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Apr 29, 2008

NEWS: Yelp to businesses: Deal with our users yourselves!

Yelp to businesses: Deal with our users yourselves!

Yelp, the business reviews site famed for a vociferous user base willing to be brutally honest about the quality of their local restaurants, bars, bookstores, dog groomers, adult gift shops, and what-have-you, has launched a new service for those business owners to interact with the site's users.

Called "Yelp for Business Owners," the section of the site lets business owners register for special Yelp accounts, which they then need to verify by phone. Once registered, they have access to some analytics (namely to see how many people have been viewing their business page), receive e-mail alerts when they have new reviews, update public data like their hours of operation or contact information, and message the users who have already reviewed their business.

While Yelp will not charge for business owner accounts, it's a way for the company to get more eyes on its ad-supported site.

The service will likely have its biggest splash in San Francisco, where the start-up is based and where "Yelper" has become a mild pejorative among some restaurant and cafe owners.

Elsewhere, it might not have quite the effect. I live in New York, where the food and hospitality industries seem to have a bigger problem with influential food bloggers rather than reviews sites, and the IAC-owned Citysearch is still the online directory of choice for many.

Yelp Lets Businesses Fight Back

Local businesses have a love/hate relationship with review site Yelp: The site sends new customer leads to the businesses reviewed. But businesses can also be reviewed (and trashed) without even knowing Yelp exists.

Businesses like Oakland coffee shop Cafe Rooz felt slighted by the ratings site when a few vocal customers posted poor reviews. They went so far as to declare No Yelpers. But still others have benefited. According to Yelp, Joe Alexander’s San Francisco based mattress store, Keetsa, gets 80 percent of its total monthly business directly from Yelp.

In either case it’s a sign of the influence the site has over businesses as a lead generation - or degeneration - tool. Now Yelp is releasing a suite of business tools to give business owners tools to participate more directly in the conversation.

The suite is available at biz.yelp.com and lets businesses:

  • Message customers who have reviewed their business
  • See how many prospective customers viewed their business page
  • Update business information instantly (i.e. hours of operation, categories)
  • Receive new review email alerts

Yelp, which has raised $31 million in venture capital, continues to grow briskly. Comscore says they have 3.7 million unique monthly visitors; Compete says it’s more like 9 million.

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