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Yelp took a big step today that it had previously avoided for years: allowing mobile users to write reviews directly from their mobile devices.  Recently tested through a selection of elite Yelp users, the feature is available starting today to all users of its iOS apps (Android coming soon) in all 22 countries where it operates.

As mentioned, Yelp has avoided going down this road for a few years. Instead, it allowed mobile users to upload pictures and leave “Tips”.  Tips are essentially an abridged review (think of it like a Tweet) that serves as a reminder to expand into a long-form review when back at desktop computer or laptop.

Tips are also separated from reviews on Yelp, so as not to taint reviews with the perceived quality detriments of mobile content generation. And that’s precisely why the company has avoided mobile reviews until now: “Text-speak” (LOL, GR8, ROFL, etc.) is something it didn’t want to pepper it’s valued long-form reviews.

As I’ve discussed with Yelp execs in the past, there’s also something to be said for managing the emotionally-charged reviews that can result from a restaurant critique made on the spot. Getting back to one’s laptop or desktop can allow some time to cool off, thus creating a more thoughtful review.

So why is Yelp now changing its tune?  The above factors are still very much at play, however a tipping point has finally been reached for the competitive pressures that outweigh them. Foursquare, Groupon and others going down the road of mobile local reviews have compelled Yelp to play ball.

Stepping back, it’s also a testament to Yelp’s continued emphasis on mobile. During its quarterly earnings a few weeks ago, the company announced the continued escalation of search volume share happening on mobile devices — now at 59 percent. 40 percent of its local ads are also now shown on mobile.

And stepping back even further, it’s interesting to note Yelp’s momentum in its recent announcements. These include solid quarterly earnings, deeper ownership of table reservations (SeatMe acquisition), entrance into food delivery ( partnership), and entrance into home service bookings (ReachLocal partnership).

The company is certainly on a roll as it looks to continue to redefine itself in a fast moving mobile local space with competition from Foursquare, Groupon, and Facebook. The game has shifted towards converging SMB marketing and operational offerings (i.e. scheduling, CRM), which can be seen in Yelp’s move towards transactional tools.

We’ll discuss lots of this at our SMB Digital Marketing Conference in exactly one month. We hope to see you there: Email me if you want a discount code to attend (, or if you want to set up a meeting at the show.

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