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October 2011

October 26, 2011

Case Dismissed. (Again.)

The reason tens of millions of people use Yelp every month to help them find a great local business is because they trust Yelp’s review content. We work hard to keep that trust by protecting the integrity of our review content, and use a number of methods to prevent shill or otherwise unreliable reviews from misleading consumers and harming businesses. As we’ve discussed here many times, we use an automated algorithm to filter our content to help us showcase the most reliable reviews we can.

This makes Yelp a little bit different than other review sites, which can be strange and unsettling to some businesses. Additionally, since protecting content integrity is a difficult task, our automated algorithm isn’t perfect: sometimes legitimate content can get caught. This is an unfortunate reality in an environment where some folks are determined to try to game the system, but it is a price we are willing to pay to protect consumers and remain a useful resource.

Last year, a few small businesses from among the 20 million or so in the United States filed misguided lawsuits against Yelp alleging that we reward or penalize businesses based on whether they advertised with Yelp. Nothing could be further from the truth; our automated system applies the same objective criteria to all reviews regardless of a business’s advertiser status. (Just check a Yelp advertiser’s business page -- I bet they have a negative review or two; after all, you just can’t please everyone all the time.)

I’m pleased to announce that a judge today granted Yelp’s request to dismiss these suits against us, with prejudice. (This means the plaintiffs can’t file these claims again.) While we were confident that Yelp would ultimately prevail because we knew the allegations were false, it is helpful to have the matter resolved early so we can put these allegations behind us.

At Yelp, our mission is to connect people with great local businesses. Part of that work is to protect consumers and businesses from unreliable reviews. Another part of that work is helping small businesses understand how customer reviews work online and how they can help amplify and improve the reputation they’ve earned offline. We will continue to focus our efforts on both.

"Mike B." Joins the Unveiling of Yelp NYC

Perhaps more so than any other place, New York City has always been a perfect home-away-from-home for Yelp: millions of savvy consumers, tens of thousands of vibrant small businesses, and an endless supply of strong opinions.

In Spring of 2006, Yelp hired its first employee to oversee the young Yelp community in the City of New York. A handful of employees were added to New York’s team in the years that followed. It wasn’t until September 15, 2008 -- the same day that Lehman Brothers collapsed -- that Yelp established any kind of physical office space in the Big Apple.

Today, we’re excited to announce an aggressive expansion into New York City, with a newly renovated space in Union Square capable of holding 80 employees. We were honored to have been joined this morning by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn in opening this space.



Rather than cutting a ribbon, the Mayor decided to post an inaugural 5-star review of Yelp’s new Manhattan office:


October 17, 2011

Yelp, Siri Says

While unveiling the new iPhone 4S, the SVP of iOS Software at Apple, Scott Forstall, also shared one of its newest features, a voice-activated personal assistant: Siri.

Among other tasks, Siri will take advantage of Yelp reviews to show you the businesses nearby -- and she'll even read them aloud for you automatically! How does it work? Perhaps you’re strolling down Madison Avenue and break a heel. Besides cursing Christian Louboutin (or in my case, Nine West), pull out your iPhone 4S, tell Siri you need a cobbler and voila! She’ll pull up a list of nearby shoe repair shops via Yelp -- helpfully sorted by rating. (She’s also a sassy thing so be careful what you ask her...)

Apple-siri-yelp engadget

Photo Credit: Engadget

Since launching with the iTunes store way back in 2008, Yelp has long been an Apple supporter. In fact, James Temple of The San Francisco Chronicle recently asked Yelp CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman: “How Apple has affected the business of Yelp... The iPhone in particular must have had a huge impact on the way that people use the service over mobile devices.”

Jeremy responded: “The iPhone launch and the subsequent opening of the App Store was a bit of an atomic bomb in our space. It really changed the landscape forever. We always thought mobile would be a big part of what we did, but until the iPhone there was no mainstream mobile web browsing experience. We, of course, are all Apple fan boys and in 2008, most of the engineering staff had iPhones. So we were very excited about having an app that would marry this content with the user on the go. It just changed the game. I find the search experience on Yelp when using an app is just far more intuitive than on the web.”

Since then, mobile has, in fact, become a big part of what we do -- including a recent (and very fancy!) upgrade to our mobile site: m.yelp.com. One thing’s for sure: whether at their desk or on the go, consumers are relying on Yelp to help them spend their hard-earned money -- and starting today, now it will be even easier with an iPhone 4S (and Siri!).

Yelp Mobile Metrics, August 2011:

  • Yelp had over 5 million unique visitors to our mobile apps -- 63 million total unique visitors to Yelp.com 8.5 million of which were from mobile browsers.
  • More than 2,216,896 calls were made from a Yelp app. That’s nearly 9 calls every 10 seconds to a local business.
  • Over 40% of all Yelp searches were done on one of our mobile apps.

October 13, 2011

Yelp Mobile Gets a Makeover


Millions of you are already familiar with our apps on iPhone, Android, Blackberry and more, but millions of you have also been relying on Yelp’s regular web site on your mobile phones to find great local businesses around you when on the go. In fact, over 8.5 million of you visited www.yelp.com from mobile devices in August -- that’s in addition to our over 5 million visitors to our mobile apps!

For those that have yet to discover our apps (Hint: you can download them here!) or who have been pinching-and-zooming their way through yelp.com on their mobile devices, we’ve updated mobile.yelp.com (or m.yelp.com, if you want to save a bit o’ typing) to make it all shiny and easy to use! It now has the following:

- Hot, new, mobile-friendly design!
- Search for businesses nearby using your phone’s location
- Check out your search results in a handy list with photos, or on a map.
- Call businesses, get directions, view photos and read reviews, just like in our apps.

