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Google takes another deep stab at Yelp by buying Zagat

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When Yelp denied Google’s $500 million bid to buy them in 2009, many believed that the location/reviews company was positioned to fight the search giant in their niche and win. That has been the case so far, but Google is making strides to change that, including today’s announcement that they had purchased the venerable restaurant resource and ratings company Zagat.

Restaurant reviews have always been the cornerstone of Yelp’s service. Most major restaurants are loaded with Yelp reviews and consumers tend to trust them more than they trust other online services. Zagat has been the exception, having a longer history of understanding the restaurant market and loading up with more premium content.

That content comes with a price – the website is subscription-based. In the short term, Google does not plan on changing that, but it’s only a matter of time. Google Places is one of the major focuses for the company from an advertising perspective and adding Zagat reviews directly into it may be enough to compete with Yelp on the restaurant front.

Here’s the full release from Google’s Marissa Mayer:

“Did you know there’s a place in Menlo Park near the Safeway that has a 27 food rating?” one of my friends asked me that about two years ago, and I was struck because I immediately knew what it meant. Food rating… 30 point scale… Zagat. And the place… had to be good. With no other context, I instantly recognized and trusted Zagat’s review and recommendation.

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.

With Zagat, we gain a world-class team that has more experience in consumer based-surveys, recommendations and reviews than anyone else in the industry. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat more than 32 years ago, Zagat has established a trusted and well-loved brand the world over, operating in 13 categories and more than 100 cities. The Zagats have demonstrated their ability to innovate and to do so with tremendous insight. Their surveys may be one of the earliest forms of UGC (user-generated content)—gathering restaurant recommendations from friends, computing and distributing ratings before the Internet as we know it today even existed. Their iconic pocket-sized guides with paragraphs summarizing and “snippeting” sentiment were “mobile” before “mobile” involved electronics. Today, Zagat provides people with a democratized, authentic and comprehensive view of where to eat, drink, stay, shop and play worldwide based on millions of reviews and ratings.

For all of these reasons, I’m incredibly excited to collaborate with Zagat to bring the power of Google search and Google Maps to their products and users, and to bring their innovation, trusted reputation and wealth of experience to our users.

(BTW, Kaygetsu, the place in Menlo Park, definitely lives up to its 27 food rating!)


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