Yelp! Inc. and its online entity yelp.com is a local directory service with a little touch of Facebook in that it has a social networking format. It also has user reviews enabled in the website. Yelp is one of the most visited sites on the net. As of this year, there had been more than 100 million (unique) visitors who have accessed the webpage. Yelp has been around the web for quite some time already. Initially starting off as an email recommendation site but was quickly aborted and changed into its current setting.
The very essence of yelp.com is in providing online local search capabilities. The layout of the homepage showcases different regions with a search option available. Users may input a local business establishment like a restaurant and the website will search through the locality that the user specified. Results show a complete address, city/state combination or zip code. Each business listing will have its own rating and other pertinent information such as business hours, address, accessibility and the like. The ratings are provided by other yelp users who have visited the establishment. Likewise, site visitors may also keep updating an establishment’s listings; this is with moderator approval of course. Business owners have the capacity to directly update their business listing but don’t own their listing on the Yelp website. They also cannot change or delete their listings with moderator approval.
Yelp has combined the local directory service (reviews included) with a social networking functionality. This created an online community of users who regularly exchange and update information regarding the local business establishments. Yelp incorporates a reputation system; this allows visitors to see who is the most respected among contributing users, have been on the site longest or if they may have similar interests. Yelp contributors get peer feedback and placement of reviews on the site as an incentive for contributing to Yelp. Furthermore, Yelp has a ‘First to review’ reward system, this allows competition between contributors which motivate creation of reviews and further expanding the site’s business cover. Business owners may also communicate to contributors via public posts or private messages. In order to participate in reviews, users must register on the website first and is encouraged to provide the real name and photo to his profile. The social media aspect of the website creates a dynamic community in which everyone participates in contributing and allows a flow of information regarding business establishments in their locale.
Recently, Yelp has stepped up its game with the introduction of an application or more commonly referred to as an App for mobile devices. This app has given Yelp a new platform to coincide with the ever growing popularity of smart phones and tablets. The app now allows users with the same interactivity as their website. This new step has allowed a newer and younger generation of ‘Yelpers’ to give reviews on their most beloved (or hated) local business establishments. The forum is still accessible via the app, allowing the same reputation system albeit a more refined look and feel to coincide with the newer platform.
The app also features the ability to post ads. Yelp has announced and allowed paid ad space on their mobile app. The first two to try the new ability out was Taco Bell and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in their respective categories. These two would also be the exclusive advertisers on the app for the month of March; whether or not sales results from this endeavor will probably be posted at the end of March or early April.
The Yelp website already provides opportunities for ads of local business owners, as well as national, regional, and international businesses and ad agencies. The company has already released Yelp ads on the iOS and Android applications. This allows advertisers higher visibility to the growing population of mobile Yelpers. This could allow local businesses a powerful tool to attract more customers as more people are on mobile via smartphones and tablets. Yelp Local Business Manager Darnell Holloway posted on the company blog stating that the mobile app generated up to 45% of Yelp searches. He also stated that it helped generated up to 11 million calls to local businesses and 19 million sets of directions to local businesses. The app has proven to be quite a powerful tool in the new mobile age, local businesses should grab the opportunity while the iron is still hot.