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Demystifying Yelp in 2023: Key Stats and Facts on Reviews, Users, and Purchasing Behavior

Yelp is synonymous with reviews. When searching for the perfect cafe or hair salon, most turn to the app known for brutally honest customer ratings. With over 265 million crowdsourced reviews and counting, Yelp has cemented itself as the go-to platform for vetting local businesses.

But how did Yelp become such a review juggernaut? Who actually uses Yelp? And how much influence do its star ratings really have on spending? As an avid streamer and tech geek, I decided to dig into the key data. Below I demystify the platform’s reach among consumers, top categories, demographics, and impact on purchasing in 2023 and beyond.

The Origin Story and Mission of Yelp Reviews

It all began in 2004 when two former PayPal colleagues, Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons, got together in a San Francisco apartment over some chai tea. They dreamed up a better way for people to access reliable reviews on local businesses from other consumers.

After much brainstorming, they landed on “Yelp” as the name (beating out the initial idea “Yocal”) and launched the platform in 2005. Early versions focused on connecting users to local restaurants, bars, cafes, salons and other hotspots in the area. Visitors could read customer reviews, ratings, view photos of the ambience, and get contact information and directions.

According to Stoppelman, the goal was “to create the most comprehensive database of crowd-sourced local business reviews ever constructed. To tap into online conversations and bring offline word-of-mouth online.”

And did it ever take off. The review database exploded as more users turned to Yelp to sound off on their experiences. By May 2007, Yelp published its 1 millionth review. Other milestones include launching the mobile app in 2008 and introducing features like wait times and quote requests.

Today, Yelp operates globally in over 35 countries, receives 178 million visitors per month, and recently surpassed 265 million contributed reviews. It has successfully tapped into authentic online word-of-mouth on local businesses.

Ratings Galore: Yelp Crosses 265 Million Review Mark

As of December 2022, the grand total of reviews submitted by the Yelp community sits at a whopping 265 million! This is up from 244 million at the end of 2021, reflecting over 20 million new unfiltered ratings in one year.

To put into perspective how quickly reviews are pouring in, Yelp estimates a new review is posted every 1-2 seconds. At that pace, the platform will likely hit 300 million reviews sometime in late 2023 or early 2024.

While some reviews are definitely more useful than others, this massive volume establishes Yelp as a leader in crowdsourced recommendations. Users have shared their candid experiences on everything from hole-in-the-wall taco joints to luxury hotel chains.

Below you can see how reviews on Yelp have accumulated over time since its inception:

Yelp Total Reviews 2015-2022

In many categories like restaurants, beauty, or home services, businesses live and die by their Yelp ratings. Just a few negative reviews can steer away potential customers. On the flip side, small businesses with limited marketing budgets rely on glowing 5-star Yelp praise to boost visibility. Ratings are make or break.

This explains why some unethical businesses succumb to the dark side of buying fake positive reviews. But more on that risk later.

178 Million Monthly Visitors with Yelp on Speed Dial

Yelp attracts around 178 million unique visitors per month. The majority access Yelp via mobile:

  • 90+ million monthly mobile web visitors
  • 33 million monthly mobile app users
  • 38 million monthly desktop visitors

While down slightly from its 2021 height of 192 million, likely due to post-pandemic shifts, Yelp still draws a sizable crowd. For context, YouTube sees over 2 billion monthly visitors, and Wikipedia about 1.7 billion.

Among the 178 million Yelpers, mobile dominates as the platform of choice. This aligns with trends of consumers reading reviews and searching for local businesses on the go. The Yelp app in particular retains around 33 million regular users tapping into ratings, photos, and directions at their fingertips.

Yelp’s website traffic also shows solid growth. Total visits to reached 141.4 million in March 2023, up 8% from the previous year. When browsing Yelp, users spend an average of close to 3 minutes per visit reading reviews before their stomach starts grumbling for a highly-rated burrito.

Who’s Writing Those Reviews? Older, Wealthier Americans

So who makes up the 178 million visitors scrolling through Yelp for pre-date night restaurant recon? According to Yelp’s demographic data, their audience skews older and more affluent compared to most websites.

Nearly 40% of Yelp users in the US are 55 years old or above. Another 34% fall into the 35 to 54 range. Only about 27% represent younger Millennial or Gen Z ages of 18 to 34.

In addition, a sizeable 57% of Yelpers report a healthy household income of at least $100k. 24% earn $60k to $99k, while just 20% make under $60k annually.

There are a few potential reasons why older generations and higher-income brackets dominate reviews:

  • Have more spending power. With ample disposable income and savings, older adults dine out frequently, hire contractors, and shop local – all categories ripe for reviewing.
  • Less digital savvy. While younger people turn more to Instagram and TikTok for recommendations, older generations rely heavily on tried-and-true Yelp.
  • Retired and free time. For empty nesters and retirees no longer working, things like restaurant-hopping and writing reviews become hobbies.
  • Higher standards. Wealthier consumers expect exceptional service and are quick to demand refunds or vent frustrations online.

No matter the reason, it’s clear the 35+ and six-figure income crowd provide the bulk of reviews shaping Yelp’s influential ratings and content.

Surprise – Most Yelpers Are Female!

Here’s another interesting Yelp demographic finding: women substantially outnumber men on the platform. Approximately 53% of Yelp members identify as female, compared to just 47% male users according to surveys.

Some jokingly refer to Yelp as the “mom app” given its popularity among middle-aged suburban women looking for highly-rated family eateries, salons, shopping boutiques, and service providers.

Others note how key life milestones for women like having kids, buying homes, or moving to a new town tend to correspond with increased Yelp usage as they hunt for trusted local businesses in the area.

