The online review ecosystem has become increasingly competitive, and stalwarts like Angie’s List need to evolve if they want to remain in the conversation. We don’t know how much ground Angie’s List has lost to new review sites in the home services niche like Thumbtack and Porch. But Angie’s List recently made a change to their business model, which could have a massive impact on the popular site.
What Does the Change From Paid Membership to Open Community Actually Mean?
It’s true, after 20 years online, Angie’s List finally has a free access plan.
But their review content is not exactly public. When you navigate to Angie’s List’s home page, you’re presented with this view:
In fact, they still put most reviews/ratings content behind user login access, which is very different from public content that anyone can access on the open web. There’s still a major barrier preventing consumers — and perhaps more importantly, search engines — from accessing AL’s 10 million reviews: the login.
Despite all the hype about the changes at Angie’s List on sites like Search Engine Land, this barrier is significant. If search engines can’t access the bulk of the reviews content, “free” access to Angie’s List will have little effect on business owners listed there. Why? Because many consumers already have login fatigue and don’t want to create YAUP — “yet another user/password”. This is a very significant difference from truly free and open access.
But before we look more closely at the difference between the logged in and logged out versions of the new Angie’s List, we should know a bit about the site.
Who is Angie and What’s the Deal With Her List?
First Off, Who is Angie?
From her bio:
“Angie Hicks, namesake and face of Angie’s List, partnered with Bill Oesterle in 1995 to solve the age-old homeowners’ problem of how to find reliable, local service.”
So What’s This List That She’s Got?
Angie’s List is an online review site that focuses on home related services. You can find plumbers, carpenters, and electricians for your house. There are a variety of landscaping and lawn service providers. They’ve even been expanding their industries including health providers (dentists, optometrists, family doctors), auto services, veterinarians, and even hair salons.
Don’t be surprised if more industries appear, sooner rather than later.
Part of the appeal of Angie’s List is their tight knit closed community. Angie Hicks has crafted a likable persona that epitomizes the online review site brand. A woman of the people, the brand exudes qualities of helpfulness, dependability and authenticity.
They’ve also produced some hands on DIY, solution oriented videos and an expert interview series, intent on educating the community. The videos are sometimes funny, but always informative:
You can find more of Angie’s List’s great videos on their Youtube Channel.
The Future of Angie’s List?
Aiming to connect homeowners with local home service providers, Angie’s List has historically differentiated itself by requiring people to pay a $40 per month membership fee for access to their network of home service professionals and verified online reviews.
When someone has to pay for access to information, it’s easy to see that they mean business. We wouldn’t pay $40 a month just to look at reviews (Well maybe you wouldn’t. It is in my wheelhouse, so I’d consider it). The service providers appreciated the membership because it meant that their potential customers were serious about finding and using their services.
But, as they say, things have changed. There are potential positive and negative consequences that may begin to take shape for business owners.
The greatest benefit (or danger?) for service providers is now that the site isn’t hidden behind the membership paywall, one might think that search engines like Google will index those Angie’s List business listings, because they will now be open to anyone. Right?
Well, not yet. It’s important to note that the public listing for a business on Angie’s List today shows a couple of reviews–without the ratings. In fact, the public listing is not very informative compared with the logged-in versions of the listing.
Here’s a listing showing 2 of 19 reviews, and no ratings when not logged in:
Take a look at the differences on the listing page when we are logged in:
While we can see the total number of reviews in the non-logged in version, we can only see two specific reviews and no aggregate rating, the kind of data that would typically be used to encourage Google and others to show those aggregate ratings right in the search results. But even with Angie’s List being free, the specific details are “locked”:
Here’s the more detailed review information provided when we’re logged in to the site:
We can see specific breakdowns of the grade details, ALL of the reviews, and the grade distribution from A-F.
The differences are stark and highlight how despite the site now being ‘open,’ there’s still gated content.
And how might this affect SEO?
If the reviews are marked up with schema markup but without the ratings, as they are today, they are not likely to yield ratings stars in the SERPs.
