Zagat rated The Meatball Shop in New York City as a "well-executed" single item restaurant, and gave it 25 out of 30 points. Google+ users were far less tepid: "This place rules," "Had a blast," "definitely lives up to the hype!" This is Google+ Local, Google’s answer to Yelp, which Google unveiled earlier this week. It appears as a tab in the Google+ window. Google+ Local replaces its Google Places product, and it combines Zagat reviews (Google bought the 32-year-old local guide publisher last September) with user reviews.
Business owners create their own Google+ pages (if they have not done so already through Google Places), and will find a more photo-friendly, review-focused layout than they did on Google Places.
While Google emphasizes the value to local businesses, nothing stops, for example, an Olive Garden in New York from listing itself, to appear in searches alongside The Meatball Shop.
The Zagat content, which was a premium service before the Google acquisition, appears on a business page, and is now free. A smart move by Google, believes Econsultancy, as “Google is far less interested in running paid subscription services targeting consumers than it is in leveraging Zagat's content to bolster its own properties (like Google+) and sell advertising.”
Google believes the 30-point rating system enables more informed decisions: “For example, a restaurant that has great food but not great decor might be 4 stars, but with Zagat you’d see a 26 in Food and an 8 in Decor, and know that it might not be the best place for date night.”
The user might rely upon that cultivated content from Zagat, or may simply rely upon another user’s review that a dish “sucked.” As Econsultancy observes, “consumers seem to prefer user-generated reviews to their professional counterparts.” And they like to complain as much as they like to praise.
With these updates, promises Google, “ we’re connecting the millions of people on Google+ to local businesses around the world.” And with a single listing, “your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review.”
Business owners can continue to manage information in Google Places for Business (e.g., by verifying your basic listing data, making updates, responding to reviews). For businesses that use AdWords Express, ads will operate as normal and automatically searchers to the destination the business selects, or to the Google+ Local listing.