Google fuels local search with Zagat reviews

Google on Wednesday unveiled a tool that promises to make it easier for people on the run to find the perfect restaurant.

The new Google+ Local service provides users with Zagat restaurant reviews and Google+ friend recommendations.

Google+ Local is available as a tab in Google+ and can be integrated into Google search, and the Google Maps mobile app.

“Finding the best places to go is an essential part of our lives, as are the people and resources that help us make those decisions,” wrote Avni Shah, director of Google’s Product Management, in a blog post.

“In fact, the opinions of friends, family or other trusted sources are often the first we seek when looking for the perfect restaurant for date night or the cafe that makes the best latte ever,” Shah added.

Google’s move to integrate Zagat reviews into its social network has been expected since the Internet search firm bought the restaurant ratings publisher last September. Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of local, maps and location services, said in a blog post at the time that “Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering.”

“This is all part of the evolution of search being more than just finding things,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research. “Today I search, I get a result, then I go to Zagat or Google+ to find reviews. Having them instantly available saves steps and time.”

He added that the move not only boosts Google’s search capabilities, it also gives the company a leg up in pulling in local advertising and in offering local deals.

“Search is definitely evolving to be more than just search. The integration of social information is a big differentiator,” Kerravala said.

“I think it could create another wave of advertising growth for Google, particularly in mobile where they don’t make much money. And it does create some urgency for Facebook to figure out how to make money off of mobile,” he added.

When a user clicks on the Local tab in Google+ and searches for a restaurant, he or she will be taken to a Google+ page that shows the business’s Zagat and Google+ friends’ review, photos, it’s address and phone number.

Shah also noted that Local has been integrated into the Google Maps app for Android and will be integrated into the iOS app, as well.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon’s RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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