While the gender divide is closing in younger generations, older women still appear most voracious in seeking crowdsourced reviews from fellow Yelpers.

Which Categories Get Yelped the Most? Home and Restaurant Leads the Pack

From music stores to medical clinics, users can find and review almost any type of business on Yelp. But a few categories consistently attract the highest number of ratings and reviews.

According to Yelp’s internal data, the #1 most reviewed business on the platform is Home & Local Services at 19%. This includes electricians, contractors, plumbers, house cleaners, landscapers, HVAC specialists and more.

Next is the always-popular Restaurants category, making up 17% of reviews. Shopping takes third at 15%, and Beauty & Fitness fourth at 11%.

Other top types of businesses reviewed are Food, Nightlife, Health & Medical, Automotive, Mass Media and Professional Services.

But why are home and restaurant-related services so commonly rated and reviewed compared to other industries? There are a few likely reasons:

High cost of hiring the wrong contractor: Botched home repairs can cost thousands of dollars to fix, so homeowners rely heavily on reviews to avoid nightmare contractors.

Dining seen as experience: Beyond just filling hunger, choosing the right restaurant is an important social experience people turn to reviews for.

Women frequent reviewers: Home services and dining out appeal especially to women who make up the bulk of Yelp reviewers.

Hyper-local nature: People use Yelp to find eats and services conveniently close to home, increasing reliance on reviews. Proximity breeds candid feedback.

No matter the driver, businesses should pay close attention to their Yelp ratings in these high-volume categories, as negative reviews can drastically deter potential customers. A few panned 1-star meals on a restaurant’s Yelp and reservations start drying up.

1 in 4 Buy Within Hours Thanks to Yelp’s Review Reassurance

How long does it typically take Yelp users to make a purchase after consulting the site’s reviews? For a sizeable 25% of shoppers, just a few hours!

According to Yelp, reviewing ratings provides the final push some people need to pull the trigger. 17% will complete their purchase within one day of browsing Yelp, and 35% within a week.

That means the majority of Yelp users decide on a business within hours or days thanks to crowd-sourced feedback. Quick purchase turnaround demonstrates the persuasive power reviews have in swaying decisions.

However, Yelp isn’t the only factor. 18% take over a month to mull options even after checking Yelp. And 3% buy more than a month later, showing other marketing and brand impressions also influence timelines.

But make no mistake, reviews can make or break businesses. Seeing a detailed five-star rating from another satisfied customer provides the social proof and assurance people need to spend their hard-earned money.

As a streamer always investing in new gear, I’ll admit I’ve bought products minutes after glowing reviews gave me the thumbs up. You can’t put a price on quality word-of-mouth.

Yelp Finds Its Biggest Audience Close to Home in the US

While Yelp operates globally in over 35 countries, its visitor traffic remains heavily concentrated in one key market: the United States.

A full 93% of Yelp’s website visitors come from the US, establishing the country as the platform’s stronghold. To put that into perspective, only around 56% of Wikipedia’s total traffic comes from the US, highlighting Yelp’s close ties with American consumers.

The UK, Canada, Australia and India round out the top 5 traffic source countries, but at very small shares of 1% or less each.

There are a few structural reasons why Yelp resonates so strongly with US audiences compared to other countries:

  • Cultural emphasis on consumer reviews: Americans seem more likely to consult and contribute crowd-sourced ratings.
  • Higher retail competition: The US has more restaurants and service businesses per capita than other countries, increasing reliance on reviews to compare options.
  • Tech savvy population: America has high smartphone penetration and digital literacy to use Yelp on the go.
  • Targeted marketing: Yelp concentrates ad budgets on US cities and partners with businesses here.

For now, Yelp seems positioned to remain the review leader for American consumers hungry for intel on the best local burrito spot. But the platform may need to broaden appeal abroad as review culture spreads globally.

The Temptation of Buying Reviews (And Why You Shouldn’t)

With 19% of consumers likely to use Yelp reviews as their top factor for purchasing decisions, the pressure on businesses to maintain glowing 5-star ratings is immense.

Unfortunately, this motivates some unscrupulous companies to take shortcuts like purchasing fake positive Yelp reviews. While this can temporarily boost a rating, it comes with huge ethical concerns and long-term risks.

Fundamentally, buying reviews deceives customers relying on legitimate feedback. It can also backfire badly if Yelp detects and removes paid posts, tanking ratings further. Brand reputations take a big hit once caught gaming the system.

My advice? Avoid fake reviews at all costs. While frustrating, there are ethical ways to improve poor Yelp ratings through consistently amazing customer service. Over time, authentic praise will come.

As consumers, we should also read ratings with a critical eye. Photos, check-ins, and reviews from veteran Yelp users typically signal more credibility.

Key Takeaways on Yelp and the Power of Reviews

In summary, key learnings on Yelp’s vital role in local business recommendations:

  • With 265 million reviews and counting, Yelp is the undisputed review leader, especially in high-risk categories like home services.
  • 178 million people visit Yelp monthly, over 90 million from mobile, revealing the importance of on-the-go access.
  • Users skew older and more affluent, shaping the content and influencer base.
  • 1 in 4 Yelpers buy within hours thanks to the reassuring nudge from crowd-sourced ratings.
  • Over 93% of traffic comes from the US, where review culture thrives.
  • Buying reviews may temporarily boost ratings but will destroy trust and reputation if caught.

For consumers, the bottom line is Yelp provides an immense database to tap into before purchasing. And for businesses, closely monitoring your Yelp presence and feedback is now a must to avoid losing prospects to highly-rated competitors.

So next time you’re on the hunt for a new restaurant for date night, you’ll know where to turn to for unfiltered reviews from fellow patrons. Yelp on!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.