How to Build a Website Like Yelp in 10 Steps

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Yelp is one of the OGs when it comes to online review platforms. With over 200 million monthly visitors searching for the best local businesses, Yelp has become a household name. But get this – over 175 million reviews have been posted on Yelp to date! People clearly love sharing their experiences to help guide others.

So here’s a business idea for you – create the next hot review site for your city or region! A platform where locals can discover hidden gem eateries, highly-rated salons, or trusted home services based on crowdsourced reviews. The best part is 77% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. So the demand is clearly there!

In this guide, we’ll explore step-by-step how to build your own website like Yelp. We’ll break down the key features, technology, design, marketing, and monetization tips to launch a booming platform. Whether you’re a developer or an entrepreneur, let’s team up to create a buzzworthy review site that users will rave about!

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What Kind of Website is Yelp: All You Need to Know About Business Directories

So what exactly is Yelp? In a nutshell, it’s an online business directory and review platform. The core purpose is to help people discover and learn about local businesses through crowdsourced reviews.

Yelp allows users to search for restaurants, shops, service providers, etc. in their area. You can read detailed reviews, see ratings, view photos, and get a feel for the business before ever stepping foot inside. Users can also post their own reviews about experiences at businesses.

But Yelp offers more than just reviews. There are community features where users can interact in forums, create their own profile pages, and share photos. Yelp also provides personalized recommendations of places you might like based on your browsing history and reviews.

Essentially, Yelp combines elements of business directories, review platforms, social networks, and recommendation engines. By bringing these together into a user-friendly interface, Yelp has become the go-to for discovering local gems before you try them out!

Yelp and its Story of Success

Yelp’s journey from scrappy startup to business review empire is super impressive. Let’s rewind to 2004 when founders Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons dreamed up the idea in San Francisco. Their goal was to create a fun and easy way for locals to find and review businesses in their community.

The early days were spent convincing business owners to list on this unknown site called Yelp. But over time, user-generated reviews and photos helped it take off. Flash forward to today, and Yelp gets over 200 million monthly visitors! They host over 200 million crowd-sourced reviews on businesses across 30+ countries.

Yelp went public in 2012 to access more funding for growth. The company has expanded globally through partnerships and acquisitions of competitors like Qype and SeatMe. They’ve also added features like waitlist integrations, food delivery, and the ability for businesses to promote themselves.

On the revenue side, Yelp makes money through advertising, paid services for businesses, partnerships, and data licensing. By balancing the needs of consumers, local businesses, and shareholders, Yelp has achieved unicorn status with a net worth of over $4 billion. It just goes to show the power of community-driven local recommendations!

Key Website Features to Include

User Profiles and Accounts

Allowing users to create accounts unlocks many benefits. Profiles include name, location, photo, and personal details to share with the community. Accounts enable features like:

  • Posting reviews – Share experiences at local businesses.
  • Follow businesses – Get updates from favorite spots.
  • Check-ins – Let friends know where you are.
  • Uploading photos – Add visuals to reviews and business pages.
  • Private messaging – Connect with other users.
  • Review likes/reactions – Engage with other reviewers.
  • Customized feeds – See reviews and businesses you care about.

Robust user-profiles and accounts provide the foundation for an interactive review community.

Business Listings Directory

Every business gets a dedicated page highlighting key information:

  • Name, address, and map location
  • Phone number, website link, menus/photos
  • Business hours, price range, parking details
  • Categories like cuisine, services offered
  • Average rating based on reviews
  • Feed of reviews from users
  • Option to call, get directions, or save the business

The listings directory serves as the go-to reference for information on each business.

Reviews and Ratings

Reviews are the heart of the platform. Features include:

  • Star ratings from 1-5
  • Sorting reviews (newest, highest rated, etc)
  • Details on when the customer visited
  • Breakdown of ratings on aspects like food, service, ambiance
  • Ability to upload photos/videos
  • Commenting and reacting to reviews
  • Flagging inappropriate content

Robust reviewing functionality allows users to share authentic experiences.

Search and Filters

Powerful search and filters help users easily find businesses:

  • Search by name, category, location keywords
  • Filter by neighborhoods, distance, price range
  • Filter by open hours, amenities like parking
  • Sort by review score, number of reviews, etc

Advanced search gives users granular control over local business discovery.

Recommendation Engine

The algorithm provides personalized suggestions based on:

  • Locations the user has visited
  • Businesses followed or saved
  • Past reviews and reactions
  • Category preferences like cuisine
  • Friends and influencers they follow

Recommendations introduce users to new businesses they may enjoy.

