BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:

A Burbank-based Internet search engine company is helping users navigate the often overwhelming amount of information on the World Wide Web, with a little help from their own friends.

CityWaboo.com builds upon the traditional idea of a searchable online directory, allowing users to not only hunt for businesses, restaurants and the like, but to immediately access reviews on the businesses in the results from friends who use the site. Users also have the option to search only the businesses that their friends recommend.

The site — which started as BurbankGlendale.com, a local business directory — essentially takes word-of-mouth advertising into the Internet age, said Eduard Arakelyan, president of CityWaboo, who co-founded the company along with Glendale resident Armen Akopyan.

“Catering to local businesses over the past four or five years, a lot of them were saying, 'Yeah it's great to advertise, but most of the business we get is from word of mouth,'” he said. “So we incorporated that into the social network on the site, where you can build your own community of friends and family and people, and you can directly search their recommended businesses.”

Growing that community has taken CityWaboo national, and now the site helps local customers patronize local businesses and provides a resource for out-of-towners who may be visiting the area.

Since CityWaboo launched at the end of December, the site is attracting about 100,000 visitors per month, Arakelyan said.

“And we're increasing it about 5 and 10% per day,” he said. “As more search engines get us on there, and more marketing and social community aspect, it's growing pretty rapidly, which is great news for us and the local community.”

CityWaboo has also joined up with popular social networking site Facebook.com, enabling users to view comments, ratings and recommendations from their Facebook friends.

Twenty-six-year-old Hector Ayala, who came to the United States from Spain nine years ago, has used CityWaboo for about four months and said the format is distinct from other sites on the Web.

“I use other kinds of websites like CitySearch, but I also use Facebook and Myspace.com .?.?. but this combines them,” he said. I use it for convenience. I can have friends and talk to them, and at the same time I can find new restaurants and read reviews.”

In turn, Ayala faithfully submits reviews of restaurants and other places he has been to steer them in the right direction, he said.

And businesses can benefit as much as consumers, as smaller local companies can achieve a larger presence through the website and positive chatter among users, Arakelyan said.


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