Google, Zagat and Yelp: A Reviews Perfect Storm
By now you may be aware that Google made another purchase yesterday. This time they jumped into the deep end of the places review game by buying the venerable review service Zagat’s. They have made no bones about what this means to the Google local offering which is still in flux and coming together one purchase and baffling systems change at a time.
The Google blog post from Google’s VP of Local, Maps and Location Services, Marissa Mayer tells us
So, today, I’m thrilled that Google has acquired Zagat. Moving forward, Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering—delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world.
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.
For all of these reasons, I’m incredibly excited to collaborate with Zagat to bring the power of Google search and Google Maps to their products and users, and to bring their innovation, trusted reputation and wealth of experience to our users.
In a rather funny moment, when asked by Search Engine Land’s Greg Sterling whether these reviews would be showing up in Google Places Mayer was non-committal. Uh, how else will these reviews become a cornerstone of local for Google? But anyway …….
What is even more interesting is Yelp’s response to the purchase. The tweet below comes from Luther Lowe who is part of Yelp’s Business Outreach and Public Affairs efforts.
Sounds like someone who is either too hip to realize what sounds whiny (that is like a disease these days) or someone who is a bit concerned about Google’s move. It’s likely both since Yelp often lives up to the true definition of their name (noun – A short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm, verb – Utter such a cry) by barking about the unfairness of Google using their reviews (which they no longer do) while depending on Google for a fair amount of their traffic. They have also been dragged into court by businesses who claim that Yelp uses extortion tactics to have bad reviews “adjusted”. From the business side Yelp is annoying for sure but their users don’t’ care. In all though, the classy thing to do would have been to acknowledge the purchase and congratulate Google on truly entering the review space. Confident reads much better than wiseass but I doubt Yelp gets that theory.
For sure, these two ratings services are like night and day. Zagat’s has been around for over 30 years and publishes a book (which Google is saying will continue to be published via subscription) while Yelp is an Internet only player that has made its mark in the space very quickly. Yelp in the past has rebuffed an offer to be purchased by Google as well.
So all in all this is a good thing for the review space. Now Google can remove itself from any dependence it has on outside review sources and use the Zagat name or whatever they choose to make Google Reviews more prominent. We won’t need to hear the constant back and forth between the two companies about fair use of content.
To be sure, Google is the underdog in this play because they need to play catch up with Yelp and that won’t be easy especially considering Google’s track record of buying companies then announcing that they have thrown the carcass away just a short period of time later.
How do you see this move by Google? Is it something for Yelp to be worried about or is Google just making its own shrill noise in the reviews space?