What Google’s Purchase of Zagat Means for Local
By Michael Taylor, Director of Business Intelligence and GMS Local, GroupM Search
For months, Google has been telling anyone who would listen that local is going to be huge. In July, in an effort to take greater control of the situation, they redesigned Google Places and put greater emphasis on their own user review collection vs. third parties. This was followed by Google moving forward in the deal space by allowing deals to appear on the sacred Google.com home page. At the same time, Facebook and Yelp were backing away from the deal category. Fast forward. We now have the Google acquisition of Zagat, the traditional media company behind the Zagat restaurant review guides.
Zagat fills an interesting hole for Google in that it represents a professional content acquisition for a company that has, historically, only been about organizing the information created by others. Beyond that, for a relatively inexpensive purchase price (reportedly $125 million), they have now deepened their offering and have incrementally increased value for consumers. This move also continues to pressure other players in the space to remain destinations without the same type of assets that Google now has at their disposal.
What does this mean for brands? The move further amplifies the need to adopt a Google-specific local strategy. If Google is going to continue to put forth major development and financial resources behind local, it will become the biggest influencer in the space. To this end, brands should adhere to the following:
- 1. Optimize Google Places page(s). Having listings that are owner verified, accurate and optimized with keywords and content that are relevant to your target consumer will help maximize exposure to these individuals. It will also enhance a brand’s local competitive advantage.
- 2. Develop a specific strategy to diagnose and address local consumer sentiment. Holistic brand social monitoring is certainly important, but without exposure to what consumers are saying about product at a local or store level, visibility will be limited along with consumer engagements. Brands that truly want to understand and respond to market-specific sentiment must utilize tools calibrated for that objective or risk responding with national signals that create inappropriate local responses.
- 3. Maximize exposure in the local ecosystem. The local digital space is fragmented. Consumers access a variety of web properties, directories and social sites to research, locate and contact stores, make decisions on where to buy and to provide feedback on their experience. Having businesses that are ubiquitous will not only ensure having a presence where consumers may be looking (which may or may not be on Google), but will also give a local brand greater credibility with key search engines, including Google.
Beyond these tactical brand opportunities, the question to consider is where might Google go next? Might they look at established local content experts such as Frommer’s to expand content? What about such tools as the recently launched flight search functionality which is expected to compete with Orbitz and Expedia? Or maybe the play is into the suddenly emerging digital favorite locations list space introduced by Foursquare (another possible target?), or acquisition of companies like UrbanSpoon that can bring more local organization to a consumer experience? At this rate, we shall soon see.