Witness the fruits of Google Inc.’s acquisition last year of the Zagat guide: The new Google+ Local tab, which integrates reviews into the Internet giant’s social network.
Starting today, Google+ users will get free access to 35,000 Zagat scores and write-ups of local businesses around the world, available in more than 60 languages.
They’ll also be able to make their own recommendations and see evaluations from others in their Google+ circles. And because the reviews are integrated across Google’s services, they’ll pop up not only in Google+ but also in Search, Maps and Mobile.
Instead of using the standard five-star scale, official Zagat reviews will feature a 30-point range, with categories such as food, decor, ambiance and service.
Reviews from users will feature ratings on a scale of zero to three.
The changes, executives say, will hopefully help boost advertising dollars.
“One of the things that became very clear is that reviews are a cornerstone to any local strategy,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of location and local services, in an interview Tuesday. “Social is local. When people are picking something for a birthday dinner or an important event, they want a recommendation they can trust.”
In the future, Google+ Local may feature other perks, such as a way to factor influential variables into reviews.
“Even though you’re the same person, your tastes are really changeable based on the time of day and who you’re with,” Mayer said. “Is there a way to pool those searches together? That’s hard. The technology doesn’t really exist.”
Don’t compare Google+ Local to Yelp and its ilk, executives said.
Other review sites “are essentially copies of us,” said Tim Zagat, who co-founded Zagat Restaurant Surveys in 1982. “But this is going to allow us to really spread our wings and cover vastly more places and engage far more people.”
Content on Zagat.com will now be free for registered users (as long as they’re Google+ users). The printed book business, featuring the famed pocket guides with burgundy covers, will continue unchanged.