Google Acquires Zagat to Boost Local Reviews and Ratings

Google (NAS: GOOG) has acquired ratings service and local reviews provider Zagat LLC in a move to enhance its location-enabled consumer services across the mobile and desktop platforms. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 1979 by Tim and Nina Zagat as a means to collect diners' recommendations of New York City restaurants, the Zagat brand now encompasses guides spanning more than 100 cities and millions of user ratings, expanding beyond the restaurant vertical to embrace hotels, nightlife, shopping and related categories. In addition to the signature Zagat Survey guide books, the firm offers a series of digital services including a mobile app for Google's own Android platform as well as versions optimized for Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iPhone and iPad.

The Zagat acquisition follows close to two years after Google flirted with purchasing local business review site Yelp, reportedly offering more than $500 million before pulling its bid off the table over concerns Yelp execs weren't being "transparent." Local services have assumed an even more substantial role in Google's efforts in the months since with the rollout of geo-specific solutions like Google Places, Hotpot and Google Offers. Last year, Google stated one in every three mobile search queries now includes some element of local-specific intent.

The Zagat deal also follows a month after Google acquired local deals startup The Dealmap for an undisclosed sum. The Dealmap launched in May 2010, rolling out across the web, mobile, social media and email channels -- the startup now offers more than 400,000 local and daily deals each day and touts more than 2 million users, including a million Android and iPhone app installs. In addition, its Dealmap DealExchange distribution network (which includes partnerships with more than 50 commercial partners including CityGrid,, MerchantCircle and MyPoints) welcomes 85 million monthly visitors.

Twenty-eight percent of American adults use their mobile phones to access directions or recommendations based on their current location, according to a survey issued earlier this week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew adds that 55 percent of smartphone users have now accessed a location-based information service.

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