The free Google map listing service, Google Places has been around since 2009 and in that time things have changed a lot.
In the most recent change, Google has removed the reviews from third party sites such as OpenTable, TripAdvisor and Yelp, and replaced them with reviews from Google users. Links to the third party sites can still be found at the bottom of the place listing; however the content of the review is no longer shown.
This move follows complaints against Google from the third party review sites, for taking their content without permission.
What Does the Google Places Update Mean for Your Small Business?
According to data released by Google, 93% of consumers looking for local businesses look online. With millions of people using Google Places to find these businesses; this update is likely to have a big impact on small businesses and how they handle the online reputation.
Chances are that if you are a tourism or hospitality based business, you are already monitoring review websites and encouraging customers to write reviews on your behalf; however for other industries this may be a new consideration.
With Google actively asking their users to review businesses through their shiny new ‘Write a Review’ button; it is likely that the small number of reviews on the site now will increase rapidly in the future. It is therefore important for you to focus more on building and managing the reputation of your business by encouraging customers to write reviews and keeping an eye on the reviews that are posted. Schedule a regular time to check on the reviews and to respond to any messages. Remember to thank the reviewers which praise you and offer apologies or solutions to those giving negative reviews. The more engagement you have with your customers the better.
As an added incentive, Google’s increasing focus on social sharing, now means that users can receive recommendations for places to visit, based on the reviews they have posted or reviews their friends have written. Therefore by encouraging and developing the customer reviews on Google Places, it will not only increase your presence in Google, but will help you find more customers for your business.