Google quietly updated its Google Maps app for Android this week, a move that helps shed more light on the company’s local search strategy and its decision to purchase reviews service Zagat yesterday.
Specifically, Google Maps version 5.10.0 now lets users add specific photos to Places and automatically shows places they’ve rated 4 or 5 stars on the map, which gives them a better look at places they’ve enjoyed in the past. To illustrate, you can now take photos of food or decor from a restaurant and easily attach it to a location.
The new features show that Google wants users to take Places and its reviews more seriously when using their smartphones. Right now, the reviews pull from CitySearch and random users. Zagat’s reviews will bolster that selection.
Zagat’s reviews might encourage more users to actually check Google Places for recommendations and to write reviews. Google basically wants you to pull up Google Maps rather than apps such as Yelp and Urbanspoon.
When I wrote about Google’s Zagat buy yesterday, I saw it as Google’s chance to take away share from Yelp when it comes to reviews. It appears that attack on Yelp and other competitors will come on several fronts, with the desktop and mobile versions of Maps and search.
Google has learned that if you don’t have a good reviews ecosystem in place, there’s little incentive to post there, even if it’s super easy to access. When Zagat’s content starts showing up in Maps and on the staggering number of Android phones in the marketplace, look for Google Places to finally start exploding.
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