Notice how a Yelp listing has the star rating, whereas Angie’s List does not:
We therefore shouldn’t get too excited about the changes at Angie’s List from an SEO perspective, but the fact that 20-year-old Angie’s List is evolving and could open up more at some point— that is what makes the hype worth paying attention to. Nobody can rest on their laurels in the reputation business. The ecosystem is always evolving.
After posting this article on Local Search Forum, Joshua Mackens of Tutelary Marketing had a strong counter-point regarding the value of Angie List’s change. I thought he made a great point and decided that his reply in the forum thread needed to be included in this post.
Here’s what Joshua had to say on the matter:
“While Angie’s List may not be doing things ideally (not taking advantage of schema), the SEO value of Angie’s List has definitely increased.
The tear down of the pay wall means more accuracy and transparency than before between the public listing and the private listing when you’re logged in. With Angie’s List, updates that you made in the dashboard used to take weeks to get to the public page. Now, I can only imagine that timeline has shrunk, which is a good thing for SEO in terms of NAP consistency when changing data, etc.
Also, because of this shift more listings will probably start getting indexed. Before this, Angie’s List was not all that interested in whether Google could index your public Angie’s List listing or not. With this shift in strategy, indexing has become important because Angie’s List has seen the benefits HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack, etc. are having through having better transparency through indexing on their site. Having a better chance to get your listing indexed can only be a positive.
Finally, Angie’s List is giving more data it looks like through reviews, which means unique content on your citation. Definitely a huge positive.
In my opinion, it looks like Angie’s List’s SEO value has increased substantially. Although, if they had schema working for them, it would be even better. But that’s more of a CTR (conversion) issue than an SEO issue.”
– Joshua Mackens, Owner of Tutelary Marketing
Whether you’re in favor of removing the membership fee or not, for home service providers, Angie’s List continues to be an important community where you’ll want to have a strong presence. The site currently brings in 12.6 million views per month on desktop and mobile.
If your company doesn’t have a listing on Angie’s List yet, you’re missing out on some excellent leads.
Making the Most of Angie’s List
Like most Online Review sites, the best practices remain the same.
Claim Your Listing and Optimize It With Relevant Keywords
When you head over to Angie’s List, it’s very easy to see if you already have an existing listing, and if not, it’s simple enough to claim it.
Get started here: https://business.angieslist.com/Registration/SimpleRegistration.aspx
When optimizing our profile, we need to fill out all the fields wherever they apply, while sprinkling in keywords that consumers may be searching for. Now that the site is no longer gated by membership fees, those keywords in the bio are visible on the non-logged in listing page and could benefit your search results.
Advertising On Angie’s List
With any social network – yes Online Review sites should be considered social networks these days – the ability to advertise can vault our company’s visibility and generate more leads.
Advertising on Angie’s List does require some forethought and preparation. Their advertising model is based on a coupon offering, required for participation.
Focus on Getting Positive Reviews
Naturally, the aggregate review rating, combined with an assortment of detailed perspectives from verified customers, will differentiate our company’s listing from competitors.
Develop a strategy to get more reviews from happy customers.
Hug Your Haters AND Your Fans
Most people still don’t expect to get a response from an online review. The opportunity to show our excellent customer service and professionalism can be reflected in the way we take the time out of our day to address complaints and celebrate our happiest customers.
Angie’s List has changed up their business model by allowing anyone to sign up for free. Making the move from a paid membership to an open community has a variety of benefits, but also potentially devalues the seriousness of the incoming leads. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
While some believe there could be SEO benefits to the new open community, the difference between the logged in and logged out versions of the business listings have distinct differences. The juicy content that would benefit search rankings are still hidden behind Angie’s List’s free membership.
Nevertheless, if you or your clients are service professionals, it’s imperative to diversify your presence on review sites, and Angie’s List has long been established as a major player.
And of course, remember to apply all of the tactics and strategies for your online review marketing and management to get the most out of the online review sites in which you maintain a presence.