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YELP

Real people. Real reviews.®


[DESCRIPTION]

Yelp is a free review site founded in 2004 that was created with the intent to help people find great local business. Yelp features ratings and reviews of local businesses, such as restaurants, bars, hair salons, mechanics, and even dentists. Users can search their local area by business name, type of business, or keyword and see listings that can be organized by their rating or popularity and filtered by specific details.

People can also use Yelp to find events, special offers, lists, and to talk to other "Yelpers" about things that may be going on locally. Business owners and managers can also set up Yelp accounts to post offers, photos, and send messages to customers. All material is user-contributed by site members, who can rate, post reviews or tips, and add details or pictures to a business's page.

[APPLICATIONS/FEATURES]

- Local Searching
Yelp's advanced searching capabilities enable users to find exactly what they are looking for in a business. Each listing is rated on a 5-point rating scale. Listings also give reviews from other "Yelpers" and specific details (including but not limited to, business hours, address and accessibility), which are gathered during the review procedure and subject to majority rule. These details are automatically customized for the type of business being listed. A bar, for instance, will show happy hours and types of music, while a spa may show whether it is by appointment only. Business listings are organized by city and a categorization system that helps narrow the search down.

- Mobile Phones
Yelp has applications available on several mobile devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, and Android. Users who do now use one of these operating systems can go to the mobile Yelp website, which is listed below.

One of the new features on Yelp's iPhone application is the ability to "check in" to a business using the phone's GPS to confirm that you are really there. This gives you a badge on your reviews for that page, and gives your review some extra trustworthiness, since people will know that you have, presumably, actually been to the business you are reviewing.

People who check into a business multiple times become "regulars." Regulars get another badge on their review for that page and can be offered special "regulars only" deals if the business owner is active on the page and chooses to do so.


- Community
In some ways, Yelp has more in common with social media sites than other review sites. "Yelpers" can see which users are the most popular, well respected, how long users have been members on Yelp, and if users have similar interests to them. These reputation features are similar to those on many online forums.

There are also rewards and badges users can receive for doing different things. For example, if a user is the first to review a business, the user will receive a "First to Review" reward. This creates competition among Yelpers, and helps the site continue to thrive.

Some Yelp users are granted the special "Elite Member" status by administrators. These are people who contribute more than most users and whose reviews are especially detailed and helpful to the online community. Elite members must provide their real name, have a photo, not be a business owner, and must be over 21, since Yelp sometimes hosts offline events for their Elite members.

- Advertising
Yelp makes its money by selling ads to local businesses. These businesses usually advertise with Yelp in order to get extra listing features as well as preferred search results. Advertisers are called "Sponsors" on the site and are allowed to communicate with reviewers.

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[RECEPTION]

Yelp has received criticism from local business owners who claim that they hide negative customer reviews on their website for a price. Yelp officials have denied that they remove negative reviews. "We wouldn't be in business very long if we started duping customers," Chief Operating Officer Geoff Donaker stated. Yelp's denial has been challenged by not only local business owners but also a former contract employee of Yelp. Yelp does have an automated system that filters the most "suspicious" reviews, mostly from users that have only contributed one or two reviews. This is designed to help prevent people affiliated with the business from posing as a neutral reviewer, and to block reviews from detractors affiliated with a competing business. Legitimate reviews do sometimes run afoul of the filter, of course, but Yelp claims that the filter is unbiased and does its job well overall. Filtered reviews can still be seen at the bottom of a business's page after passing though a captcha.

There have been two lawsuits filed against Yelp accusing them of extortion from a veterinarian hospital in Long Beach, California. Yelp has received an "A" rating from the Better Business Bureau, also known as the BBB, on a scale of A+ to F. According to the BBB, a total of 117 complaints in the last 36 months. Of these 117 complaints closed in 36 months, 77 were closed within the last year.

[WEB RESOURCES/RELATED LINKS]

Yelp.com
BBB Review of Yelp.com
Yelp Mobile Site
Yelp on Wikipedia
Yelp on Twitter
Yelp on Facebook
Yelp on LinkedIn
Yelp on TechCrunch

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