Yelp to businesses: Deal with our users yourselves!

Reviews site launches Yelp for Business Owners, which encourages companies to monitor activity on their pages and communicate with users who've reviewed them.

Yelp, the business reviews site famed for a vociferous user base willing to be brutally honest about the quality of their local restaurants, bars, bookstores, dog groomers, adult gift shops, and what-have-you, has launched a new service for those business owners to interact with the site's users.

Called "Yelp for Business Owners," the section of the site lets business owners register for special Yelp accounts, which they then need to verify by phone. Once registered, they have access to some analytics (namely to see how many people have been viewing their business page), receive e-mail alerts when they have new reviews, update public data like their hours of operation or contact information, and message the users who have already reviewed their business.

While Yelp will not charge for business owner accounts, it's a way for the company to get more eyes on its ad-supported site.

The service will likely have its biggest splash in San Francisco, where the start-up is based and where "Yelper" has become a mild pejorative among some restaurant and cafe owners.

Elsewhere, it might not have quite the effect. I live in New York, where the food and hospitality industries seem to have a bigger problem with influential food bloggers rather than reviews sites, and the IAC-owned Citysearch is still the online directory of choice for many.

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