Lots more to come from Yelp on mobile. Now get out there and find great new places nearby!


Photo 2

October 12, 2011

Yelp Belgique: Un diamant à l'état brut

(Scroll down for Dutch and English translations)

Le polir ou ne pas le polir, telle est la question à laquelle répondront les habitants de Bruxelles et d’Anvers. Nous espérons que les aventuriers de ces deux villes seront fiers de considérer yelp.be comme un site qui leur est propre.

Nous avons compilé quelques faits insolites sur le siège de l’Union Européenne, et nous en sommes tombés amoureux. Mais qui ne le serait pas ?a

La Belgique en chiffres:

  • La Belgique a exporté 12,48 millions de carats de diamants de janvier 2011 à septembre 2011
  • Il y a plus de 4000 friteries à travers le pays
  • Les Six d'Anvers ont permis de situer le pays sur la carte internationale de la mode
  • Trois langues officielles (le français, le néerlandais et l’allemand)
  • Et à partir d'aujourd'hui, un seul Yelp.be

Yelp.be - Dutch

Dès aujourd'hui, les belges peuvent se rendre sur Yelp pour écrire des avis sur leur friterie, librairie, ou salon de beauté préféré. Avec les applications mobiles Yelp, vous pouvez facilement localiser les meilleurs commerces à proximité du lieu où vous vous trouvez. Et bien sûr, si vous êtes commerçant, renseignez-vous sur les outils gratuits que nous offrons pour les gérants d’entreprises. Biz.yelp.be

Nous sommes vraiment heureux d’être ici!

Dutch and English follow!

Continue reading "Yelp Belgique: Un diamant à l'état brut" »

October 05, 2011

Harvard Study: Yelp Drives Demand for Independent Restaurants

Michael Luca, a professor at Harvard Business School, released a working paper that examines the effect Yelp has had on the restaurant industry in Seattle. The study pairs content and ratings information from Yelp with the Washington State Department of Revenue’s restaurant data. By examining the two data sets, Dr. Luca was able to uncover some exciting results. Among the study’s findings:

  • “Yelp as a new source of information is becoming an important determinant of restaurant demand.”
  • “[A] one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue...[and] this effect is driven by independent restaurants”
  • “Yelp causes demand to shift from chains to independent restaurants...This can be viewed as a welfare gain resulting from either better restaurants or better sorting between consumers and restaurants.”
  • One under-reported component of the study: using a statistical analysis Luca debunks the assertion that “gaming” (fake reviews by business owners) is skewing the data. (Thanks, Review Filter!)
  • Yelp's review penetration within the Seattle market far exceeds other sources of restaurant reviews.

Screen shot 2011-10-03 at 5.23.00 PM

(From Appendix 4 of HBS/Luca Study)

The Harvard study is exciting because it offers empirical weight to something we already knew: Yelp is a transactional website. The 63 million people who visited Yelp last month were using the site for a very specific reason: to conduct research online before spending money offline.

During a period when one can’t turn on CNN for a few minutes without hearing grim news about our economy, it’s heartening to learn that a little website created in 2004 to help a guy find a doctor is driving new customers to “Main Street” small business owners.

Here’s the working paper in full, if you’d like to read it yourself:

Yelp Eats Raises Over $10,000 for Hunger Relief Charities

Last week, well-loved and well-yelped restaurants across Canada and Honolulu put their forks up in support of local hunger relief efforts. For every $30 a Yelp diner spent during Yelp Eats!, these good deeding restaurants donated $10 to their local food related charity. And the magic didn't stop there...

There were Yelp Elite Event launch parties; check-in contests complete with a special badge to earn, multiple Community Manager Yelp Events (CMYEs) and Unofficial Yelp Events (UYEs), not to mention the volume of packed restaurants—full of Yelp eaters and good deeders!

But when the dishes were cleared away, and the stuffed boxes of receipts were counted, these 6 cities raised over $10,250 for their local charities! Eating and good deeding all week long? This is how we *fork* it!

Here's a list of the cities that participated and the hunger relief organization that benefited:

October 03, 2011

Just Another Reason Why We Have a Review Filter

We’ve talked about our Review Filter at length on this blog, in addition to many references throughout Yelp.com, so we won’t go into further detail here. That said, an article came out recently in Bloomberg Businessweek -- A Lie Detector Test for Online Reviewers -- that we thought was a compelling example of why we have a Review Filter at Yelp.

The article starts:

“In February, the owner of a home improvement company in Texas posted an advertisement online for “a writer who can write and post 25 positive reviews” on eight popular websites, including Yelp, Google Places, and Citysearch. A man in Chittagong, Bangladesh, won the gig and agreed to do 200 fake write-ups for $100. Within days, rave reviews for the company started popping up online. The business owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says he doesn’t feel bad about the deception. He says clients call all the time extolling his service, but they don’t post reviews.”

It concludes:

“Yelp runs its reviews through an anti-fraud filter, with impressive results; every fake review the Texan bought was flagged by Yelp’s algorithms, though his fraudulent reviews remain up on the seven other sites.”

We understand our Review Filter sometimes raises questions and even causes frustration, but it is important to keep in mind examples like the above to understand why we need it. The Filter is not perfect and some legitimate content can sometimes get caught, but we accept these high costs because we know the infinitely higher cost would be to not have an algorithm in place at all. And if people can’t trust the content, then Yelp is of no benefit to anyone -- consumers and businesses, alike.