The official Google blog says it all: the Mountain View tech monster bought Zagat, whose restaurant ratings are used and respected all over the world. Yelp should be worried.
Google says Zagat's 30 point rating system and will become the new cornerstone of Google's local-focused services.
With Zagat, we gain a world-class team that has more experience in consumer based-surveys, recommendations and reviews than anyone else in the industry. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat more than 32 years ago, Zagat has established a trusted and well-loved brand the world over, operating in 13 categories and more than 100 cities. The Zagats have demonstrated their ability to innovate and to do so with tremendous insight. Their surveys may be one of the earliest forms of UGC (user-generated content)-gathering restaurant recommendations from friends, computing and distributing ratings before the Internet as we know it today even existed.
Meanwhile, on the Zagat site, the company claims the new duo plans to "offer 'new ways' for consumers to 'express their opinions' and 'make informed decisions'." Sounds to me like Google plan to put the hurt on Yelp, who also combine ratings with user rants and recommendations. But while Yelp's number ratings are user-determined, Zagat's are determined by its own "surveyors." This will also be huge for Google Offers (which aspires to be a Groupon-killer), because it'll be able to back up its discount offers with testimonials and ratings about the food purveyor in question. Nice move, Google. [Google]