Google+ has just been revamped to include bigger photos, a new tab for local reviews and more user friendly edit tools. Since it launched in June of 2011 Google have acquired Zagat in Sept. 2011, launched Google Business Photos in January 2012, and bought Frommers in August 2012. The integration of these services to Local+ point to Google’s ambition to make it an essential tool for businesses.
Lets take a look to the current integration of Zagat in Google Local+ Pages, to make the case for why I think Google Virtual Tours will become one of the signals considered in the overall ratings.
Zagat claims to be the world’s original provider of consumer-generated content. Their ratings and curated reviews cover a variety of categories including restaurants, hotels, nightlife, shopping and more in more than 100 countries worldwide.
When you visit Local+ a series of recommended places are shown. (Notice how these recommendations are made based upon your location and the information you have granted permission to use by Google to customize your queries.) Each one of these places have a Zagat scoring right next to the image and under the Business name. These scores are intended to help you take quick decisions. More on Google/Zagat ratings can be found in the discussions by Matt Gee Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land and by Megan Stevenson Product Marketing Manager at Google.
The ratings are generated using Zagat ratings 0 to 30, individual user ratings, and other signals according to Google. “We take these ratings, average them, and then multiply by ten to arrive at averaged scores. We then may adjust the overall ratings based on user inputs and other signals to ensure these ratings best reflect the quality of the establishment”.
What are these other signals that can adjust the ratings on Google Local+?
Taking in consideration the prominence that Google is giving to Virtual Tours and Google's definition of the aim of a Virtual Tour - “...but remember that the aim of the photographs is to show customers what they would expect to see if they visited your business on a normal day” - makes me believe that Google Virtual Tours will become a signal for the ratings.
So here is my take, Google Virtual Tours - in an increasingly Visual Internet - will be one of these other signals to adjust ratings, what do you think?