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Yelp and Google Bringing More ‘SaaS’ to SMB Profiles

Today Yelp introduced several Business Page upgrades. These new offerings, Verified License, Business Highlights and Portfolio, are designed to help business owners stand out and better promote themselves. They’re also intended to generate new subscription revenues for Yelp. 

Verified License was actually previously introduced (March) but Business Highlights and Portfolio are new. There are more profile customization options on the way. Briefly, here’s what the new tools are and what they do (highlighted in the image above):

  • Verified License: a manual check by Yelp that the business is licensed and in good standing (selected categories and sates)
  • Business Highlights: icons that enable the SMB to highlight particular characteristics or aspects of their story on their profile and in the SERP.
  • Portfolio: A visual showcase for projects, with custom captions. This is intended for high value categories such as home remodeling.

Verified License costs $1 per day, while the other two are each $2 per day. Advertisers receive discounts and there’s bundled pricing for multiple products.

In a parallel development, last week Google introduced some new customization and promotional tools for business owners on GMB. Google also has a version of Verified License and a more limited version of Business Highlights called attributes. GMB is also now giving business owners more image options and more control over images.

More interesting still was a survey in late April in which Google asked business owners about tools and services they’d like to see and what they might be willing to pay for those services on a subscription basis. Some of the tools/ideas being tested were:

  • Request a quote
  • Automated response for reviews
  • Automated message responses
  • “Book” button on your Business Profile
  • Remove ads from your Business Profile
  • Verified bookings
  • Featured review
  • Google Guarantee
  • Verified reviews

Hypothetical pricing ranged from $20 to more than $70 per month depending on the package of services.

What’s interesting is that Yelp and potentially Google are seeking subscription revenue from SMBs as a supplement or alternative to ad revenue. Both companies have struggled with advertiser acquisition and churn, although Google is operating and much greater scale and has a vast ecosystem of resellers with their own issues and challenges.

For years I’ve believed that SMBs would pay for enhanced services — provided there’s clear value. This is something I advised people at Facebook to do more than five years ago. Many SMBs regard advertising as something optional or occasional, not an “always on” feature of their digital identity or presence.

There are potentially meaningful revenues waiting for both Yelp and, even more so, for Google by offering valuable tools or services for at an affordable subscription cost. Google hasn’t made any decisions and may not charge business owners for enhanced GMB capabilities. But it’s something the company is clearly considering.

I think we can call this the “SaaSification” of local.

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