If you weren’t paying attention last week you missed that Google Places has dropped 3rd party review ratings and stars from its pages. That meant for many companies going from a dozen reviews to 0-1 or from hundreds to a handful. Which makes this a big deal.
But what exactly does it mean for you and your Places Page?
Outside Reviews Still Matter
It appears – and only makes sense – that Google is still using reviews and ratings from sites like Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Insider Pages, Citysearch, and dozens of others to determine how high your Places Page should rank for searches along with the other variables in their local algorithm. Just because they pulled them off their pages, doesn’t mean that they no longer matter to how well you do in Google’s map results.
Third Party Reviews Still Easily Accessible from Google
Just because the reviews won’t appear on the page itself, Google will still link out to some of them. Here’s one example:
So even if you don’t think that your clients and potential customers ever visit a particular review site, they can still get there very easily from your Google Places Page.
Update 1: Just as important – Google may show star ratings directly within its main Web results for other sites as well, such as Yelp. Here’s one sample picked up today for Yahoo! Funny to think of Yahoo! previously being their biggest competitor and now Yahoo! allowing users to sign in with Google accounts and Google showing star ratings from Yahoo! sites:
Getting Actual Google Reviews More Important Than Ever
Whenever speaking, I tell a story of a friend who moved to Mississippi and needed to buy a big-ticket appliance. Based on a coworker’s recommendation, he decided where he was going to buy it. Right before leaving his apartment to pick it up, he decided he’d better check his hours to make sure it was still open. He did a branded search (meaning he looked them up by name) and saw a one-star rating. So then he started reading reviews, reviews that were really awful. So he took his key back out the door, sat down and started researching a new place to buy, in essence taking several hundred dollars out of the till from the original store.
Those star ratings are huge!
If you don’t have many reviews from Google users on your places page, you need to start getting them now. As several dealers told Cars.com, it’s not just about preventing lost sales from negative reviews – it’s about gaining new leads and sales from showing off great reviews.
Have a Good, All-Encompassing Reputation Management Plan
A word of caution here: the temptation for many companies will be to just chase after Google reviews and stop worrying about other review sites like Judy’s Book, Kudzu, and various yellow pages sites. While I agree that – depending on your particular situation – getting Google reviews up to snuff becomes your #1 priority short-term, nothing replaces having a strong online reputation management plan. And that starts with providing great experiences to your customers and encouraging them to tell their stories.