Community Forums

Discussion boards allow users to interact on topics like:

  • Seeking recommendations
  • Sharing experiences about businesses
  • Asking questions to the community
  • Posting news relevant to locals
  • Planning local events and meetups

Community builds loyalty among engaged users.

How to Create a Website Like Yelp: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Choose Programming Language and Web Framework

The first technical decision is to pick a programming language and web framework to build your platform. For a robust web app like Yelp, your best bets are Python or PHP. These languages have powerful full-stack frameworks that make development easier:

Python – Django framework
PHP – Laravel or Symfony framework

The frameworks provide ready-made components for things like user authentication, database integration, routing, templating, and more out of the box. This speeds up the development process substantially.

Django and Laravel also have great documentation and community support. There are tons of guides, tutorials, and pre-built packages to help implement common features like user logins and ratings.

When weighing Python vs PHP, here are some pros and cons:

Python Pros:

  • Easy readable syntax
  • Great for machine learning capabilities
  • Scales well for complex sites Cons:
  • Can be slower than other languages
  • Smaller talent pool than PHP

PHP Pros:

  • Built specifically for web development
  • Large talent pool results in lower costs
  • High performance for complex sites Cons:
  • Not as readable as Python
  • Not ideal for heavy number crunching

Ultimately, you can build a robust platform in either language. Consider costs, performance needs, internal skills, and scalability when deciding on Python vs PHP.

Step 2: Set Up the Database

Now it’s time to set up the database to store all your platform’s data. This includes user profiles, business listings, reviews, photos, and more.

For a site like Yelp, a relational database like MySQL or PostgreSQL is best suited for the job. These allow you to model data into structured tables and define relationships between them. For instance, you can link user accounts to their posted reviews via foreign keys.

The database should be hosted in the cloud via a provider like AWS RDS. This makes it easy to scale storage and computing power as your platform grows. Make sure to implement backups and clustering for high availability.

Once your database is hosted, you’ll define a schema and seed initial tables. A web framework like Django can handle connecting to the database and running queries to power the backend.

Step 3: Build User Profile and Account Registration

Let’s start bringing the platform to life by allowing user registration. Use the framework’s authentication system to handle secure account creation with properties like:

  • Email
  • Password
  • Name
  • Location
  • Profile photo
  • Bio

For profile photos, enable image uploads to cloud storage like S3 or Firebase.

After registration, prompt users to flesh out their profiles. Additional fields can include interests, social links, and the ability to follow other users.

Allow profile customization by letting users edit the name, photo, bio, and other attributes after registration.

Step 4: Create Business Listing Pages

Now it’s time to build out directory pages for each business. These will display:

  • Business name, address, and map location
  • Photos
  • Description, hours, and contact info
  • Categories like “Thai Restaurant”
  • Price range, amenities, and parking

Enable business owners to register and “claim” their listing to manage it. They can update information like hours, add photos, and respond to reviews. Make sure to verify they actually own the business before granting access.

Users should be able to save/bookmark business listings they like and follow them for updates. Allow sharing to social media right from the listing.

Step 5: Implement Reviews and Rating Functionality

Here comes the fun part – building out reviews and ratings! The cornerstones are:

  • Star ratings on a 1-5 scale
  • Review text body field
  • Title field for summary
  • Photo/video uploads
  • Control reviews by registered users only

Allow sorting and filtering reviews in different ways – highest rated, most recent, etc. Moderators should approve reviews before publishing to prevent abuse.

Enable reactions like “Useful”, “Funny”, or “Cool” on reviews to surface the most helpful ones. Users can also report inappropriate or fake reviews.

Review reminders prompt users to rate businesses they’ve visited to keep content fresh. Gamification through achievements and points can help drive engagement.

Step 6: Develop Robust Search and Filtering

It’s now time to make the platform easily searchable. Build out:

  • Search box with autocomplete prompts
  • Filters by category, location, price range, etc
  • Sorting by review score, distance, popularity
  • Location-based searches to find nearby businesses

Leverage the database and geo-indexing for high-performance search. Return paginated results for better UX.

Prioritize businesses who have claimed their listing and purchased advertising in results. Enable paid promotions for boosted visibility too.

Step 7: Create a Recommendation Engine

Provide personalized recommendations to help users discover new spots. The algorithm can suggest businesses based on:

  • Saved/liked businesses
  • Review History
  • Category preferences like “Italian restaurants”
  • Location history like “businesses visited in SoHo”
  • Friends and influencers they follow

Recommendations should adapt over time based on new reviews, likes, and activities. Focus on businesses with sufficient reviews for accuracy.

