If you talk to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, he always likes to point out how many reviews there are on Yelp. It’s a point of pride and competitive differentiation. Even Google Places, which borrows liberally from Yelp reviews, seems to think so.
Today, Yelp crossed 20 million reviews, up from 10 million in March, 2010 (and 17 million last April). The reviews bring in the visitors, and visitor growth tracks pretty closely with the growth in reviews. Yelp hit 53 million visitors in June, according to its own stats.
It took about 6 years for Yelp to get to 20 million reviews. Yelp was founded in 2004, and it took two and a half years to get to its first million reviews (in May, 2007). Then it took roughly another three years to get to 10 million (March, 2010), and then added this last 10 million in a year and a quarter.
Yelp focusses so much on reviews, and trying to get quality user reviews, because everything else can be replicated. With so many places databases popping up, creating a directory of local businesses is easier than ever, but Yelp has always been about the user reviews as a sorting mechanism to find the best places nearby.
Stoppelman is so protective of Yelp’s reviews that he still won’t allow mobile users to upload reviews from their phones because he wants them to be well thought-out. (You can add tips, however, from mobile). They also tend to be lengthier than what you’d get from mobile reviews. At 2.2 billion words overall, that comes to an average of 110 words per review. If he loosened up on that restriction, Yelp could have 50 million reviews in no time.