The following is a post from Hart Van Santvoord, TIG Global Search Marketing Manager.
Google announcements always create a stir. We all rely so heavily on traffic from their variety of products and it only makes sense that, when Google speaks, we listen…and then wildly speculate about how the SEO landscape has changed as we know it. Google’s latest announcement regarding Place page evolution was no exception. But, now that the dust has settled, let’s take a step back and think about what this means.
First, what we do know:
- Only reviews from Google users are now displayed on Google Place pages
- 3rd party reviews have been removed from Place pages
- 3rd party reviews are still included in Place Search results in some cases
- Links to review sites are still included in both Place Search results and on Place pages
- Additional details added by business owners appear to have been removed from Place pages
- More prevalent “Write a review” and “Upload a photo” buttons are now included
Now for the speculation and why I don’t agree with all of it:
- “Google is only considering reviews by Google users in their ranking algorithm” – Google has made it abundantly clear they are looking to grow their community of users and grow the interactions amongst those users. It is true they are no longer showing review content on Place pages from other review platforms. However, they are still linking to these sites and are still including content from, at least, Yelp.com in Place Search results. The problem for Google is that they don’t have nearly as much review content as TripAdvisor, Yelp or others. If they can continue to grow their review content, I do expect Google reviews to weigh more heavily than reviews from other sites. However, if Google is committed to increasing user experience, I find it very hard to believe they will ignore quantity and sentiment of reviews from other reputable sources.
- “Google is no longer looking at citations” – Local search is a complicated landscape. We’ve all experienced the frustration of having an employee’s cell phone or the address of the barber shop next door listed incorrectly on our Google Place page. Yes, Google has made many improvements, but one of the main reasons for these improvements is their ability to reference citations (anywhere a business’s address or phone number is listed) from high quality sources across the web. Think of it as the link building of local search. The more accurate citations you have on high quality sites, the better. Until Google guarantees 100% accuracy, 24/7, 365, dynamically updating as businesses open, close, move, etc. this won’t change.
Now that we’ve addressed some of the concerns around the evolution of Place pages, we hope everyone can breathe a little easier. Continue with your local search strategy, inclusive of citation creation. It may also make sense to encourage guests to leave reviews on Google in addition to TripAdvisor and others.
We’ll keep an eye on this interface change as it develops, so circle back to the blog for thoughts and opinions. As always, please make use of the comments section below to weigh in!
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