A change in the way Google displays local business information will mean some companies will have to recalibrate their approach to customer reviews - but not as drastically as one might expect.
Briefly, late last week Google removed the customer reviews taken from other web sites such as Yelp for its Google "Places" service. These sites, which also include TripAdvisor and Citysearch, have complained bitterly about the process and is believed to be among the reasons why the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Google, according to the Wall Street Journal. For some marketers, the change has been dramatic. The Journal points to Keens Steakhouse in New York, which displayed 60 reviews at the week's end, compared with more than 3,000 in June.
For companies bemoaning the loss of their reviews, don’t, writes Search Engine Land. The change is likely on net balance to be a good thing. "The algorithm occasionally chose disastrous snippets." Also, given the new prominence of the Google's "write a review" button and its clear belief that it is now generating enough reviews to stand on its own, fresh reviews can be expected to popular these sites.
An Integrated Mix of Sites
However companies should not abandon these third party sites as they will still have good links on the main search results page, according to the Blumenthals blog. "That should mean that their traffic will not be negatively affected as most traffic likely comes from the main serps and significantly less from the Places Page."
Still, it said, Google needs to figure more prominently into review sites and review management companies' business plans now that the search engine is stepping up its efforts to promote its own reviews. To play it safe, focus on review site diversity and quality, and not so much on quantity. However do NOT focus exclusively on Google as a review platform, Blumenthals writes.
More Changes Coming
Also, get ready for more changes, SEL adds. "Google promises more changes, including increased personalization of local search results and additional upgrades to the Places experience on other Google platforms and across different devices."