By now, many have caught on to the fact that Google Places is now the new and improved Google+ Local. This is just one of the many changes that Google has made to help connect search and social. Being able to search locally is key to making Google search results relevant and to helping the search engine seem smaller than it really is. With that said, it was no surprise that Google decided to integrate this idea with Google+, but this integration changed a few things for users and businesses who are concerned with local results:
- You can use the “local” tab on Google+ to search and see local results.
- Free Zagat reviews are available for those who are using Google+ Local.
- You can filter your results based on reviews given by your Google+ connections.
While it came as no surprise that Google integrated local results with the social network, it was a bit of a surprise for many to see Zagat as part of the mix. Big names like Yelp and Amazon have been utilizing reviews very successfully for years, but Google has always been known for choosing the relevant results for you. This then begs the inevitable question, “Have these reviews really made a difference for users and/or businesses?”
Examining Zagat and Google+ Local
It first helps to understand how Zagat reviews work. Zagat allows customers to rate businesses on different categories. For example, someone may want to give a restaurant a 5 for its décor but only a 1 for its food. Zagat will then average all of the reviews and assign a score out of 30 for each category. The following video explains Zagat reviews for those who are unfamiliar with them:
Incorporating Zagat into Google+ Local has its ups and downs. While most agree that offering reviews for different businesses is a good idea, not everyone is thrilled with the Zagat system. It seems great at first glance, but there are a few things that seem to be hurting users:
- Restaurants: The scoring system is said to be great for restaurants but not quite as ideal for other businesses. In fact, Zagat began as a tool for reviewing restaurants.
- Click-Through Rate: Many businesses have reported that the Zagat reviews, even positive ones, have actually hurt their number of visitors. Many people are not as familiar with a rating system that is based on numbers instead of stars, and it can take a while to build up a large number of reviews, which causes uncertainty for many users.
- Overload: The reviews are more complex and detailed, which is good in the eyes of some, but many others seem to want to just click away.
In my opinion, Google made the right decision by working with Zagat. It will take some time to get used to the system, but as a user, I do feel that reviews of any kind are helpful.
Do you find the Zagat reviews helpful? Will you continue to resort to sites like Yelp, or will the new Zagat ratings suffice? I’d love to hear your thoughts!