Google+ Local Replaces Google Places, Adds Zagat Rankings
Today Google launched its new Google+ Local service replacing the version of Google Places used by consumers with features that include the rating system developed by its New York-based Zagat subsidiary. The service curates recommendations on places to visit from users’ Google+ friends, as well as reviews drawn from others. Avni Shah, Google’s director of product management, says the goal of Google+ Local is to help users discover new eateries, hotels, and coffee shops they may be interested in. “This is our way of taking the best of what we know about you, about your friends, and the locations you are interested in to provide recommendations,” she says.
Google+ Local, which is available on mobile and desktop devices, may add more depth to the Google+ social platform by incorporating information about users’ surroundings. If users search for a place to stay for the night or a coffee shop in the neighborhood, Google+ Local produces choices that include some 35,000 Zagat scores. The service can also filter for recommendations gleaned just from users’ Google+ Circles friends. “Any activity your friends have had around these places, whether they have written a review or uploaded a photo will be front and center,” Shah says.
Users’ own activities, including their likes and dislikes, will generate personal recommendations on Google+ Local. Results also include recommendations based on users with similar individual tastes. Venues appear in a list showing their respective scores and reviews along with a map pinpointing the locations.
Google transferred 80 million pages worth of content, according to Shah, created on Google Places for hotels, restaurants, and other venues around the world to the new Google+ Local format. “All of the users that were part of the Google Places community can choose to bring all of their content over to Google+ Local,” Shah says. Business owners, however, will continue to use Google Places for Business. Google plans to give business owners the ability to verify and edit the local Google+ pages associated with their businesses, though no timetable was disclosed for the release of that feature.
Part of what is new on Google+ Local is the integration of Zagat’s reviews and scoring system across more than just restaurants. Last September, Google acquired New York-based Zagat, a publisher of rating guides for dining, nightlife venues, wine, and other consumer interests. Zagat scores and reviews are now also displayed through Google Maps. Shah says Google+ Local had been in development for more than one year prior to the acquisition. “We brought Zagat into the Google world because we thought it was in line with the strategy we wanted to pursue,” Shah says. Zagat scores also now appear in traditional Google search results that bring up venues that have been rated. Says Shah: “Zagat is effectively the cornerstone of how we want to do reviews now and going forward.”