Google is changing the way it collects and displays local business reviews. These changes appear to make the Zagat score a less prominent piece of information. Many feel that the general public has not warmed up to the Zagat rating system. Megan Stevenson of Google has posted on Google+ , a statement clarifying the change and added a comment that clearly states that “this is not a departure from Zagat.”The Zagat score is still visible when you search on both Google.com and in Google Maps, so they are not being eliminated entirely.
In the previously mentioned Google+ post , Megan Stevenson explains that reviewers on Google + are not obligated to use the Zagat scoring system and can choose words/phrases like “Very Good,” “Good”, “Excellent” or “Poor – Fair” to describe their assessment of a business. The screen shot below shows Google’s new review interface.
The previous interface asked users to rate businesses on a non-standard 0-3 scale. Google would then convert those 0-3 ratings into a Zagat score that ranged from 0-30. This was confusing to reviewers who are used to a grading system ranking businesses on a scale of 1-5.
Google has not only changed the way that the local business reviews are collected, but also has made changes in the way that the data is displayed. Instead of the Zagat score, which is from 1-30 and is confusing to many web users, Google has substituted the aforementioned “Excellent”, “Very Good”, “Good”, and “Fair” as illustrated in the screen shot below.
Bottom Line: Google is trying to simplify the local business reviews to encourage their use. Let’s face it, seeking online reviews, especially for businesses that are popular with mobile device users (restaurants, etc.) is a competitive space. Personally, I find the current changes to be an over-simplification, and the Zagat Score to be too complex. The compromise that fills the bill perfectly is the 1-5 rating that Google scrapped. Don’t be surprised if Yahoo doesn’t focus on exploiting this fact once the new local search strategy is announced. Local search, especially for mobile devices, will be a significant battleground for search market share in the coming months.
Eric Van Cleave is a Partner in Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa, California based SEO, Website Development and Online Marketing Firm.