Angie's List is Now Free: Now What? What the Change Means for Your Business

Angie's List

The importance of reviews

Reviews matter to businesses more than ever. Once upon a time, word of mouth, advertising and formal reviews in traditional media were the only way for businesses to receive publicity, and it was relatively easy to prevent negative reviews from affecting your business. Now, reviews are crowdsourced and easily accessible to any consumer with a computer or phone. In fact, 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business, while 39% read reviews on a regular basis. Reviews give customers a voice and influence the decisions of other potential customers. Additionally, today's online reviews can add credibility to a business' website, and therefore influence the business' appearance in local search results rankings. For these reasons, obtaining positive online reviews is a crucial component of contemporary business marketing, reputation management and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.

What is Angie's List?

Today, many think of Yelp or Google reviews when they think of online reviews, but the impact of online reviews began in 1995 with the founding of Angie's List, now the oldest online review site on the web. For a subscription fee, Angie's List enabled users to browse and post both positive and negative reviews of home, yard, auto and health service providers. Angie's List currently reports 10 million verified reviews from its members.

The problem for Angie's List was that, until now, the site was viewed by just over 3 million paid members, which translates to less than 1% of the population. Today's digital consumers are often unwilling to pay a nominal subscription fee when they have free access to alternative review sites. This meant that, while Angie's List subscribers were better informed than the vast majority of review readers, the site did not have a significant effect on businesses.

However, the number of consumers reading and providing reviews will soon grow and make Angie's List a much more formidable component of lead generation for businesses. Last March, Angie's List announced its intention to abandon its subscription model and open the website and services up to the general public, free of charge. As of June 2016, this change has taken effect. This decision to change the Angie List model may stem from recent competition by newer sites like Home Advisor and Thumbtack and free sites such as Yelp. Competition from these sites has been affecting Angie's List's earnings in recent years, well before the company decided to remove the paywall.

Without its paywall barrier, Angie's List will most likely be a key player among review sites due to its unique, end-to-end customer experience. When announcing the change, CEO Scott Durchslag noted that Angie's List gets "over 100 million [unique] visitors each month, but 90% of them have been bouncing because of the reviews paywall . . . We expect to see traffic explode with the change." Since then, Durchslag has reported that "new member sign-ups increased nearly fourfold compared to a year ago and, among those members, unique visits more than doubled. In that same period, unique members searching have more than doubled and the number of service provider profile views from those members more than doubled."

What the change means for your business

Angie's List's impact on search results will grow with these recent changes, making it a necessary tool in reputation building and local SEO strategy. Reviews, and good reviews in particular, contribute to a business' website traffic. Google's local search algorithm uses data from third-party directories and platforms, including review sites such as Angie's List, as a key determining factor to authenticate a business's website and thereby increase or lower its search rankings among competitors. Businesses will now have to account for Angie's List in their SEO strategy along with other popular review sites such as Yelp and Google reviews.

Unlike the average review site, however, Angie's List's longevity and commitment to quality make it an extra credible and "weighty" site among search engines. A business website linked to Angie's List reviews will have an improved Search Engine Results Page. Furthermore, because of the site's emphasis on length, Angie's List reviews simply contain more content than typical blurb-type reviews and will provide more weight than reviews from other sites.

This all simply means that businesses should work to encourage positive reviews on Angie's List as a major part of their marketing strategy. However, many business' current monitoring tools may not be able to identify reviews from Angie's List since the site's content was, until recently, secured behind a paywall. In order to make sure that you can detect and track Angie's List reviews, you can claim your business' Angie's List profile by proactively registering your company on the site.

As Angie's List grows, it will most likely expand into different markets and categories of business. Even if your type of business is not included in the scope of Angie's List currently covered business categories, it may soon be, as the company continues to look for growth opportunities.

If you would like to ensure that your business and site are fully optimized for this change and others to come, contact DAS Group.