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15 Things You May Not Know About Yelp

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15 Things You May Not Know About Yelp

There’s no denying that Yelp is a bona fide juggernaut. Over the last decade the social networking site has become the go-to source for customers searching for local businesses ranging from restaurants to mechanics to salons. In fact, every month there are 139 million unique visitors to Yelp, where they have left more than 67 million reviews.

And, it’s important for the success of small businesses – which is why there are approximately 86,000 active small business accounts. You could even make the argument that Yelp is the second best site for small businesses behind Google.

4800353831_7891814698_bImage Source: Nan Palmero/Flickr

In short, both customers and businesses are reaping the rewards of the powerhouse that is Yelp. Which is exactly why you should impress your fellow Yelpers with these 15 amazing facts.

1. It Began as a Glorified “E-mail Circle”

In July 2004, two former PayPal employees – Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons – were able to raise $1 million dollars in funding for an e-mail circle that allowed their friends to swap reviews for their businesses.

Stoppelman informed the Wall Street Journal that he was inspired to launch Yelp after being sick. “I got sick and needed to see a doctor. Back then there was very little information on the Internet; it was frustrating. We realized the best way to find a doctor, or other services, was by word of mouth.”

2. A Cry for Help

How did Yelp get it’s name? Jeremy Stoppelman explains in a Quora post:

“David Galbraith (a guy in Max’s incubator MRL Ventures who was helping us with Yelp in the early days) found it on his own. It was available for purchase from a squatter for 5k. Russ and I didn’t immediately like the name since it was “the sound of a dog being kicked” and I was strangely enamoured with “yocal” – a terrible name. Fortunately Scott Bannister (another guy hanging out in the incubator, who was also involved in the naming of PayPal) immediately loved it. He told us he’d buy it and sell it to us the next day when we came to our senses. In the ensuing discussion Jared Kopf  (yet another incubator employee) put down his credit card and actually bought the domain. The next day it was transferred to the company (we paid back Jared) and the rest is history.”

3. Yelp Reviews are Getting Both More Positive and More Negative

Back in 2013, a survey found that 66 percent of all reviews were either 4 or 5 stars. In fact, Yelp stated that “businesses are 5 times more likely to receive a 5 star review than a 1 star review, but that is only if the person had good customer service.”

However, recent research has discovered that both positive and negative reviews are on the rise. Based on an analysis of 1 million Yelpers, Max Woolf found “ in 2014, 42.6 percent of all reviews in the dataset were 5-star reviews, and 12.8 percent were 1-star reviews.” When compared to 2005, “39.1 percent of reviews were 5-star reviews, and 3.5 percent were 1-star reviews.”

4. The Largest Category on Yelp Isn’t Restaurants

Most of us aware that Yelp is a great resource for restaurants. In fact, because of that association, you would think the largest category on Yelp would be restaurants. Interestingly enough, that isn’t the case.

According to Yelp’s senior manager of Local Business Outreach, Darnell Holloway, shopping/retail has actually  become the largest category of reviewed business on Yelp. Holloway states in an interview in GeoMarketing that “Shopping/retail represents 23 percent of the reviewed businesses on Yelp. Restaurants are now 19 percent and home local services is the third largest now with 12 percent.”

5. You Have to Earn Those ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ Stickers

If you ever wanted to slap one of those popular ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ stickers onto your storefront window, you have to earn it – not just order one online. Yelp states that you can earn a sticker based on ratings and history. However, “stickers are sent out once per year to all businesses that qualify. Whether or not a business advertises on Yelp has no impact on their eligibility to receive a “People Love Us on Yelp” sticker.”

If you still want to apply for a sticker, fill out this simple form.

6. You Shouldn’t Ask For Reviews

Believe it or not, Yelp recommends businesses not ask their customers for reviews. Why?

“For one thing, most businesses tend to ask their happiest customers to write reviews, not the unhappy ones. These self-selected reviews tell only part of the story, and we don’t think that’s fair to consumers. We would much rather hear from members of the Yelp community who are inspired to talk about their experiences without a business owner’s encouragement.”

Yelp takes this matter so seriously that it has software that will not recommend the reviews that you’ve asked customers to write. If you want to earn positive reviews, make sure that you “provide a memorable and amazing customer experience.”

7. Yelp Drives Local Purchases

According to Nielsen, Yelp definitely helps drive local purchases. In fact, 4 out of 5 Yelp users stated in the survey that they visit Yelp when prepared to spend money. Furthermore, the survey found:

  • After visiting Yelp, 93 percent of visitors make a purchase from a local store.
  • 89 percent of customers make a purchase within one week of visiting Yelp.
  • Over half of Yelp visitors take action with a local business –  calling, visiting, or making a purchase.

