To the dismay of many, Google has dropped reviews from third-party sites on its popular Google Places product. For years, the world’s leader in search scrapped reviews from sites like DealerRater.com, Local.Yahoo.com, and the like. Now, they are only displaying their own reviews and generating star ratings from those reviews, exclusively. You’ll notice that third party sites are still included in parenthesis at the bottom of each Places page, but these have no effect on the rating of the “Place” and may soon be dropped completely.
This is a big deal, but more so for businesses like DealerRater.com, Yelp.com, and others that have based their business models on rating systems with traction in Google engines. For all other local businesses, this presents an opportunity to focus on customers with Gmail Accounts, YouTube Channels, and Google Phones… even Google+ Accounts. Reaching out to these customers to share their reviews on your Google Places page is a good way to start.
Seizing this opportunity further, devise a campaign that will incentivize the customer to share their thoughts and deploy this message using Facebook, Twitter and Email. Urge the customer to be honest and offer a single incentive, one for positive and negative reviews. Placing QR codes on print materials — flyers, posters, etc. — around your place of business that direct a customer directly to your Google Places page from their mobile device creates a progressive experience for the customer to drop a review on the spot. Having an iPad on-hand conveniently relieves the need for a customer to need a mobile device of their own.
In the end, this Google Places revision provides little need to panic. It offers an opportunity to reengage your customer-base and drive reviews to a concentrated area. Reviews on DealerRater.com and Yelp.com will not disappear, but having a positive rating on Google (the place where the vast majority of the public go to search) is absolutely essential for any business looking for traction online. If your business does not have a YouTube Channel, you’ll want to develop one right away. Google+ will be announcing its Business Platform soon; the wise will jump on this immediately.
Tier10lab will continue to provide up-to-date commentary on all Google news. If your business has found a unique solution to the Places update, please share your thoughts below.