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Yelp Opens Up to Business Owners

Kim Hart

Yelp, the site that lets people review restaurants, bars, hair salons, doctors and pretty much any other business, is now letting those businesses take part in the conversation.

San Francisco-based Yelp is today introducing a suite of features that allows business owners to create an account for their establishment. They can then see how many people have viewed their page, update information like hours of operation and receive alerts when Yelpers review their business. Most importantly, the feature lets business owners send messages directly to Yelpers to thank them for a positive review--or address issues that led to a negative review.

Until now, business owners could sign up as individuals to contact other reviewers on the site, but the business tools are intended to help businesses have a more credible and professional presence on the site. Some local restaurants are already using the site to gain loyal clients.

"There's been an ongoing conversation happening about local businesses on our site," said Jeremy Stoppleman, Yelp's CEO. "There's always been an interest by biz owners to be part of the conversation."

Whenever someone reviews a business, the owner can send them a message. If the user responds, the business can send another message. The idea is to keep businesses from spamming users. Businesses are also not allowed to send out mass messages.

Stoppleman said users seem to like talking directly to the owner of their favorite restaurant or boutique. And it helps keeps the dialogue on a more human level.

"This isn't your old school anonymous review site where, once the rants and raves are out there, there's nothing you can do about it," he said.

So will giving business owners more of a voice on the site also help boost advertising?

"In the long-term view, I would hope so," Stoppleman said. "I'd hope they find Yelp a valuable place to be."

By Kim Hart  |  April 29, 2008; 11:47 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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