Last week Google purchased restaurant review publisher ZAGAT. It seems like an odd pairing at first, but as one thinks about it, the acquisition makes a lot of sense and will have a significant impact on local businesses across the world. So what does this mean for Google? In particular, Google Places?
Google is now a content publisher! This is a whole new chapter for Google and Google Places (which may see some changes soon). The message is clear: there is not enough local content (reviews) on Google Places!
Why Google created Places
In short, to help users find what they want, faster. The more thorough answer is that Google wants you to visit Google Places before you ever visit a business’ websites (if at all). With Places you can find a phone number, read reviews and find directions on one fast loading page. This then allows Google to serve relevant ads on their content network. The more content we see on Places the more signals Google ads will have. Think of it like the way Google suggests ads in Gmail based on the content of your emails. It’s likely that Google will use ZAGAT’s vast library of content to fill out Places and help trigger relevant ads on the Places page.
Last Week’s Announcement
Shortly after the buyout was announced the ZAGAT website put up a note from it’s founders Tim and Nina Zagat. The note has since been taken down, but here’s a screenshot for those of you who missed it.
What caught my eye about this note was the line: “this ‘dynamic duo’ plans to optimize the potential of the ZAGAT brand while offering ‘new ways’ for consumers to ‘express their opinions’ and ‘make informed decisions.’”
Google has acquired this wealth of content that will surely beef up Google Places listings, but it still needs users to generate content for businesses other than restaurant or hotels sectors i.e. beyond businesses that lend themselves to local reviews.
It wouldn’t be far off to assume that mobile will play a huge part in generating reviews. With the near ubiquity of smartphones, adding media such as videos and photos to reviews could be made very easy. Wise business owners may even want to put a QR code on their menu, or POP (point of purchase) display which drives people to a Places listing where they can write a review on their phone.
Next Steps for Google Places
The purchase of ZAGAT does make you wonder about what other content producers Google could integrate to help better Places listings. Sites like RateMDs and Yelp have been pulled in to Places reviews. Sites like the Better Business Bureau and Trip Advisor would help add to the user experience.
Lastly, there’s the advent of Google City Pages. These act like a guide book for a city. Check out Portland’s city page to get a taste of what’s to come!