8. Yelp Prefers Independent Businesses Over Chains

In 2011 Michael Luca, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, combined Yelp reviews for every restaurant in Seattle. During the study, entitled Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com, Luca discovered “chains experienced a decline in revenue relative to independent restaurants in the post-Yelp period. Higher Yelp penetration leads to an increase in revenue for independent restaurants, but a decrease in revenue for chain restaurants.”

The reasoning behind this seems almost obvious. Why waste your time reviewing a Starbucks, Applebee’s,  Subway or McDonald’s? Chances are you’re going to get the same product, and presumably service, at a Starbucks no matter if you’re in L.A., Denver, or Washington D.C..

9. Customer Service Impacts Rankings

This may not be breaking news, but customer service can definitely increase or decrease your Yelp rating. For example, it has been found that if the customer service was described as “good” or “great,” the reviewer will be more than5 times as likely to give a 5 star review rather than a 1 star.”

Poor customer service, on the other hand, resulted in a 1 star review about 70 percent of the time.

Want to increase your amount of good reviews? Yelp users often describe positive customer as “friendly”, “nice” and “helpful”.

10. It’s Now Being Used by City Governments

One of the last thing that you want when going out is getting food poisoning. That’s why seven cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Louisville, and New York), here in the United States are using Yelp to tell you where not to eat. Headed by Harvard professor Michael Luca and Luther Lowe, the director of public policy at Yelp, cities have been using algorithms to determine the hygiene for restaurants. Based on that information, the restaurant is given a grade. Previous research has found when restaurants disclose this information publicly, it decreases hospitalizations for food-borne illness

What’s interesting, however, is that Yelp could even be used to reveal “data about dentists’ quality and regulatory compliance.”

11. Turned Down Google Acquisition

It’s not uncommon for Google to acquire an up and coming company. It’s not everyday, however, that you hear about a company refuting Google’s advances. But, that’s exactly what Yelp did beginning in 2005. By 2009, the talks started to heat up, which stirred up more interest in Yelp. So, why did Stoppelman turn down the deal? In an interview with Time, he states, “I felt like we built this company over several years, it’s going really well, there’s no fundamental reason for us to sell.” So, Yelp opted “to shift gears and just commit to going on the independent path and take it public.”

Interestingly enough, when Google acquired Zagat in 2011, Stoppelman stated “It’s a bit of a funny move to me.”

12. Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words

You’re probably familiar with that old adage, and it also can be applied for businesses on Yelp. Yelp has found “People searching Yelp for great local businesses spend 2 and a half times as much time on a business page with photos as opposed to one without”, and with Yelp’s free business tools you can upload as many image as you want.

Ready for something really cool? Your loyal customers are already giving you a hand in this area. In fact, “50% of photos on Yelp are uploaded from a Yelp mobile app.”

13. Siri is a Yelp Fan

When Apple unveiled its voice-controlled “personal assistant” Siri in October, 2011, Yelp was one of the first third-party integrations. A year later, when Apple launched the iOS 5.1 update, Yelp was integrated into Apple Maps so users could locate businesses. In fact, when an iPhone user searches for local businesses via Siri, all results were powered by Yelp. Furthermore, if you wanted a rating of a local business, you would be directed to Yelp’s mobile site.

As of June 2014, this partnership was still in effect. The big news, however, was Apple announcing it would begin integrating iOS Infotainment systems in vehicles – which could mean even more exposure for Yelp.

14. Majority of Yelpers Are Female;  What Else Do We Know About Yelpers?

While Yelp is composed of a diverse, global community, there’s a pretty common demographic among it’s most prevalent users in the United States.

According to Yelp Advertising, here is the site’s audience:

  • 53.7% are female, 46.3% are male
  • 45.5% are married
  • More than half of Yelpers do not have children
  • 61.7% consider themselves the head of the household
  • About half of them are homeowners
  • More than half have a household  income of over $75,000
  • The 25-35 year old age bracket are most common users at 24.9%
  • 95% of Yelpers are more likely to post on a social media platform daily
  • 102% more likely to think of themselves as influential individuals or trendsetters

15. Yelp’s Global Domination

Stoppelman told the Wall Street Journal, “Whether you’re here at home or in Paris, you should be able to find the best that a city has to offer. We need to plant seeds internationally and watch them grow. All of this will have a beneficial impact on revenue.”

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that during the last quarter of 2014, Yelp was visited by an average of 135 million unique visitors each month from around thirty countries including: the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Singapore, Poland, Turkey, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Chile, and Hong Kong.

The San Francisco-based company is also available in 15 languages.


While customers enjoy the recommendations Yelp users provide, there’s some serious potential for small businesses. In fact, it would almost be foolish to have a local business and not embrace Yelp – which is why we collected the above pieces of information.

If you’re addicted to Yelp – either as a visitor or business owner – what is something that you have learned about Yelp since 2004?


Featured Image Source: Dee Speed/Flickr 

CategorySocial Media

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Albert Costill


Albert Costill is a co-founder of evolvor.com and a freelance writer who has written for brands like ForRent.com and Search ... [Read full bio]

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