Comparing Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Thumbtack, and Yelp for Service Contractors

angies list, homeadvisor, thumbtack, yelp

Over the last decade, a new wave of consumer-driven agencies such as Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Yelp, and Thumbtack have popped up across the Internet. Their sole existence is to match a consumer with the right service contractor that provides a service or product he or she needs. Although the concept is simple, don’t look for any of these web-based businesses to resemble each other beyond the initial premise.

Angie’s List

UPDATE: On May 1, 2017 it was announced that Angie’s List will merge with competitor HomeAdvisor. Learn more about what this means for service contractors.

When Angie’s List launched back in 1995, Angie Hicks, it’s founder, wanted to find a trustworthy online model for determining the quality of products or services a company provides. She was looking for real answers from real people about real issues. The concept had a lot of promise, but finding a way to turn into a profitable business was another matter.

It took the company roughly ten years to establish any real footing. With the help of investors and a lot of awareness, Angie’s List grew and became a nationwide phenomenon. Angie’s list could provide an unbiased platform for consumers to post reviews and give more detailed feedback about their experience with a given provider. Contractors could sign up, create accounts and advertise their services. In those early days, most of the services provided on Angie’s List were contractors and home improvement companies.

Fast forward to the end of 2015; Angie’s List has grown to 70,000 subscribers, expanded into other markets such as healthcare and auto care and has reported over 3.2 million paid memberships.

With all of Angie’s List’s massive success, there is also plenty of criticism to go around. The biggest issue is whether paid prescriptions are worth the money. Unlike most of the other services, consumers must pay to access information about businesses, leave reviews, and utilize other features of the services. The membership runs three-tier with added benefits and features the higher your membership goes up. While the jury is still out on the value of a paid subscription, the tradeoff is easy user navigation and user-friendly options, in-depth reviews (as opposed to rants) that are trustworthy, and collective feedback that gives you a more accurate picture of the type and quality of service a contractor provides.

As a contractor, Angie’s List can be beneficial in getting you real interaction with real people who need real jobs. Keep in mind; your chances of landing a gig often hinge on three things:

  • Amass several positive reviews and maintain an A rating. This is sure to keep you in the front of the line when clients come knocking.
  • Offer discounts straight to customers or through Angie’s List ‘Big Deal’ program. These are usually brought to the beginning of the results pages.
  • Paid listings can also get you on center stage.  Something you need to remember, however, is that with a paid listing you are competing with other companies who are well established on Angie’s List, meaning they have several reviews and lots of ratings. It’s best to build your reputation on the free account before you begin investing money to give your business more airtime.

[cta id=”2339″]

The Competition: Home Advisor, Yelp, and Thumbtack

As the credibility and business model of Angie’s List is currently in question, other Internet companies have popped up with alternatives to the customer – business relationship assessment platform. Among the notables are Home Advisor, Thumbtack, and Yelp. They’re all built on the same idea: give both customers and businesses a platform to leave reviews, ratings, and offer advice or additional comments. This is done in a public setting for all to see. Businesses do have an opportunity to offer rebuttal either directly or indirectly.  They can also offer apology or restitution if necessary.

The web-based consumer companies offer more options in a more controlled setting than the Google Rating & Review Package. They all have similar advantages that make them more attractive to contractors:

  1.     Exclusivity and notoriety in a smaller arena.
  2.     Opportunities to compete on the same level with more reputable companies.
  3.     Assuming the worth of the payoff, a more straightforward, direct, and cost-efficient method of advertising.
  4.     Ability to maintain a positive identity and PR in the community.
  5.     Ability to vet clients.

Memberships & Fees

The biggest criticism of Angie’s List is the investment vs. the payoff. Any company who doesn’t mind paying anywhere from $22 to upwards of thousands of dollars to get the edge over the competition may find Angie’s List to be very valuable.  Especially if their bottom line has increased exponentially. The long line of complaints, however, has become a cautionary tale for newer companies like Thumbtack and Home Advisor.

Home Advisor bypasses the long line of competitors somewhat, by fine-tuning the consumer’s search. A potential client will sign-on and answer a series of detailed questions before a list of ideal candidates pops up. Those seeking contracting services can also fill out lead cards.  This is where Home Advisor generates its revenue. Rather than requiring paid memberships, HA offers leads that cost anywhere from $20 to $80 to the contractor. This has sharply divided camps of both criticism and praise. Some contractors have found enormous success with HA, while others have dismissed it as a scam. Contractor Beware: Your company will go through a rigorous background check before being approved. This is of great benefit to consumers, however, who are tired of being taken advantage of by less-than-honest contractors.

