If you are looking for online information and reviews of places to eat, go, and be entertained, then Yelp is for you. From its recent growth, we suspect several Monitor readers have already discovered Yelp.

Yelp was founded in 2004 but has seen dramatic growth in 2011. The explosion of smartphones has aided Yelp as users on the go check out the places they may be going to, or find new places to try. Yelp can be easily accessed from apps on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry devices and more.

Yelp recently announced plans of an early 2012 IPO and has hired Goldman Sachs and Citgroup to lead its IPO. Yelp had previously rejected an offer of $500 Million from Google in 2009. As a result of its forthcoming IPO, Yelp has made its performance far more visible. There were several interesting factoids including:

Yelp had 22 million reviews on its network in September, an increase of 66% over the comparable period in 2010.

The company’s website got 61 million unique visitors in September, up 63% over the year-ago period.

Five million mobile devices accessed Yelp in September.

There are 529,000 business locations that are on Yelp, up 114%.

The company posted $58.4 million in revenue for the first nine months of this year, up 80% over the comparable period in 2010.

Not too shabby.

The underlying reason for its recent success is the fact that online reviews are gaining steam and becoming more credible. Furthermore, more local businesses are beginning to advertise online. As previously mentioned, the growth of smartphones and other mobile devices is a big plus, as users are tapping into Yelp to get info and reviews about local businesses on the go.

The reviews are simple, yet effective. There’s a simple 5 star system. With roughly 2/3 of reviews getting 4or 5 star reviews and the remaining 1/3 garnering 3 stars of less,  there are a wide range of opinions. Combine that with the growing reviewer base (22 Million as of September), and Yelp now is a far more credible source of information than it might have been in its infancy.

The months ahead will be exciting for Yelp, whose time has come. Its value lies largely is substantially based on customer data for thousands of merchants in North America and Europe. Yelp is viewed as an important and growing link between local retailers and the internet and its users.

Big stuff ahead. We’ll be watching.