I will admit it, I have a very ‘frugal’ attitude towards information and the internet. So when Google bought Zagat it was the first I’d heard of the long running rating service.
For those who are web-frugal like me, it may come as a surprise that this paid food review service has managed to go from a printed format to on-line. Most attempts along those lines die quickly when it becomes obvious there’s a niche for the information. However Zagat’s originators were very clever in how they have gone digital and it’s worked very well indeed:
A paid member of Zagat gets a selection of discounts and promotions which quickly pay for the perks that come with paying $25 a year. Free members have to include payment details which helps to force genuine/honest sign-ups for the most part. This keeps the information useful, while still providing enough access to retain the casual user who might never pay, but is likely to contribute.
With any luck Google will quickly merge this product into their services, allow you to login with your Google profile, and eventually apply all these great search features to the entire database of eateries.
As much as I like to ‘skim’ the net for free, without coughing up any info or details, I decided to try out Zagat’s 7 day offer.
The 1st Challenge:
A hamburger in downtown Victoria BC should be an easy challenge for a city packed with pubs?
Apparently not, since the only result was an “Eclectic / Int’l, Vegetarian” with an impressive almond burger. I’ve had non-meat hamburgers, but ‘Vegetarian’ is not what I was looking for and certainly the last place I’d suggest given my years living here.
The 2nd Challenge:
Pretending I was the average homesick traveller with no idea of the city’s offerings I decided to search for some ‘American’ cuisine.
Thinking of all the steak houses, and US brands operating in the city core, I was sure I’d get a good list to pick from, yet Zagat disappointed me again. This time they suggested a ‘Barbecue, Creole’ dive outside of the city core which is famous for it’s unpretentious ‘here’s sum meat’ approach to dinning. If I had typed in ‘budget BBQ’ that is the only way I would have anticipated such a result.
The 3rd Challenge:
I’d tried something specific, I’d tried an entire country, lets just see what they can list?
Well at first I felt I’d hit the jackpot, look at all the results! Then I started clicking on the places Zagat was suggesting and they were all over in Vancouver, an entirely different city, not even located on the same landmass as my city and currently selected location?
So that’s when I started to see the problem, tried a blank search for “Victoria, Canada” with a radius of 15 miles, and the result was only 29 restaurants..
At that point I started fiddling with the sliders/filters:
- % liked
This is what I want!
Give us tools for doing specific searches!
I need these tools for more than just food, and now I can see another reason (beyond challenging Yelp!) why Google bought Zagat.
Sure my local city needs more reviews to help things along, but that’s not Google or Zagat’s fault, we just need to start discussing something we do every single day.
I know that personally I will give this service a few reviews, once I find a place to have lunch.
SEO news blog post by Ryan Morben @ 11:39 am on September 8, 2011