I only have a few rules in life. These include:
- The Golden Rule.
- Never wear white after Labor Day.
- When I get an email that starts off addressing me as “the Local Search guru,” it’s getting published on our digital marketing blog!
In that vein, off we go with last night’s email:
as the Local Search guru, here’s a little example for you to use sometime if you wish.
I was just about to walk out the door, I already knew where the place was. Then decided to grab their phone number just in case. I used my local phone book (aka Google Maps) and got to their Place page.
[Link to bad review – see edited screenshots below]
Bad reviews I hadn’t even planned on looking for literally stopped me from going to this business. The end.
There’s a lot of deliciousness in this email, including how he classified Google Maps / Places as his local phone book, but let’s recap what happened here:
- He was already aware of a business and made a decision that he wanted to buy from them.
- Just in case he got lost or it was closed or whatever, he decided to do a Google Maps search to grab their phone number.
- He saw this (click to enlarge):
- He never went to this business and instead found someone else to meet his needs.
How Negative Reviews are Only Going to Hurt You More in the Future
Google’s putting much of its considerable weight behind local search. They’re making changes all the time to tap into – and monetize – this growing trend. That’s why you see that big Google map in the upper right-hand corner for so many searches these days.
That means these Google Places listings are going to show up more and more – whether or not you’ve ever submitted anything to or claimed a listing from Google. They’ll just add them on their own. Up until now, reviews weren’t stressed that much by Google Places. Sure the rankings mattered as any local SEO could tell you, but Google itself just kind of let users add reviews and scraped more from other sites like InsiderPages. They didn’t incentivize or otherwise, give searchers a reason to leave reviews.
Well, that started to officially change back in November with the release of Google Hotpot, their effort to make local search more social with recommendations, especially from those within your individual social sphere. The one major problem with Hotpot was that it didn’t allow you to rate places from your iPhone – either through an app or directly from your browser.
I had complained about this to Vanessa and the other fine folks on the HotPot team on several occasions and am sure I wasn’t the only one. They were even kind enough to send along a bit of swag. Well, yesterday, Hotpot announced a Google Places iPhone app. You can download it here or just do a search for “Google Places” on your iPhone app center. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see:
So, again, why should you care? If Google can get users actually leaving reviews with any sort of regularity – and I’m betting on the HotPot – iPhone connection to get it kicked off – businesses with negative reviews are going to be screwed.
Many people like this emailer use Google as their frickin’ phone book, just to look up information about a company that they already want to buy from. That’s the first (and often only) place they look. They see negative reviews, and they’ll pull a Doug from The State and said, “I’m outta heeeere.” (Sorry – no YouTube embed. Slightly NSFW – language.)
Google still has some review kinks to work out, which Mike Blumenthal continues to chronicle. Beyond that, though, I think it really needs to figure out a suitable way to have fix the ability for all business owners respond to reviews in a meaningful way. They started offering this for business owners with verified listings in fall 2010, but many owners are having problems doing so.
3 Steps to Protect Yourself from Negative Google Places Reviews
So, what do you do?
- Create or claim your Google Places page.
- Encourage – but do not pay – people to leave reviews about your company.
- Monitor your reviews regularly.