If you're thinking of using Yelp to help you find a local business that's right for you, here are a few things to know about what the website does, both well and not so well.
Businesses big and small are all here — Yelp focuses on businesses, so it's easier to find local specialty shops that may not show up on other directory websites.
Ask the community for help — You can send private messages to other users — or post messages on message boards — to get advice about certain establishments, or about finding a good business in an unfamiliar neighbourhood.
What's going on around here? — Yelp has information on businesses in most major cities and towns around the world, and it can also help you find special events going on around town.
Businesses appreciate feedback… usually — If you rate and review businesses on Yelp, you may be able to get special discounts, either from Yelp or the businesses themselves (assuming that you leave fair and honest reviews)!
The information is only as good as its supplier(s) — Yelp relies on its user base to supply information about businesses, and is lightly moderated. So unless a business owner themselves decides to put their business on Yelp and keep that information updated, certain details may be inaccurate. It's rare, but it's possible.
The word on the street may not be the final word — Certain people leave questionable reviews on Yelp, either because they have an incentive to personally support a company, or else they have a personal vendetta, are trying to cause trouble, or are simply a bad customer. Yelp tries to filter these kinds of reviews out, but even the way they do this has come under fire for hiding too many good reviews and keeping too many bad ones up.
Bottom Line: 8.5/10
Yelp is a great service for discovering and learning about businesses in your area. Whether you're looking to try a new place to eat, hunting for bargains, or searching for a place to have some fun, you'll likely find it on Yelp. It's especially good when you're away from home and don't exactly know where the local hotspots or essential services are.
Yelp's main drawback is that it's mostly run by the people who use it, so some of the information can be inaccurate or biased. Remember to read reviews on Yelp with a critical eye, and ask yourself if someone's just trying to sell a company as being too-good-to-be-true, or just whining that a company isn't doing more for them than what's perfectly reasonable. Still, reviews aside, being able to quickly locate and learn something about nearby businesses makes Yelp a worthy tool.