Google + Zagat = Local Search Success?

Let’s say you’re craving sushi on a Saturday afternoon. You could drive around for a while and hope you see something but sushi restaurants aren’t on every corner like Quik Trips no matter how much I might wish for that.  So naturally you Google “sushi bar” and see what pops up. Your search results may now be a bit more meaningful to you and your sea urchin with the recent announcement that Zagat and its new parent company Google (it was purchased for the bargain price of 150M last fall) will now become Google + Local. Zagat has long been a purveyor of ratings for all things restaurant, shopping, night life, hotels, resorts, spas and golf courses in about 100 countries around the world and Google is well, Google.

So if you’re logged into your Google + account and search for sushi you’ll find the reviews from the pals in your circles. Reviews will now follow Zagat’s grading scale of 1-30 based on décor, service, cost and oh yeah, food.

If you’re not on Google + or not signed in you’ll still see Zagat reviews and recommendations pop up while doing a search, but only if you’re signed in will you gain a deeper look at what moves your friends or restaurants that might be a best match for your taste.

But, you say, didn’t I already use that when it was called Yelp? Or for that matter Google Places?

Yeah, but now it’s Google + Local. See?

At first glance you’ll see that instead of some dude’s bad review that may or may not be justified, “I hate sushi but I went here anyway and it SUCKED!” you’ll now see the Google + friends whose opinions you probably trust. Except for Dave, who hates sushi so you give his review about a second of consideration.

“This takes any place that your friends have touched and provides you with interesting and relevant search results,” Avni Shah, director of product management at Google, told Mashable. “You can also filter based on aspects that might be important, such as ‘People Like You’ and really give you the information you need from the people you trust.”

But what if you don’t have a G+ account? This may be another way for Google to get you to sign up. You’ll now also have free access to the previously pay-only Zagat website if you’re G+Local user. Zagat has three decades of quality reviews, user-written content as well as surveys for tens of thousands places that can now be accessed for free and show up in searches without having to even visit the site.  Sounds pretty sweet doesn’t it?

The search results are also available on your smartphone as well. The capability is only available for Android phones now, but Google said it will roll out to iOS devices soon. Which only makes sense as many, many searches for food are done on the fly.

Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for local search and maps told the New York Times that 20 percent of all searches in Google are for nearby information — and 40 percent for those using mobile phones. Analysts have estimated that local online advertising is a growing market worth $140 billion per year.

“Getting local search right is important, and to do that you need great reviews,” Ms. Mayer said.

This highlights again the importance of the emerging and slippery-to-monetize mobile market. Google + has a far better product in it’s mobile app and if this combo  of food and search takes off the ad revenue chances are highly promising. Is this another potential nail in Facebook’s coffin? Stock price as of 6-14-12 at 1:30 pm is $27 bucks so who knows? Mark still can’t figure out a mobile Facebook app that won’t make you throw your phone.

The lingering and significant issue is that people still aren’t using Google + like they do Facebook. 100 million vs 900 million. And there’s still some debate on whether Google’s claim is “active users” or people who signed up and never went back. So if you’re friends aren’t on G+ how can you know how they felt about the last sushi they ate? You can use the “People Like You” option or you may be back to the user-generated reviews from people you don’t know, which isn’t always bad. Otherwise Yelp wouldn’t have millions of unique visitors each month.

So the next time you’re craving a good hearty helping of eel take a spin around Google+Local and let us know how you like it. The eel and your experience. And give us a call at Turn The Page Online Marketing. We can help you establish your social media presence so you can participate in the user-review showdown.

Author Amanda Hall

More posts by Amanda Hall

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