Sizing Up Hyper-Local CitySquares

CitySquares joins the growing list of hyper-local focused websites. The site focuses on Boston neighborhoods for now. CitySquares is cut from the same mold as "super-local" or hyper-local Outside.in and Backfence.
I spent some time on the three sites and compared their differences. I chose neighborhoods in cities where I have lived in or near for my "test drive".

The Outside.in neighborhood I looked at was South 6th, a South Tucson neighborhood known widely for authentic Mexican food restaurants. Chosing "restaurants" from the drop down menu brought no restaurants from the South 6th neighborhood or even that section of town. What a disappointment. Their salespeople could not sell a Mexican restaurant spot in a neighborhood only know for Mexican food? For my purposes the Outside.in "South 6th" site is somewhat useless.

Backfence.com is less neighborhood centric and more small city oriented for now so I chose their Palo Alto site. The front page has a search box nicely placed with relevant classified ads for houses for rent. "Top-Business" links are below the fold in favor of a "special sections" offerings above. I think this is should be reversed. If I live in Palo Alto or plan to visit the town I want to see restaurants, read reviews and news on points of interest, not articles about how to chose granite for my kitchen.

The CitySquares neighborhood I looked at is Brookline Village. I've never been there and know nothing about the neighborhood. The site is clean with inviting colors but the main column content is spaced too far apart. There are only 16 restaurants listed for the Brookline Village neighborhood. I'm not familiar enough to know if that represents all the restaurants in Brookline. It would have been nice to read a synopsis of the neighborhood on the front page. I should not have to visit Wikipedia to get basic neighborhood or city info.
Here is a partial list of Brookline Village restaurants from Google Maps and the same search on Local.com. Understanding these ultra local sites are not local search engines as such but there should at least be ready links to outside local search sites.

For my tastes I like the true neighborhood approach adopted by CitySquares. The choices for neighborhoods stares right at you as you enter the main site. I like it. As they grow and expand I hope they don't lose that feel.

I am excited about the potential for super, ultra or hyper-local platforms. Both CitySquares and Outside.in offer inexpensive opportunities for local businesses. Local business should pay to get in early and encourage reviews and establish a site presence before category competition wakes up and starts rushing the doors. This space will grow.

No comments: