Google acquires Zagat to boost ‘local’ presence

Google’s latest major purchase is the 32-year-old leader in restaurant and landmark recommendations, Zagat.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Google would have an enormous interest in a company like Zagat. The online giant has a huge stake in the market of giving users content and information about places close to them.

Unfortunately for Google, though, users have to jump to other places in that search process. So someone might log onto Yelp to find a good restaurant and then head to Google Maps to pinpoint the restaurant’s location. Google would rather that person could just stay on its online properties instead of going to Yelp.

Zagat is a well established company with information about thousands of locations, but it really hasn’t managed to stay on top of the digital landscape. So Google will need to bring a lot to the table in order to make this deal worthwhile.

The purchase comes as Google faces another round of antitrust allegations. As part of that investigation, its critics complain about the fact that Google’s local site, Google Places, “borrows” content from Yelp and other review sites, giving users all the information provided from those sources while collecting page views.

So for Google, the acquisition of Zagat is a chance to keep users engaged with Google for the entire process of finding local treasures. But is it too little, too late? Even with Zagat, it will still be incredibly difficult to compete with Yelp.