Google beefs up local reviews with purchase of ZAGAT

Google has bought successful restaurant/entertainment review publisher ZAGAT.

The move is likely to make Google Places an even more trusted authority for local, user-generated reviews. Google Places scours the web for any information it can find about every business with a mailing address. It pre-populates information like pictures, descriptions, addresses, telephone numbers, etc. With Google’s purchase of ZAGAT, all of that content is likely to find its way on to Places (if not upcoming Google+ brand profiles).

ZAGAT was founded in 1979 and published its first guide on New York City dining. On their website a note from founders Nina and Tim ZAGAT states that Google and ZAGAT plan to “optimize the potential of the ZAGAT brand while offering ‘new ways’ for consumers to ‘express their opinions’ and ‘make informed decisions.'”

This underscores the importance of reviews for local business owners. Clearly Google found that there are not enough reviews out there, and purchased ZAGAT to kick-start a push for quality reviews to make their way to the web.

What’s interesting is how ZAGAT and Google will offer consumers new ways of expressing their opinions. The possibilities are endless, but surely mobile will play a big role in populating this content. Imagine taking a picture of your meal, adding a video about how great it was and then rating it based on food, décor, service and overall value.

In the meantime, take this as inspiration to ask your customers for a review on Google Places, even try offering an incentive. A little word of mouth goes a long way.