Zagat has been a trusted source for local restaurant reviews since 1979 (you’ve no doubt seen their guide books at the airport, library, etc…) but has experienced some hard times trying to integrate their services online. Having their ratings (based on a scale of 1-30) behind a paywall has let free competitors such as Yelp become the top online sources for reviews. In fact, traffic jumped 42% for Yelp up to 33.3 million visitors in July 2011 vs. 23.4 million in July 2010; while Zagat’s traffic dipped from 298k to 238k. Interestingly though, Zagat’s main Twitter account has 552% more followers than Yelp’s and “local” accounts like @ZagatNYC regularly more than triple the same type of Yelp accounts in follower amount.
But what does it have to do with search? There’s always the potential Google could pull something similar to what they are planning on doing with Google+ and adding some type of Zagat signal to their organic search algorithm but it’s far more likely the Zagat ratings on businesses will have more of an influence on click-thru rates. If you own a quality restaurant, getting a nice profile on Zagat is a must, as is steering customers to review your business on Zagat. Google’s not going to drop 8+ figures on a service to ignore it, especially if it can knock back a competitor like Yelp.
In fact, Zagat reviews are already getting featured in Google searches:
It should be exciting to see how Google continues to improve their “Places” pages for local businesses.