In its continued effort to capture more of the online local marketplace, Google announced the acquisition of Zagat for an estimated 200 million dollars.
For those of you who may not know, Zagat was the Yelp of yesteryear whose reviews could make or break a business. Formed three decades ago by Tim and Nina Zagat with the notion that “normal” people could review a restaurant or hotel, it revolutionized the way consumers made choices. It doesn’t seem that long ago when travelers would never think of venturing on vacation or to a restaurant without their little burgundy book and its short and witty reviews.
This acquisition of Zagat is another sign that Google wants to (control the world), I mean to crack the local business market and to keep competitors like Facebook from gobbling up a share of the estimated $140 billion that small businesses spend on local advertising each year. Google wants to become the go-to guide for consumers researching local businesses.
It also reinforces Google’s emphasis on unique, relevant content; reviews; and consumer participation as part of a good user experience. Marissa Mayer, in charge of Google’s local strategy, comments that “Zagat is something where the Google spirit, format and process of reviews come together, I just love the user-generated content nature of it.”
What this will mean to those of us who focus on Local SEO is still unknown. My hunch is that those SEO companies that focus on good, unique content and on providing a good user experience for both small businesses and consumers will probably fare ok with this new acquisition and the on-going strategy changes at Google.