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Google to Give Away Zagat Ratings

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It was revealed on Thursday that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is to add free restaurant ratings to its search results courtesy of the Zagat review service. Naturally, companies like Yelp (NYSE: YELP) have reason to be concerned.

Google bought Zagat back in September and, up to now, has been charging $25 annually or $5 monthly for access to the reviews of roughly 35,000 restaurants in 100 cities around the world. But a change of tactic means that the free reviews will be available on Zagat.com as well as via several Google services.

Zagat founders Nina and Tim Zagat said that, "Now, the world's highest quality reviews are available to more people, whether they are at their desks or on the go."

It is a significant move from Google. As the most widely used search engine in the world, it is dealing a massive blow to other review sites like Yelp, which would be in danger of becoming redundant. One has to wonder how much use the public will have for a ratings site if they are already being given ratings that they trust via the search.

Yelp will hope that they can rely on the trust that they have built up with consumers over the years, but in this convenience-driven culture, that will surely only take them so far.

Follow me @BCallwood.

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