Mike Isaac

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Google+ Local: The Search Giant’s More Social Answer to Places

Google rolled out Google+ Local on Wednesday morning, the company’s revamped take on Places and location-based information.

The launch teaches the old Places a few new tricks, including adding Google+ Local pages across other Google verticals like Maps, Search and Mobile.

And in one of the biggest new features, Google+ Local incorporates Zagat ratings, making the once-costly service completely free to all.

When Google bought Zagat last year for upward of $100 million, it was clear Google was trying to fill a hole in its Places ratings and descriptions — especially when looking at Yelp, the current leader in local destination guides.

So with the new Zagat incorporation, Google argues its approach to local search is far more nuanced. Each place is scored using Zagat’s 30-point scale, with separate ratings for topics like the quality of the food in a restaurant, the ambiance and decor, or just how helpful the staff is.

Then there’s the local discovery element, which is made more robust with the integration of the Google+ social layer. Click on the new “Local” tab in your Google+ profile and you’re presented with a mix of recommendations of places of interest, based on popularity, social activity and recommendations. And it’s tailored to your Google+ profile so no two users will see the same results.

It’s yet another example of Google leveraging the power of its many different verticals — search, maps and social — to move into an area that Yelp currently dominates. Will it take off better than Places? Perhaps, if the company pushes Local as hard as it has pushed Google+.

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