Tag Archives: Google

Google Integrates Zagat into rollout of Google+ Local

Zagat is Google’s great equalizer against Yelp. Google has now demonstrated why it paid $151 Million for Zagat last September by including Zagat, which formerly cost $4.95 a month (or $24.95 per year), as part of its new rollout of Google+ Local. The newly branded service replaces Google Places.

As a result of the integration, which will also feed into Google search results and maps, Google+ users will now be able to see reviews from their friends (and “acquaintances”) when they are looking up local information

While Zagat is known mostly for its 30 point restaurant reviews – more nuanced (and time consuming) than Yelp’s five star system — it now uses the same 30 point platform for 13 categories. More than 100 cities are currently served by Zagat. Outside of the restaurant space, Zagat had previously licensed its system to companies such as Anthem Blue Cross for medical reviews.

At ILM West last December, Head of Local Consumer Marketing Jeff Aguero said “the local experience is mostly disconnected. It is not consistent across user experience,” whether people are engaged in researching, finding, experiencing, reviewing, or sharing. Google’s goals are ultimately to “get more local searches, more customers, more reviews, better content, higher engagement, and more businesses online.”

First Person: Signing Up for Google and Intuit’s ‘Get Your Business Online’

Google has been taking out major newspaper ads to promote its new “Get Your Business Online” initiative, a partnership with Intuit that lets SMBs claim a place, update information and provides a free web site. It is a strong effort to get more SMBs online, and buying services. More than 14 states are up and running.

According to BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor survey of online SMBs, 66 percent now have websites, although the overall percentage of SMBs with websites is probably lower.

I saw a series of ads for the effort in The Los Angeles Times. The ad listed as the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, the LA County Business Federation, The NFIB, the California Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Score and Intuit as partners. The ad copy promised that “It’s easy. Really fast. And really free.”

In smaller type, it notes that the free website includes domain name and hosting for one year. To me, that doesn’t qualify for “really free,” but it is still a good deal.

The ads were timed to coincide with a series of southern California workshops for SMBs. One of them had more than 1,000 sign ups.

Although I don’t need a new website, I decided to see what was behind the curtain. After clicking past an introductory page that had some SMB tutorials, the site offered to let me sign in via my Gmail account, which was automatically rendered.

What was offered was a “free, easy to build Intuit website; free customized domain name; free web hosting for one year; and free online tools and training.” After the first year, it is $4.99 a month and your domain name is $2 a month – which adds up to $96 a year.

If you already have a domain name, like me, you can import it for free. The hosting alone makes this a great deal. I currently pay about $120 a year for Host Gator (which does a great job.)

The service is also promoting a website search engine boost for $4.99 a month, which promises to submit content for constant updating and improved search ranking. Interestingly, this offer did not appear today when I checked on the site, but it was prominently displayed on Sunday.

I didn’t submit my credit card and won’t get a site at this time. Knowing me, I’d probably forget to cancel it. But the service is clearly set to boost SMB penetration, and will not only help SMBs get online, but also help Google and Intuit sell a lot of services once the SMBs are locked in.

Milestone: Yelp’s IPO is Today

Yelp is IPOing today at $15 a share, allowing it to raise $123 million on a valuation of $900 million –$400 million more than it was apparently offered by Google a couple of years ago.

We know from the S1 that Yelp earned $58.4 million in net revenue in the first nine months of 2011, representing 80 percent growth over the first nine months of 2010. It also has 22 million reviews, and sees 61 million monthly users.

During the first nine months of 2011, the company claimed 19,000 paid accounts – up 75 percent from the same period in 2010, And 529,000 claimed pages –up 114 percent. Its ability to convert claimed pages into paid accounts is going to be where the action is.

It must also continue to penetrate deeper into restaurants, amidst tough competition from Google/Zagat and others. At the same time, it must continue to expand beyond restaurants deeper into shopping and services.

Restaurants and dining now make up 23 percent. Other major segments include shopping (22 percent), services (10 percent); beauty (9 percent); arts and entertainment (8 percent); Health (5 percent) Night Life (4 percent) and Travel and Hotel (4 percent). It also has a broad demographic, with 42 percent between the ages of 18-34, and 33 percent between the ages of 35-49.

ILM West: Google Exec Jeff Aguero Discusses Local Efforts

Google’s local efforts have grown tremendously under the direction of Marissa Mayer, and now encompass a wide range of products, including Google Maps, Google Places, Zagat, Google Offers, and Get Online a new SMB initiative.

At ILM West this week in San Francisco, Head of Local Consumer Marketing Jeff Aguero provided a rich portrait of Google’s thinking on local. “We are ten percent of where we are and where we need to be,” says Aguero. “There is so much that needs to be done.” He adds that Google is eager to work “closely with partners to create a rich opportunity” for all.

“The local experience is mostly disconnected,” says Aguero. “It is not consistent across user experience,” whether people are engaged in researching, finding, experiencing, reviewing, or sharing. Google’s goals are ultimately to “get more local searches, more customers, more reviews, better content, higher engagement, and more businesses online.”

Local is obviously an important part of Google’s core search business – 20 percent of desktop search is now local- oriented. But local is “fundamentally about places. Any type of action; how does it get there; how do you share what I am doing about my experience (i.e. photos, check-in); how do I save money on a deal?”

Within Places, Place Pages is a major effort. Currently, there are 50 million, dynamically generated Place Pages worldwide. Of these, eight million have been claimed by the business themselves. “It is the greatest catalog of place data on the Web,” notes Aguero.

The big trend is the convergence of Place Pages and Host Pages. “They have the same type of audiences in different ways, “ he says. “The functionality of both entities are likely to converge.”

Expanding ratings and reviews is also clearly a major initiative. Google Places is now getting more than a million ratings per month.

Mobile, meanwhile, is in the middle of it all. “Fifty percent of maps usage is mobile,” Aguero points out. “Mobile search usage has surpasses desktop usage on holidays. “People are using mobile phones as guides to the real world on an ongoing basis. Recently, the company introduced TalkBin, which leverages mobile to provide real time customer feedback.

Google Latitudes, a check-in product, is also is getting a lot of attention, and already has 10 million users. “It is not just how many people are enjoying and sharing products,” says Aguero, noting that Latitudes has been greatly enhanced by the introduction of Google Plus social circles.

And then there is Google’s Get Online initiative, a partnership with Intuit that lets SMBs claim a place, update information and provides a free web site. Get Online started in Michigan and is now in 14 states. New tools will continue to be added, says Aguero. “We need better toolkits for businesses.” Recently, the company introduced Adwords Express, which lets businesses set up an AdWords program in ten minutes.

ILM West: ILM West: Google’s Chatterjee on How Mobile Search Complements the Desktop

Google has experienced five times growth in mobile search during the past two years, according to Google Mobile’s Surojit Chatterjee, who was keynoting our SoLoMo Morning at ILM West in San Francisco.

Mobile usage generally complements the desktop, with huge spikes on the weekend and in the evening and at lunch, says Chatterjee. “When people go out for lunch, people are searching more on their mobile than on the desktop.

Chatterjee says that vertical segments have been especially high with mobile. Almost 17 percent of auto related queries are mobile; 17 percent of travel and car rental; and 32 percent of restaurants.

Mobile also is very strong for converting searchers. Seventy seven percent of mobile searchers contacted a business; 44 percent lead to a purchase; 59 percent lead to a merchant

Proximity and location, in fact, has become an important criteria for Google search ranking. Make your ads location aware and help users make a decision quickly,” says Chatterjee.

Reading Yelp’s S1: Rapid Growth, Amidst Challenges

Yelp’s S1, which was issued last week as a run-up to a $100 million IPO, reveals a lot of new data about the reviews leader. The big question about Yelp has been whether it can grow against increased pressure from Google, and also begin to take market share away from traditional media players such as Yellow Pages.

Yelp’s plan for growth relies heavily on overseas growth. It is now in 22 international cities on top of 43 domestic markets. But it would also grow its primary business via local and brand advertising; monetizing mobile services that now make up 40 percent of its searches; boosting revenue from deals (where it has lowered expectations); and more revenue sharing dollars from restaurant reservations and travel.

Launched in 2004, Yelp had initially risen to the top of the heap among service and city guide leaders by dominating Google’s organic local search. After Google’s effort to acquire Yelp for $500 million ended under murky circumstances, Yelp has seen its prior dominance of Google search fade away. Moreover, Google Places – enhanced by Google’s purchase of Zagat — now looms as a competitor in its own right for reviews and advertising.

“Our success depends on our ability to maintain a prominent presence in search results for queries regarding local businesses on Google,” notes the S1.

Yet, Yelp is growing splendidly, even with the apparent Google woes. Yelp earned $47.7 million in 2010 and $58.4 million in net revenue in the first nine months of 2011, representing 80 percent growth over the first nine months of 2010.

During the nine months of 2011, the company claimed 19,000 paid accounts – up 75 percent from the same period in 2010, And 529,000 claimed pages –up 114 percent. And in a business where the number of current reviews is its currency, it has an archive of 22 million reviews, up 66 percent from the same period in 2010. Overall, it sees 61 million monthly users.

Yelp is primarily known for its restaurant reviews. That is still its primary image, and what has made “to yelp” a verb. But Yelp is also more diversified than generally perceived, and resembles a combination city magazine/Yellow Pages.

Restaurants and dining now make up 23 percent. Other major segments include shopping (22 percent), services (10 percent); beauty (9 percent); arts and entertainment (8 percent); Health (5 percent) Night Life (4 percent) and Travel and Hotel (4 percent). It also has a broad demographic, with 42 percent between the ages of 18-34, and 33 percent between the ages of 35-49.

What investors will be looking at is not only Yelp’s ability to grow and move into new areas, but also it’s potential for profits. The company has accumulated a deficit of $32.1 million since its launch, and lost roughly $7.6 million in the first 9 months of 2011. Sales and marketing costs have been especially heavy, eating up $38.5 million for the first nine months of 2011.

Business Insider suggests that “Yelp is Groupon without the cash flow,” basing its comment on Yelp’s increasing marketing costs for customer acquisitions. But to us, Yelp is working to get over a tipping point. And unlike Groupon’s one-time relationship with local businesses, Yelp is working on Yellow Pages-like renewal rates.

In fact, the key to Yelp is to continue its ability to maintain and leverage its huge user base; satisfy advertisers; and stay abreast of social media trends that help match users with establishments based on their interests. It won’t be easy and is not a sure thing. But Yelp’s trajectory to date has been an impressive one.


Shares of Yelp Searches

Google Buys Zagat: Reviews Platform is the Focus

Google’s march into local reached another milestone today with the acquisition of Zagat, a major, international provider of high end restaurant and lifestyle reviews in 100+ cities.

Zagat remains a major player in a reviews space it pioneered in 1979. In addition to hosting its patented “30 point” reviews from some 350,000 “surveyors.” Zagat has a print, pocket-sized restaurant directory product that is often sold as a sponsored corporate giveaway. Online, it provides “Zagat Exclusives” deals using the Reach Deals platform, and also, widely integrates its reviews with key players for more traffic, including UrbanSpoon, OpenTable and New York Magazine.

While Zagat is protective of its premium firewall, a February relaunch included more free content. The company also has very active smartphone apps. In 2009, the company also started expanding its platform to medical reviews via Wellpoint/Anthem Insurance; part of a broader licensing effort that also included Priceline, Diageo liquor…and Google.

In truth, however, the closely held, 110 employee company was slow to react to the Web, and has basically underperformed, opening doors for companies such as Yelp and UrbanSpoon to gain a foothold, especially among younger audiences and with more mainstream restaurants. Zagat had tried and failed to sell itself for $200 million in early 2008, but apparently did not find real interest at that price point.

Google’s failed effort to acquire Yelp in 2009, in fact, probably set the Zagat acquisition in play – as did the retirement age of founders Tim and Nina Zagat. We believe Google will focus on the reviews platform, and the archive of reviews, and probably de-emphasize the premium products.