Step 8: Build Community Discussion Forums

Now foster a community with discussion forums. Enable threads on topics like:

  • Seeking business recommendations in an area
  • Sharing a new find or experience
  • Asking questions to locals
  • Planning local events and meetups
  • Debating neighborhood issues
  • Posting news and articles

You can either build custom forums or integrate an existing solution like Discourse. Use moderators and filters to prevent spam and abuse.

Step 9: Develop the Admin Backend

A robust admin portal helps manage key tasks:

  • Reviewing and approving new businesses
  • Monitoring and responding to user reviews
  • Issuing points and badges to top reviewers
  • Blocking abusive accounts and content
  • Managing advertising and paid promotions
  • Viewing site analytics like traffic and engagement

Build a user-friendly backend your moderators will love using day-to-day. Automate tasks like review moderation where possible.

Step 10: Marketing and SEO

You’ve built an amazing platform, now get users on it! Some top promotion strategies:

  • Search engine optimization through keywords, content, backlinks
  • Social media marketing through visual storytelling
  • Email collection and nurturing campaigns
  • Partnerships with influencers and local businesses
  • Paid advertising through Google/Facebook Ads
  • Promotions like giving points for reviews left

continuously A/B test your marketing to maximize conversions. Analyze user feedback and app store reviews to refine the platform.

…And that’s a wrap! By following these steps, you can go from an idea to a fully-functional Yelp clone. Stay tuned for more on handling hosting, monetization, scaling, and more. Let me know if you have any other questions!

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Review Platform like Yelp

Bringing any idea to life takes investment, and a crowdsourced review platform is no exception. But how much exactly does it cost to build the next Yelp? Let’s break it down.

On the technology front, you’ll need developers to build the platform, servers to host it, and design work for the UI. Most of the budget will go toward the core web and mobile app development. For an MVP with basic features, expect around $30,000-$40,000.

There are also ongoing costs like content moderation, customer support, and marketing. Factors like custom visual design, advanced features, and the platform’s scale significantly increase the overall budget.

All said and done, the average cost to build and launch a full-fledged Yelp clone is around $60,000.

The good news is that over time, revenue streams like advertising, transaction fees, and premium subscriptions can help offset the upfront development costs. Plus, starting with a barebones MVP allows you to validate the idea without breaking the bank.

While $60,000 is no small sum, it takes significant technology and effort to develop a trustworthy review platform on Yelp’s scale. With smart scoping and promotion, it can become a valuable local business resource that pays dividends.


After this deep dive, we’ve assembled the ingredients needed to whip up your own Yelp clone!

To recap, the core components are user profiles, business listings, reviews and ratings, search and filters, recommendations, community features, and robust admin tools. Combining these elements in a user-friendly interface can help you build a thriving hub for local business discovery and reviews.

Yelp’s phenomenal success story highlights the opportunities in online recommendations. With the right mix of technology and marketing, your platform can become the go-to spot that connects people to great local businesses.

Ready to turn your idea into reality? The team at Zipprr would love to partner with you! Their full-stack developers and designers have years of experience building top-rated web and mobile apps. Get in touch for a free consultation on bringing your Yelp-like platform to life the right way. It’s time to make reviewing local businesses fun, easy, and rewarding again!

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

Allow businesses to claim and update listings for free initially to build inventory. Offer paid verified accounts later. Partner with local associations to promote the site to their members. Run promotions like free trials for first-time advertisers. Reach out directly to educate businesses on managing their online presence and reputation.

Advertising through sponsored listings and display ads is a major revenue stream, as is charging subscriptions for premium features. If enabling transactions, take a small commission. Licensing reviews and data to third parties can provide passive income. Aim for diversified streams like advertising, subscriptions, and transaction fees.

Quality templates enable the quick, low-cost launch of an MVP. Customize the colors, fonts, and layout to match your brand. Long-term, prioritize custom homepage and core page designs to perfect the user experience as the platform matures.

Start by focusing on gaining a share in one city, establishing your reputation, and building hyperlocal insights. Once thriving in a single region, gradually expand to cover nearby cities. Starting localized lays the groundwork for a successful broader reach long-term.

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    Aditi Krishnan

    Aditi Krishnan is a custom software development expert with over 5 years of experience in designing and building applications. She is currently a Lead Developer at Zipprr, a fast-growing software development company based in Cleveland, USA. Aditi specializes in Java, Python, and web technologies like ReactJS. Some of her past projects include developing internal tools for a logistics unicorn and building custom CRMs for Austrian SMEs. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, cooking experimental dishes and is currently learning coding in Rust.