Back in 2011, Google purchased restaurant review guide Zagat for $151 million as part of its push into local search, with the service long since a staple of Maps and Knowledge Panels. However, according to a new report, Google is looking to sell Zagat.
In an effort to improve its local reviews and compete with services like Yelp, Google has just launched a new service dubbed City Experts (via Engadget). The network is open to users on Google+ who have reviewed at least 50 places already and are located in select cities in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Japan. In order to remain in good standing, City Experts must provide at least five new reviews each month that meet Google’s guidelines of being well written, are three or four sentences long, and include an image.
Are you an expert on all the best places to eat, shop and play in your city? If so, then we want you to join the Google City Expert program and start receiving exclusive perks! The Google City Expert program brings together the most active users on Google Maps who write reviews and upload photos of local places. A
Those who meet all of these guidelines will be rewarded with exclusive invites to local events, “special online recognition”, and “custom swag”, which is Google-branded items.
Google also announced that its Maps API is used by over 1 million active sites and accessed by 1 billion unique visitors weekly.
Maps will now feature a 5 star rating system for locations across all platforms. Users can now swipe across results in a simple, gesture user interface. Zagat reviews are now more prominent with badges and cards simplifying its appearance. These cards now include a new Offers experience with partners including Starbucks.
Google Maps for Mobile also includes improvements to rerouting in transit and explore features. Google Maps for iPad was demoed during the keynote, which we expect to see this summer, and all of the updates will come to the iPhone and Android as well.
Maps on the desktop now includes a new fly-in view for supported locations, which is like a street view for specific landmark interiors. Public transit information on the desktop is now comparable side-by-side with standard transit and now features a new schedule view.
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.
“You can now share all of your favorite Chrome Web Store items with people in your Google+ circles by finding them in the Chrome Web Store and clicking the +1 button located in their store detail page,” wrote Software Engineer Hui Guo on the official Google Chrome blog.
Users can also review app, extension, and theme recommendations from friends in their Google+ circles by hitting up the ‘From your circles’ link under the left category menu on the Chrome Web store. If apps have been +1’d by people in a user’s circles, the indication will appear respectively on the Chrome Web Store to help folks pick an app. Those new to Google+ will notice suggestions from the Chrome team instead.
According to a recent report fromThe Wall Street Journal, Google is preparing to launch a new ad service and tools aimed at small businesses as soon as July. Noting that the new service was once called “Business Builder” internally, the report claimed it will consist of various products that have been developed by Google and technologies/services acquired through the purchases of over six companies at a cost of roughly half a billion dollars since last year. The source claimed Google is hoping the new service will bring in billions in new revenue each year.
A few of the acquisitions mentioned in the report include in-store loyalty program Punchd and SMS customer interaction serviceTalkBin. The service would also include aspects of AdWords Express, Google Offers, Google Wallet, and several new products.
So, today, I’m thrilled that Google has acquired Zagat. Moving forward, Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering—delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world.
That is an interesting play which I’m pretty sure no one was expecting. It gives Google a huge foothold in local and will certainly put Yelp, Open Table and company on the defensive and will also fit in nicely with its Offers service. Zagat’s statement below the fold: