Yesterday I had the chance to speak with Erron Silverstein, CEO of Solfo, the company behind recently launched (beta) local search site YellowBot. The site is built on many social features and will target the same young and tech-savvy demographic that helped Yelp build up a large library of ratings and reviews.
“One thing that Yelp and Insider Pages showed to the world is that it’s possible to motivate users to write reviews,” says Sliverstein.
The site has some of the same social dimensions as Yelp proven helpful in motivating reviews and in creating stickiness among frequent users but it takes this to a new level. Social networking is a core element to the site, as ratings and reviews from within your friends network will percolate to the top of any search. The site experience in searching for anything local is likewise structured around more of a social networking experience.
Tagging is also important to the site’s strategy, as it encourages users to contribute terms that will encapsulate a business’ attributes (and lend to its searchability within the site) more so than categories, which have traditionally structured IYP listings.
“We took all of our categories and put them up against the wall and shot them,” said Sliverstein. Instead, a tag cloud replaces categories to browse businesses and, importantly, specific business attributes. This is a much more “Web 2.0” approach to browsing and is more appropriate to local search, according to Sliverstein.
Beyond browsing, tags help search. An Italian restaurant that excels in its ravioli should be tagged with the term “ravioli” and should be searchable as such. A search for ravioli on most search sites will generally only include businesses with the term in the title, i.e., Joe’s Ravioli Hut. Another example is that most local search destinations don’t offer the granularity to search for good french fries locally. A search for that term will in some cases lead to a French restaurant (which definitely isn’t where you’re going to find the best fries).
Having all these social dimensions is hoped to not only deepen and build value-added content and SEO benefits, but also serve as a tool to virally grow the site and its user base, among the demographic that is most likely to participate in meaningful ways. With a user-centric approach to build and attract a community, the site hopes to then integrate data feeds from partner local search sites and local advertisers that want to reach its community in a targeted way (most likely contextual and performance-based ads).
“This is primarily a tech and bizdev company, not a sales organization,” says Silverstein. “I see us as the bridge between social networking Web sites and local search companies, a complementary partner rather than a rival to either.”