As of July 1, Yelp launched a fun and informative way to display the density of particular keywords  that reviewers mention in their reviews, called the Yelp Wordmap. Displayed in the form of a heatmap, the Yelp Wordmap provides a list of pre-selected hot keywords for 14 of their “Yelpiest” cities: Austin, Boston, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington D.C.
The pre-selected keywords in the scroll bar to the left are all popular, youth-oriented terms. Most of them are consistent across all cities. For instance, most cities include the terms “bacon,” “cheap,” “cocktails,” “hipster,” “noodles,” “romantic,” and “tourist,” to name a few. But each city also includes some terms representative of local flavor. For instance, Los Angeles is the only city to include “parking” as a term, Philadelphia is the only city to include “hoagie,” and London is the only city to include “posh.” Meanwhile, France’s keywords are entirely in French!
Hotspots on the map are ultimately determined by reviewers, making customer feedback more important than ever. For out-of-towners heading to one of these cities for a limited time, the Yelp Wordmap could be a powerful resource in directing visitors to particular “districts” based on reviews from locals who know the area best. Check out one screenshot from the Wordmap, below, that displays hotspots for the keyword “view” in Los Angeles.
The hottest spots appear by the ocean, in the downtown area, and along the rim of the hills. Once the Wordmap directs first-time visitors and seasoned locals alike to these keyword dense districts, they can perform a more narrowed search of local businesses in that particular region.
This new, fresh-out-of-the-oven function is not without its limitations. Wordmaps are only available for the 14 cities mentioned above, all of which are large metropolitan areas. These 14 Wordmaps are limited by the words that Yelp pre-selected as being most relevant for each city. Depending on the success of Wordmaps, Yelp would likely expand the number of cities included as well as the number of terms listed for each. Yelp also seems to have a particular target audience in mind – by selecting terms relevant to youth-culture, Wordmaps seem to be reaching out to the young adult crowd who likely make up a large proportion of Yelp’s most active users.
We should also be wary of potentially misleading terms. Take, for instance, the keyword “parking” that appears in Los Angeles’ list of terms. A high density of this term could mean one of two things – that parking was incredibly easy in this zone, or that parking was incredibly difficult (and arguably anything in between). Either way, parking was notable enough to deserve a mention in these reviews with great frequency. At the very least, this could suggest that local businesses with ample parking in Los Angeles should boldly advertise that fact!
Local search expert Brian McCarthy weighed in on Yelp’s new feature and noted that while the idea is fun and helpful, it’s unclear what the impact will be on local search. Here are his (humorous) key takeaways after browsing the Portland wordmap :
- You can find beer everywhere
- Yuppies definitely hang out in Northwest
- Virtually no tourists anywhere
- Dive bars are everywhere
- Hipsters hang around all locations filming Portlandia
- There is an odd coalescing of biscuits downtown
- And finally, you can get a hangover anywhere in the city
We will continue to watch how Yelp’s Wordmap matures over time. What do you think of the new feature? Do you see it affecting local search in the future?