Product Marketing Manager Megan Stevenson revealed on her Google+ profile yesterday that Google is beginning to downplay the Zagat rating system on Google+ Local and other Google products in favor of a more simplified, standard metric.

“Today it’s easier than ever to write accurate, useful reviews on Google+ Local, thanks to the updated rating scale we rolled out,” explained Stevenson. “If you want to rate the food at a restaurant, or the quality of a mechanic, just choose “poor – fair,” “good,” “very good,” or “excellent”. Behind the scenes, we will convert your ratings into numbers and factor them into the business’ precise 30-point score that shows up in Google+, Search and Maps. “

SearchEngineLand’s Matt McGee said the change is “a good thing,” because “no one understands” Zagat scores. I beg to differ. The Zagat Survey once included over 70 cities, with roughly 250,000 reviewers since it began in 1979. In Manhattan, for example, practically every restaurant, nightclub, and business features a Zagat rating sticker out front next to its required health-grade notice. They primarily act as a guide-to-life for metro-dwellers, so I had mixed emotions when Google plucked up the revered company in 2011.

McGee said Google took “a big risk when it converted its entire local search/review system to a largely unfamiliar 30-point rating scale,” as  “consumers are familiar with five-point (or five-star) rating scales.” I will agree the five-point scale is more common; however, I do not think McGee should write off the entire world when he claims nobody understands the Zagat scoring system.

With that said, Google’s use of phrases—like “Very Good” or “Excellent”—to describe a business is very fool-proof. It requires less thinking and gets to the point rather quickly. So, while I do not wish to see Google ditch Zagat scores all together, I will concede that the new direction seems like a more user-friendly approach.

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