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Yelp clicks into Aus with Telstra

Carrier set to Google-fy its directories arm

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American local-business recommendation site Yelp is coming to Australia via a strategic partnership with Telstra’s directories arm, Sensis.

Yelp will integrate Sensis’ Yellow Pages local business listing data into its site, while Sensis' local sales force will launch yelp.com.au into the Australian market.

Sensis will also syndicate Yelp content, ratings and reviews to yellowpages.com.au, Yellow Pages mobile and the Yellow Pages iPhone application.

Neither party has revealed financial details of the partnership, but with Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman recently confirming that an IPO was on the cards within two years, the move may be the first stirrings of a long-anticipated spinoff of Sensis.

Sensis CEO Bruce Akhurst said “we are extremely pleased to have created a unique partnership with a world leader like Yelp that will see us work side-by-side to bring such an exciting proposition to Australia. This is particularly exciting when we consider the huge upside to new and existing Yellow Pages customers who will be able to be found by more potential customers on yelp.com.au.”

The Yelp business, which has expanded from the US to Canada, the UK, Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, would help Sensis expand beyond its dull and declining directories business.

This month, Yelp hit 20 million user generated reviews and claimed 53 million monthly visitors. The site has operating for six years, but enjoyed most of its growth in the last 18 months, doubling its reviews from 10 million in March 2010 to 20 million this June.

Yelp is also prolific on mobile, launching its first iPhone app in 2007. The app enjoys 4.5 million users monthly, with those mobile customers drive 35% of the company’s search traffic.

This nexus between mobile and web directory seachability is another reason Sensis was so keen to take on the business.

In the US, the company has also recently launched a group buying offering branded Yelp Deals which allows customers to search for coupons and deals on local services. This combo of aggregation of local business data and the provision of targeted deals, would also appeal to the evolving Sensis business model, which is trying to leverage its vast a local business data in more social media and advertising revenue accretive way.

Yelp’s Stoppelman said “expanding Yelp to Australia is a very exciting endeavour for us, especially as this represents our first collaborative effort with a media company. Partnering with Sensis enables us to establish a strong local presence and quickly form relationships with businesses throughout Australia.”

The duo expect that yelp.com.au will be fully operational by the end of 2011 with Sensis’ Yellow Pages media advisors offering Yelp advertising options to customers in 2012. ®

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