For those keeping track, Google just recently made their second change to their Online Review experience in 14 months. These changes are important for you to be aware of as they have a huge impact on Google search results and how your business appears to shoppers out on the Internet. Below I have provided a summary of the changes and how they might be impacting your business. If you have any questions about these changes and how they might impact your business, feel free to email me, Vickie Gibbs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a summary timeline for what has happened to Google Places over the past 3+ years:
- Google Place Pages launched: Sept 2009. This enabled businesses to claim their page, upload photos, etc.
- Google Places launched: April 2010. This brought a whole new look to business pages and how they appeared in Google's search listings. At this time, Google introduced a new dashboard for businesses to many their Places page, migrating business users from the Local Business Center. They also started using features within the Places page, for example number of photos, quality of reviews, etc., as input into its search algorithm.
- Google+ Local launched: May 2012. This brought a whole new site to Google end users to find local business, Google+ Local. Here Google transferred the old Google Places business pages to Google+ Local pages, and they created an entirely new scoring system for reviews based on the Zagat 30 point scale. For previous blog articles on this transition and the scope of changes, see "Google Places to Google+ Transition" and "Google+ Local: Thoughts 1 Month After Launch".
- Google+ Local New Review System Launched for Local Businesses: July 11, 2013. Recently, Google made another massive shift in its review system, and those details are discussed below.
Just recently, Google made some major shifts in its Online Review Experience. The major changes are summarized below.
- 5 point scoring scale is back! While the Zagat 30 point scale may have made sense for users looking for restaurants who are familiar with the Zagat scale, it did make things somewhat more confusing for users looking online for local businesses like vets, dentists, auto dealers, etc. To simplify things for users and businesses, Google has returned to a standard 5 point scale, which is used by pretty much every other review site on the Internet.
- Threshold changed to get an "official score". Previously, Google required 10 customer reviews to receive an "official score" from Google. Now, Google is only requiring 5 customer reviews to receive this valuable score. Without an "official score", users cannot get a quick view of your overall Google rating from the search results, which could hurt a business when it is being compared to its competition as a user is doing a Google search.
- Filtering algorithm is more intelligent. When Google introduced Google+ Local, their filtering algorithm for customer reviews became much more strict. This resulted in many legitimate customer reviews being hidden, never appearing on a business' Google+ Local page. There has been much discussion from businesses on this topic over the past year because Google has also more tightly integrated their search algorithm for local search with the review score of a business. While there has been no official word from Google on this, in our analysis over the past 2 weeks, it seems that Google has made its review filter a bit more intelligent, allowing more legitimate customer reviews to appear on a business' Google+ Local page. What we are seeing is old reviews are now appearing, and the requirements of a full Google+ account to leave a review has been removed. We are sure that Google is still making tweaks to this filtering algorithm, so who knows if these changes will remain, but we will continue to monitor the type of reviews that are being displayed now on Google+ Local pages and keep everyone informed.
These changes are important for you to be aware as they have a huge impact on Google search results and how your business appears to shoppers out on the Internet. If you have any questions about these changes and how they might impact your business, or if you need help managing your online reputation, please email me, Vickie Gibbs, at email@example.com.