What Happened?

In an effort to supplement and bring greater credibility to Google Places, Google recently bought Zagat, a company that provides respected reviews for top restaurants across the world. Zagat is the most trusted and oldest restaurant review company and soon those reviews can be seen by anyone searching for restaurants on Google.

What is the Impact?

Short Term Impact

Short, short term there have not been any fundamental changes to Google places, but rest assured it’s coming. Expect more changes soon. One of the reasons Google bought Zagat is so that Google can publish the most reliable local restaurant reviews on the internet. This acquisition means that Google no longer has to pull and republish reviews of restaurants from other sites such as Yelp, Citysearch and Yahoo which they stopped doing in July 2011. This does not mean, however, that reviews on 3rd party sites are not important as Google continues to index and display this content, they are just no longer republishing 3rd party reviews on place pages.  Instead, Google now owns all of the rights to any review that Zagat already has on file and will likely be posting that content and soliciting new user generated content and reviews.

Long Term Impact

Through this latest acquisition, Google shows they are taking Local seriously. For several years now, Google Places was complacent product, with low-impact updates to listing format and search results. Google is telling their audience that not only is Local still important, but the reviews that appear on Google Places profiles are now extremely relevant to businesses and consumers. Customers take reviews seriously – so seriously that reviews will influence what online platform a person uses to make purchasing decisions.

Google spent a lot of money purchasing Zagat. That means that Google will place emphasis on local reviews (of restaurants and all businesses) to encourage people to use Google Places as their primary source for local information. But don’t expect Yelp and others to take this sitting down…the review wars are just beginning.

What Should You Do?

What does Google’s latest acquisition mean for the future of your business?

It’s Time to Pay Close Attention to the Reviews of Your Business

Reputation Management and Online Customer Service are not optional anymore. It’s a requirement for any business with an online presence.

If you don’t have an Online Reputation Management campaign in place, now is the time to do so. It’s imperative that you begin watching and reacting to the buzz about your business – both positive and negative reviews.

Reviews are an excellent barometer of how your business is seen in the eyes of your clientele. We strongly encourage all businesses to begin a reputation monitoring and management program to stay on top of the online conversations and take advantage of the opportunity to respond to comments on Google Places, Yelp, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, and even PissedConsumer.

It’s Time to Localize your Online Advertising

The businesses that were advertising and supported through Zagat will now be advertising on Google. Even if your business is not related to the restaurant industry, you can still take advantage of the increase in traffic to Google Places. Local Paid Search Advertising is affordable, targeted advertising. It’s an opportunity to reach your audience when they are actively looking for your products, services, and business.

It’s Time to Consider Mobile Advertising

Information from Google Places and other local profiles are also published to mobile devices. Local is now mobile! A truly integrated local strategy needs to include mobile tie ins as reviews are front and center with mobile applications and search results.