As more consumers look to the local business review and rating site, Yelp, merchants and service providers are finding themselves reviewed like never before. Yelp was founded in 2004 and built “to help people find great local businesses like dentists, hair stylists and mechanics.” From 2007, site reviews grew from less than one million to about four million by 2008.

Initially, Yelp seemed to spark popularity for restaurant and coffee shop reviews, but the range of businesses being reviewed has increased dramatically as its number of visitors has increased. Do a local search on Yelp now and you’ll find reviews for practically anyone who sells goods or provides a service, from moving companies to psychiatrists.

Many companies who’ve heard about Yelp have signed up for their free account, manage their profile and — if their smart — attempt to manage customer feedback. This includes damage control, when a customer leaves a negative review. Yelp allows businesses to comment on reviews and send messages to reviewers. Often, a reviewer will update negative feedback with a positive comment about how the business apologized or compensated for some lack of service. Some businesses take it a step further and ask their customers right after purchase to leave a review on Yelp.

Sadly, it also seems that some businesses aren’t yet informed about Yelp or don’t care about negative reviews. And that can hurt them. A co-owner of a San Francisco based moving company says, “Oh that Yelp….I don’t pay any attention to it.” I’m guessing he didn’t like what some people had to say (and some reviewers can be harsh with their comments). Unfortunately, what business owners like this fail to realize is that customers care about what others are saying and they’re making informed decisions on what businesses to patronize from Yelp reviews.