Business reviews aren't just used by potential customers when vetting your company; they are also used by search engines to determine the quality, trustworthiness and relevance of your site. Google is always looking to add human elements to their search results - what better way to do this than use human-written reviews as a factor in their search algorithm?
Google Places is Google’s local business directory. It has a very important role in local search results and reviews on your Places page are playing an increasingly significant role in ranking.
Until recently, Google depended very heavily on business reviews from outside sources like Yelp, InsiderPages and CitySearch because they didn't have many reviews directly submitted on Places pages. Now that Google Places has grown considerably and amassed a huge collection of online reviews, there isn't as much need to depend on outside sources.
Today, there are a few variations on how Places pages are presented depending on the search term, but this version is widely viewed as the new standard:
In the past, all the reviews would be totaled on the right side giving El Indio a whopping 256 reviews. However, in recent months, Google has started separating the reviews into 3rd party sources and Google reviews. This has led many industry experts to think that Google is going to start giving more weight to direct Places reviews, if they have not already done so. Reviews from outside sources likely still have some influence within the Google's local search algorithm, but most experts seem to agree that this influence will continue to diminish.
For local searches like Mexican Food San Diego (which I used to find the above example), a few reviews can mean the difference between making the first page and being buried in no man’s land. One of our own clients, Scott Spiro at Computer Solutions Group (CSG) recently found this out first hand.
CSG was ranking on the first page for Computer Support Los Angeles for several weeks in a row. In mid-August, they suddenly dropped into the 30s. Scott sent in a ticket and I jumped in to solve the mystery. With such a competitive keyword, I thought it would be nearly impossible to get CSG back on the first page, but during my research I noticed something important – almost all the Places pages listed in the Top 10 had multiple Google reviews while the CSG Places page had none.
I wrote back to Scott with my suspicion that a lack of Google reviews was holding him back. Within a couple of weeks, Scott had gotten a review on the CSG Places page and a shortly after that – SUCCESS!
All it took was one review and CSG shot right back into the Top 10. Congrats to Scott and his team for ranking on such a difficult keyword!
There are many factors involved in search results but positive reviews on your Google Places page have an important role in local search, and they are something that you should actively seek. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Happy Customers - if a customer is satisfied with the services you have provided, send them a link to your Places page and ask for a quick review
Free Stuff - offer a small gift, a free assessment or a free hour of your services in exchange for a positive review
Competition Entry - if small gifts aren’t your thing, hold a competition for a larger prize and have a positive review submission as an entry requirement
Email Newsletter - is your email newsletter going out soon? Let us know if you’d like to promote your Places page and we’ll gladly put something together for you
Take customer feedback seriously - Every review (positive or negative) is an opportunity to improve your business. Getting a customer’s perspective on your service is an important and necessary part of making your company better. If a customer writes a positive review, think about how you can give others the same experience. If someone writes a negative comment, reach out to them and ask what you could have done better.
Got a question? Not sure where to find your Google Places page? Drop us a line.
SEO & Analytics Manager