Not even three years ago, Optus paid $6 million for its ability and early competitor to Yelp with an already respectable following. This week, Optus announced it simply was closing the site down on the 30th June with no real explanation other than to say that they were focusing on "new growth opportunities" which all sounds rather lame to me.
So where did things go wrong to Eatability? Without being privy to the internal business arrangements at Eatability, it can be quite easily seen that they failed to understand the changing nature of the marketplace they were operating in. The site was predominantly a directory portal for restaurants,, bistros, coffee shops etc. at which people could post reviews. Not particularly unique these days and what they failed to do was to recognise the emergence of Google's myBusiness and other sites such as Yelp here in Australia.
If you were to do a Google search on any reasonable restaurant or style of restaurant, what shows up first? Google (Places) My Business listings of course. These show up right below the sponsored links at the very top of the page complete with a map, address and details of how many reviews have been left. It is hard to outrank that - especially with the growing number of reviews being placed on these Google My Business pages.
Eatability failed to keep ahead of their competition, which up until the Optus buyout, is something they did quite successfully, it seems. What the founders, Celeste and Hui Ong, created, appears to have fallen prey to the "corporate groupthink" strategies of big business. Both the Ongs, originally employed by Optus as part of the sale, are no longer are associated with Optus or Eatability and I suspect that what they brought with them to the business was not replaced upon their departure.
Reading over comments left by others in the news, it would also seem that Optus took it upon themselves to redesign and rebuild the website and the new user interface left both new visitors and long-time followers rather cold with an awkward interface making the it difficult to complete the most basic tasks without some degree of frustration. I must admit, my own efforts today when I went through the site left me wondering why I would bother. Outside of Sydney and Melbourne, the website seemed to give little prominence to its market of food establishments. Many of the restaurant listings were not even claimed by their owners and I suspect that most of those did not even know they had a listing on the site.
So is there a lesson in this for others? Of course there is! The first and obvious is, no matter how big or small your business is, if you fail to monitor your market conditions and the environment in which you operate then you may face the same demise. Look at Kodak or on a smaller scale, Pixie Foto Labs. The advent of the phone camera just killed them and they waited too long to read the writing on the wall.
The second thing we can learn is that having your business listed on Google My Business and being active with posting of fresh relevant content and reviews will be invaluable to you. Best news is that you can set it up to yourself at no cost. Of course don't believe that your Google page does away with the need to have a good website that is optimised the local searches.
Your success on Google My Business will be driven by your overall "digital footprint". A well-designed mobile-friendly website is imperative and optimising your site in line with your marketing needs is highly recommended in order to achieve success, even with a Google My Business page. If your business is local and your target market, as is generally the case with restaurants, is local then local SEO is where you should be paying attention.
Whether you are a restaurant or a dentist, a bookkeeper or beauty therapist, most businesses rely on their local market and there is no better or simpler way to attract that market than through well-orchestrated Local SEO campaign management. We provide our clients with local SEO services and help you identify the strategies that suit your business, work for your market and deliver the right leads and business opportunities. If you are looking to grow your online footprint and increase your sales opportunities then talk to us now and we can explain the options available to you and how we can help.
Written by: Greg Tomkins