Zagat has recently made moves to expand their ratings from food / travel into new verticals - eg rating doctors.
Have to assume that Google foresees expanding the Zagat ratings quickly to all things local.
The Zagat "brand" resonates huge as a trusted consumer brand and having that rating attached to listings (exclusively) makes Google's search results more meaningful than competitors (the perception anyways).
Reference - http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/wellpoint-taps-zagat...
This buy is something Yahoo or AOL would do. Google didn't buy a technology or a business model. It bought content, an address book, and a logo. Very un-Google.
If Google's technology isn't good to compete with Yelp and Groupon, what makes it think it will be any better after buying up someone else's operation that can't compete either.
To quote Vic Gundotra, 'Two turkeys do not make an Eagle'
Google (or any of us, for that matter) can spend all day building the greatest, fairest, most accurate restaurant review system known to man - but it will still be of utterly no use unless there is a critical mass of restaurants and customers who are willing to trust it and, more importantly, use it.
Bootstrapping a trusted content source is really hard (hard in the "nobody knows how to do it reliably" way, not just hard in the "it takes a lot of work" way). If you want to break into this market, simply buying said critical mass is much easier (and much less time-consuming). Whatever crazy technology you have can be layered on top.
I know Zagat as that magazine that fast food places brag about getting high ratings from (KFC ran commercials for a while claiming a #1 rating from them).
I don't see this as a great purchase for Google either. They already put business reviews from other websites on their listing pages. I have seen Zagat ratings on various pages. Why couldn't they just pull it in also instead of buying the company?
I was certain zagat was made up by Ellis for his book.
I'd never seen it until I moved to the bay area, where a 'Zagat rated' usually means "Yes, this is a chain, but we pretend really hard that it's not fast food."
Weather search? Google gives you weather info right in the SERP. Stock search? Same thing. News search? Hrm.
Restaurant search? Why hand all of the revenue from these search results to advertisers and only take a slice of it for the adwords (or NONE from organic results)?
If a lot of people search for it and companies are making money, Google is at least discussing whether they should own the content/service at the top of the search results.
Only because they focus on a niche. If they start expanding their ratings to other areas, it could weaken their brand. Rating doctors? Unless we're talking Beverly Hills plastic surgeons, I'd have trouble taking them seriously.
Let's think about it. Instead of buying Zagat, Google could propose a distributed protocol (or microformat/schema for HTML) to publish a review and then they could just wait for it to catch on and then crawl that. But that is not going to help users today. Plus they've already scraped reviews from other sites and that just caused those sites (Yelp) to become very upset that their reviews are being shown on Google place pages (despite the fact they could always robot-out Places specifically).
Encouraging high-quality content on the web is not out of vogue at Google -- this would be silly because the #1 reason people still use Google is to find content on the web. However, it's not surprising to me that given the option to improve Google local quality today they would make an acquisition like this. If you were in Marrisa Mayer's position, what decision would you make?
The only interest that would conflict with Google's is one that made people stop using their website.
(Disclaimer: I work for Nokia, which competes with Google on geographic search.)
Other than the ability for others to compete, is there another reason you find this troubling?
I love Zagat's core business idea — they were a significant inspiration for our LA Life neighborhood ratings. In fact, I've been looking at opportunities to do similar capsule reviews but creating them using existing reviews from other sites instead of survey data. I have to think this is where they're moving now as a part of Google, but it's not like I'm a Google VP.
This all seems to make sense. The Thomas Bros. map books were ubiquitous in California when I was growing up but have basically been replaced with Google Maps. Now the old burgundy Zagat guidebook is going this way. Glad to see Tim and Nina and their team will have a guiding hand in its replacement.
Google, please go back to innovating. People like you because you do new and exciting things, not because you have your hand in every business sector. Giant acquisitions like this and MoMo help nobody.
Edit: I'm not trying to say Google shouldn't protect their business, but I, at least, would prefer them to do it through innovation rather than buying giant companies.
I thought Google was about finding more people and opportunities to advertise to.
What exactly do you mean by this? Is this purchase somehow cutting Google off from people? Making Google somehow less accessible?
The problem with "mass" review sites like Google Places or Yelp is that they're reactive -- they don't solicit reviews (and in fact discourage that in some cases). So people generally review only when motivated to do so (either positively or negatively), giving a relatively unbalanced result.
Hope Google can keep the Zagat spirit alive and well...!
1. How much do I respect my competitors?
2. If Google does get them, will they do better or worse?
It's not a matter of hoping Google will go away. Once they've signaled intent to be a part of your business, you can be sure they will, one way or another.
Zagat employs people to actively review restaurants. That's fine for people who have the same taste as Zagat, but it's only one filter and arguably not very scalable.
Hotpot otoh is more like Pandora for restaurants. I rate restaurants and it gives me recommendations for stuff that aligns to my taste as calculated from others who share my taste. It provides a much better filter and actually gets better as more people use it, which is the best kind of scalable. This also seems like a more innovative and Googly way to do this.
1) reviews from your friends (hotpot)
2) reviews from food critics (zagat)
3) reviews from the general public (yelp)
So it makes sense to me that hotpot will continue to live where it is (and most likely get turned into a +1 sort of thing so that it can also work with G+)
It's not like there's one person per city, Zagat uses input from tons of people. It's also consistent, you don't have to wonder if the glowing review was written by the owner like you do on Yelp. Zagat gets people to pay for access to their reviews, that in itself should tell you something. Even better, Google will surely make them free, likely with some innovative tie-ins with Maps and Places.
They work hard to make the user feel like they kick ass at reviewing places. More recently, they also work hard at crooked schemes to blackmail hard-working business owners if you believe those reports, which I certainly don't. But they started with finding every way to make their review writers feel valued.
These days, people who seek to engage users like Yelp has done for years do it in the name of "gamification". It should be done just to give people proper feedback for having written a 500-word review for no money.
When I want to find something to eat close-by, Yelp is perfect. Yes, Zagat integration takes away the need to switch from Yelp to Google Maps to get directions, but that's not a big pain point for me.
It's definitely something cool to add, but I'm not sure it will be as effective as they think it will.
I just cant imagine Google wanting to go out to each of these restaurants themselves...a very difficult proposition, even with Zagat's team.
However, I think it'll bring up an interesting point that we'll begin to see more and more of as Google continues to acquire companies - will they leverage SEO to make their own constituencies appear higher in search results than their competitors (i.e. Zagat higher than Open Table, Yelp, etc.)? Where does that fall in the ethics/morals side of things?
Interesting that if you own the means to information, you can choose what information people find (and thus, the decisions they make).
I associate Zagat with mediocre restaurants and a de-emphasis on food quality in favor of decor, etc. In other words, a Zagat sign on the door is a neutral or negative signal in most cases.
Plus the brand is trusted, so it's a good move from the PR perspective alsy.
Admittedly I haven't tried as their site runs off a "pay to see the full content of this review" model.
The Michelin Guide is actually a 'bunch of reviews written by a handful of writers', which isn't a bad thing in my opinion. Every restaurant I've been to that's even been Michelin rated has been superb.
Zagat has always used a crowd-sourced model, collecting customer reviews and publishing them in book form. They haven't really adapted this as well online (I'm sure this is where Google will give them a huge boost), but their approach was always UGC before people talked about UGC.