Google, in a classic bait and switch, plans on using Zagat reviews through Google+ Local to outflank Facebook, providing a level of convenience that will highlight the advantages of their social media platform, Google+. Google+ will have a powerful trinity of reviews, social media and local search that Facebook and Yelp have no answer for.

Yelp Is In Trouble

Google’s strategy is quite simple and may tip the balance in their favor in social media. Essentially, Google is using their dominance in local search through Google Map to undercut Yelp with added convenience. But it is Facebook who they are really after. Google uses the credibility of Zagat reviews (now offered free) to divert people away from Yelp. Rather than Zagat review restricted to a Zagat site, they are moved onto a Google+ Local page. The point is likely that Google+ will now offer reviews, social media and local search on one page.

Build It and They Will Come

It is a clever way to make Google users take Google + more seriously. Google plays to their strengths (local search) and picks a fight it can win with a weaker company than Facebook (Yelp). If Google was able to steal the Yelp crowd, Google would have an easier job in making Google+ attractive.

Everything points to Google making a restaurant’s Google+ Local pages and Google+ pages will become one and the same. A business’ local search and social media management will be through the same portal for the same Page, and businesses will be induced to participate in the social media element by posting because of the traffic of people coming for reviews and search.

Facebook’s Falling Fortunes

The timing is pretty clear too and shows Google’s business savvy. The logical move for Facebook would be to buy Yelp (and create their own Map service), but their stock price is falling and honestly, they would be protecting their current business (which Wall Street seems unimpressed with) and not adding sufficient new revenue for the billions they would have to fork over. If only Zuckerberg put the billion spent on Instagram into buying Yelp.

Although it is too early to tell, people may actually abandon Facebook for Google+ (not surprising as a lot of the features are better anyway). That means restaurants will have to follow the customers.