Home Advisor’s ability to qualify who is added to its roster is a better option than Yelp’s wide open platform. For many businesses, it’s the hell’s kitchen of review sites. A new business in town either has to deal with its sudden enormous success or a well-established business is now staving off a PR disaster from a series of criticisms. Yelp is second only to Google regarding business reviews & rating activity. It can do wonders for business or bury it indefinitely. Before adding your company to Yelp’s directory, have a well laid out, educated strategy for dealing with the traffic. If you are proactive, get expert advice, and develop a game-plan, Yelp can become your lemonade.

Like, Home Advisor and Yelp, Thumbtack offers a more open platform for any market than Angie’s List. It currently boasts that it’s in over 1,100 industries. Thumbtack is similar to Home Advisor by charging each connection with a potential client. They go one step further, however, by charging companies to post bids for client requests instead of following up on leads. The contractor pays $1.67 per Thumbtack credit that is used to bid on a request. It’s certainly less expensive than Home Advisor’s fees, but considering that Thumbtack attracts lots of smaller businesses, it’s difficult to maintain higher prices with a mass appeal. For this reason, a mega-contractor looking to find clients is just as likely to experience success on Home Advisor regardless of the higher fees.

The Final Analysis

Angie’s List is built for contractors and home improvement companies. Its entire existence has relied on connecting clients with contractors in various industries, but not necessarily with to help with business management. But is it worth the monthly fee? Thumbtack and Home Advisor don’t have monthly fees but charge a la carte for leads or bids. A contractor’s ability to convert them and seal the deal should find either to be a great resource.

While Yelp is free (although they aggressively try to sell their marketing products), it can also be a jungle where it’s survival of the fittest. Yelp can work in your favor, however, with some strategy. Find your needs, narrow your market, and know what you are getting into before you sign on. This will increase your chances of success on any of these sites.

2017 digital marketing guide for contractors

10 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Check out the negatives for HomeAdvisor on the web complaint sites. One brush with them unleashes a torrent of unwanted SPAM unrelated to the consumer’s interests. I have sympathy for all the contractors calling me as a result of my trying to generate a cost estimate for a bid on a property.

  2. Kelly says:

    They have free cost guides they encourage you to check out; and most contractors state “free estimates” on their page so you can call/e-mail them directly very easily. In the service request process they also ask you if you’re hire ready. So you did something wrong.

  3. Lynn says:

    I must agree with Dave. I have only wanted to determine availability and ballpark costs so did not choose the Ready to Hire option. Still I received a,barrage of calls, one person even showed up at the door of a rental property.. I have learned to wait until ready to book so solicit Info.

  4. Barry says:

    One big reason you’ll get flooded from HomeAdvisor is contractors are billed for the lead whether they have a chance to bid or not….or even want to. Since they’re paying they might as well bid. With Thumbtack they only pay for the leads they bid on…and is a LOT cheaper.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thats not necessary true. Homeadvisor has an option to turn off leads so you are not charged. One just has to be a little smarter than the average person to figure that out.

  5. Mitch Ruth says:

    I have to say with experience with all these companies (with the exception of Home Advisor) Thumbtack has become my number one source for generating leads. The process is simple and the cost for me as a service provider is well spent (full disclosure: I have a niche business that does not have many providers listing on Thumbtack so many of my bids are free) but it is a straight forward service that hasn’t created money nightmares, as had Yelp. I love using Yelp but had a terrible experience advertising there. As for Angie’s List it’s just a non entity for me providing no leads or business. I guess I ought to put in the effort to work their system. Therein lies the secret, you’ll have to spend some time and money to make any of these work for you, learn their particular “game” and play it to get customers, none of them is a “set it and forget it” solution. From my experience however, Thumbtack gave the most ROI of time and effort.

  6. Well, what I think is always research before hiring any company or contractor for any kind of work. I know research is tedious job, but to get things done properly research is necessary and before work clear everything.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think thumbtack is horrible. Their customer service is terrible and they treat their pros horribly. You could be a five star pro and if you do one thing, they will drop you forever. And they won’t research or try to help you. Horrible company!

  8. John says:

    Thumbtack is becoming a bad option.
    Before contractors were only bidding against 4 other persons bidding for the same job now if you want a job you have to bid against 14 other people and that only minimize the chances of getting hire while paying a lot of money to send a bid

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you tried emailing them? I also noticed that without warning I bid against a ton of competitors now.