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Google's Latest Buys Can Boost Its Sites for Business

Google has been snapping up online properties to the tune of $1.4 billion. What does this mean for its tools for small businesses?

Google has spent more than $1.4 billion on online properties and businesses in the last nine months. The Web has been buzzing about its purchase of the Zagat restaurant review brand, but the true goldmine for small businesses is with the new Google Offers.

Google to Beef Up Offers, Beat Groupon?

Google spent $114 million on Daily Deals, a European site that looks a lot like Groupon. After rebuffing Google's purchase offer of $6 billion earlier this year, Groupon is suing former managers who have left for the search giant. Small businesses should care because Google may be using this real and intellectual capital to build a better version of Groupon.

If you look at what Google offers businesses, it goes a little beyond beyond Groupon, including a possible photo shoot of your location and direct integration with Google Places. That photo shoot isn't just the Google Street View look at your store, but an internal peej inside your location. Google doesn't provide many details of how this can happen apart from a mention on its Google Offers for businesses page, but hopefully they'll expand on it.

Google stepped up the Daily Deals game further today by announcing a partnership with Rearden Commerce, whose merchant platform Deem offers lead generation and marketing analytics for merchants. With Groupon, the experience is customer-centric, sometimes to the detriment of the merchant. It looks like Google is trying to balance the relationship by offering merchants an improved experience with tools like demographics analysis that Groupon isn't providing--yet.

Better Results for Google Flights?

Google's largest acquisition was of ITA Software, which makes flight information software. This was an obvious bid to boost its Google Flight Search, which offers a non-cluttered experience when compared with similar online properties. Searching on Google Flight Search is notably free of pop-ups and screaming offers to rent cars. It's also fast and doesn't take forever to load.

Ironically, Google looks like it is making money off of competing sites for advertising with this feature through an ad placement at the bottom of each flight search, inviting you to try the same search on other flight sites. The results of the ITA acquisition should result in better trip-planning options.

Zagat: Credibility for Google Places Reviews?

Google spent $151 million on Zagat Survey, the storied maker of the red printed guides that can make or break a restaurant or hotel. Since Google was forced by Yelp and other review sites to pull reviews from Google Places, this move could help replace those reviews with something superior. There isn't much to say about Google's Zagat purchase that we haven't said before, but Google Places at least will improve through the addition of Zagat reviews. This is a reasonable assumption, even though Google hasn't made huge strides towards building its own version of Yelp as it has building its own version of Groupon.

As with Google Offers, more merchant control over the review experience would be preferable, such as the Google Places option to dispute a review you believe to be unfair or from a competitor. Google does check out reviews flagged as inappropriate, while Yelp leaves it up to a business to post a public response to such a review.

It will be interesting to see what Google does with Zagat, but small business owners should keep a closer eye on Google Offers to see what it gives them that Groupon and other daily deal sites currently do not. If you are going to get a complete marketing analysis of your daily deal buyers along with the exposure that such a deal brings, Google Offers will be much more attractive to a merchant.

Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/angelawestwriter.

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