When Google announced that it was acquiring Zagat, it looked problematic. After all, Zagat was a publisher struggling to stay relevant in the digital age and Google was the world's biggest search engine. The potential conflicts the deal could create were huge.
One of the companies likely to have been most concerned with the acquisition was Yelp. Along with other popular user-generated reviews sites, it has arguably played a key role in Zagat's woes. With Google behind it, would the Mountain View-based company push Zagat content at the expense of a company like Yelp, which it once reportedly looked to buy?
The answer to that question came recently when Google announced that it was making Zagat.com free and integrating its content into a new Google+ Local property.
Yelp's response to that: ink a deal with Microsoft's search engine, Bing.
According to a press release announcing the pact, some Bing Local search pages be "Powered by Yelp" starting today with "Yelp [surfacing] content including, review snippets, photos, business attributes, and more, to Bing users in the U.S. This content will be featured prominently on relevant Bing Local pages, presenting information to help consumers do more with businesses near them."
"Enabling people to do more with search involves building a spectrum of features and data that people trust, and teaming up with Yelp is another important step in helping Bing deliver great value to customers," according to Bing GM Mike Nichols.
Bing's Yelp deal resembles the one the search engine recently announced with Encyclopaedia Britannica, which will see Bing surfacing more detailed information from Encyclopaedia Britannica in certain search results. It's likely that we'll see more deals of this nature.
Like it or not, search is becoming deeper and more vertically-oriented. Google and Bing have clearly decided that it's not enough to simply provide search results; displaying more detailed information in the SERPs and creating new experiences for popular and lucrative verticals is a must. Google has made it clear that it's willing to acquire companies in its drive to do this, while Bing finds partnerships more to its liking.
In either case, this evolution of search is clearly a double-edged sword for publishers. Some will see the Googles and Bings of the world team up with or buy outright the competition, while others will take advantage of the opportunity to partner or sell themselves.