As of this morning, Google has officially bought Zagat, the internationally recognized review company that surveys consumers on their experiences at restaurants, hotels, stores, and many other service-oriented businesses to give them a score based on their 30 point scale. Zagat has been a review provider for over 30 years, long before the advent of other review based companies such as Yelp or Trip Advisor, and this long standing credibility with consumers is just part of the reason that Google was interested in acquiring it. The two main reasons why Google is interested in buying Zagat are two lines of reasoning that business owners should be paying close attention to–that Google is aggressively pursuing location based, local markets, and that it is also switching focus to not only organizing content online, but creating content for consumers to utilize.
1. Local Search As An Increased Focus For Google: When Google tried to buy Groupon, industry experts started commenting on how Google appeared to be switching focus from being the content organizer for the whole online world, to trying to gain more traction in the local services market as the go-to source of quality information. Now, with the purchase of Zagat, Google has more than confirmed their new focus on becoming a local service provider and pushing their local products (such as Google Places or Google Maps) over those of their local service competitors like Yellowbook and Yelp. Local businesses should take note of this new merger and start looking at how they appear rating-wise on Zagat, and other Google local service listings, in addition to their reviews on Yelp….and making sure that they are doing everything they can to have good ratings on Google and their affiliated products. This is because Google can effectively wash third party local service providers like Yelp by pushing out their own review systems ahead of them in search results, now that they own Zagat. Business owners need to make sure that they are able to respond to changing times and systems, and this shift towards local search focus by Google is one that they must pay attention to, and change their marketing plans to accommodate for.
2. Google Becoming a Content Provider Instead of Just Organizer of Content: Google’s algorithm is a system of organizing websites and content to provide a consumer with the most accurate search results possible for their query. Yet, organizing content does not have as much influence as creating content, and Google has sought to rectify this issue by moving in that direction with projects such as starting an online magazine called “Think Quarterly,” and now by buying Zagat in order to gain a better foothold in content providing industries. This is also something that businesses should take particular note of…if Google will be providing their own content in the future that will be indexed and promoted by them on their search engine, how can one’s business compete with this new obstacle to first page placements? The answer is–by providing quality content that is heavy in terms of length or media. Any content written in blog posts should be topics of interest to consumers (i.e. NOT fluff pieces about the business) , and should be a minimum of 1,000 words. By creating content that is lengthy and that is useful, businesses can bolster themselves in the rankings in comparison to those who simply put out information in order to boost their rankings without focusing on the quality of content–the latter will not be able to compete with Google becoming a content provider, but the business that provides thoughtful material will. Also, it is important to try an incorporate as much media as possible in websites, blogs, and articles (i.e. videos, audio files, social media tags, etc) in order to provide a user experience that is as interactive as possible. This will also help to make a business stand out in the rankings when compared with Google’s development of content, because it is quality based. This is truly one of the main reasons that Google is becoming a content provider–in order to increase the quality of online search results (and of course become an even bigger center of influence and information).
If the focus on online efforts turns to quality, and not just quantity of information out their about a business, a company can adapt well to how online search is changing. How search engines rank websites might change, but quality content and a focus on customer service will always prevail.