Yelp, recent app enhancements and acquisitions, and the difference in mobile consumers between the larger, more-connected U.K. and Ireland, as well as her most-used apps. Besides Yelp, of course.

rosie-akenhead-yelpSearch Engine Watch (SEW)Has the overall shift to mobile hurt Yelp’s search-driven customer acquisition strategy?

Rosie Akenhead (RA): Back in the ’90s, the public would search for businesses through word of mouth or via a paper directory. Then, it was a simple process: the biggest spender on paper advertising would normally attract the most customers. That landscape has flipped on its head since the arrival of the Internet. This means that online reviews, regardless of where people find them, play a pretty important part in the average consumer’s journey to finding a business.

For Yelp, mobile has shifted from being part of our business to being our business. It makes sense that Yelp is predominantly a mobile product, as people search for businesses while on the move. Mobile unique monthly visitors increased 37 percent from 2013 to 2014, and 45 percent of all new reviews are contributed via a mobile device.

SEW: In a few statements since its recent earnings call, Yelp says it will focus on “driving mobile engagement” over the next year. Are there specific mobile-local enhancements that Yelp will be adding?

RA: We are actively looking to expand our mobile app user base as we acknowledge that Yelp app users are generally more engaged users – both in terms of content consumption and content creation. To maintain and develop mobile engagement, we continue to extend our array of features for consumers and business owners. Most recently, we have added table reservations, gift certificates, food delivery through Yelp Platform, and much more. With the addition of the Yelp For Business Owners app, we also hope to facilitate a seamless interaction for business owners alongside consumers.

SEW: What advice can you give to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking to improve their search ranking on sites such as Yelp?

Rosie Akenhead (RA): SMBs and local businesses should keep information up to date on websites to ensure they remain on the radar of customers who might not see the business’ own website and head straight to search engines as part of their initial research. Make sure your website, telephone number, opening hours, and business specialties are always updated. Add compelling photos to make your listing stand out – people stay, on average, 2.5 times longer on Yelp business pages with pictures. Doing all of these little things will increase the rich content on a business’ Yelp listing and aid discovery in search engine results.

SEW: The Yelp For Business Owners app is only two months old. What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?

RA: Business owners wanted something they could utilize on the move, especially for responding to reviews and page analytics. We’re really happy with it as a product, but we haven’t got any statistics to share on it yet. We have done some internal marketing to ensure business owners are aware of it, though.

SEW: Over the summer, Yelp introduced a video feature for consumers. Has video complicated anything with regard to your keyword searches?

RA: No. I think it’s been a really positive addition. Now consumers are able to share not just photos, but get a 360-degree view of the ambience of a business. With a short video, you can really show what’s around you at any given time. We feel it is a really positive step for helping consumers find the right business.

SEW: And lastly, what’s the most obscure thing you’ve ever Yelped?

RA: I looked for a taxidermy place in London once. My granny got given this stuffed deer head, and it was looking a bit lackluster and she didn’t know how to find a place to do it. We found a place, she had it restuffed, and I think it’s in an attic somewhere looking terrifying.

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