Google Local Services Reviews Not Showing in Google Maps? Why That Happens and What to Do

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Many businesses use Google’s Local Services Ads (AKA “Google Guaranteed”) program to show up at the very top of the local results – above all the other ads, and above the local map (AKA the 3-pack).

Local Services Ads (LSAs) are still not an option for every business, and they’re not a good option for everyone, but they often earn their keep for the businesses that do use them – if my clients’ experiences are good indicators.  By which I mean people see the ads, click on them, and in some cases become customers.  (If you’d like to know more, Tom Waddington did a great overview of LSAs.)

Google even makes it extra easy to ask customers for reviews: Google gives you a special “write a review” link (different from the Google My Business one) and encourages you to use it to ask for reviews.  If you use that link or otherwise encourage your LSA customers to review you within the LSA interface, you’ll get reviews that show up with your ad.  Those reviews are great, as far as they go.

The trouble is your Local Services reviews don’t show up in Google Maps.  Even though your Google Maps reviews show up just fine in your ad, so you assume they’re the same thing (“a Google review is a Google review”).

You can be pretty sure you’ve run into that problem if the number of reviews you see in Google MAPS (including the right-hand sidebar) is lower than the number of reviews you see in your Local Services Ad.

So, for instance, if your ad says you have 35 Google reviews, but your Google Maps review count shows only 25 reviews, then now you know why: About 10 of your customers wrote a review exclusively in Local Services Ads (probably from your custom link), rather than on Google Maps for everyone to see.  Now would-be customers see those 10 reviews if they click on your ad.

Especially in these tough times, you need all the reviews and local SEO mojo you can get, you want would-be customers to see all your good reviews, and you’d like to minimize the amount you need to pay Google along the way.  What in tarnation is going on?

It’s not that your reviews have been filtered, or you did something wrong, or your customers/reviewers did something wrong.  Rather, LSA reviews and Google Maps reviews are not the same thing, and they don’t end up at the same place.

 

The buckets are only somewhat separate, because Google pulls customers’ Google Maps reviews into your ad and counts those reviews toward the total number displaying in your ad.  So in that sense there’s overlap: a review that someone wrote you in Google Maps shows up everywhere, including in your Local Services Ad. 

Why doesn’t Google simply pull LSA reviews into Google Maps, or just have ONE kind of review?  I wonder the same thing.  My guess is it’s some combination of 3 reasons:

1. Reviewers’ privacy. Maybe someone is willing to write a review of a Local Services Ads business, but doesn’t want his or her review to show up publicly on Google Maps and in his or her Google user profile. Google needs to balance privacy (so they don’t get sued more) on the one hand with monetizing reviews on the other hand.  If Google accepts business owners’ advertising dollars, tells them to ask for reviews, encourages customers to click on ads because of those reviews, and then makes it hard for customers to write reviews or makes them squeamish about it or filters the reviews, then that’s a problem for everyone.  Having reviews that show up only in Local Search Ads is a compromise.

2. Google probably wants to make the LSAs slightly more attractive to click on by making the total review count higher. If a customer who’s shopping around can see 25 reviews of a business or see 35 reviews of the same business, which set of reviews probably gives him or her a better snapshot of the business? I’m guessing the bigger pile of reviews gets the click much of the time.  If the person who clicks the Local Services Ad ends up booking the service via Google, of course Google gets a cut of the transaction.

3. It’s an engineering problem built up over time. Google Maps reviews were around long before Local Services Ads. Starting when Google introduced the latter in 2015, Google has had to slide the ads into the search results to do a long-term test, without screwing up the local results so much that nobody uses them or wants to advertise in them.  Also, because of that, most businesses’ Google reviews were and are left in Google MAPS, and not through Local Services Ads, yet somehow Google has to make the review count in LSAs higher than the one in Maps.  That’s why they’re not two completely separate buckets of reviews.  Eventually, if more reviews are left through Local Services Ads than in Google Maps, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google concludes, “Cool – the LSA reviews aren’t the runt of the litter anymore” and then completely separates them.  Of course, separating elements doesn’t always work.

 

The main reason Google Maps reviews are so powerful – and fudged and spammed constantly – is that almost everyone sees them sooner or later.  They show up in the 3-pack.  They show up in Google Maps, including in the app.  The review count, average rating, and little excerpts of the reviews show up in the right-hand sidebar (AKA the knowledge panel) whenever someone searches for you by name or clicks on you in the search results after finding you for the first time.  They’re nigh unavoidable, and Google often adds features to Google Maps reviews and sticks them in more places in the search results.

Not so with Google reviews left through Local Services Ads (via the special link).  They’re visible, but still avoidable.  For now, they only live in your ad.  Their main function is to get more people to click on your ad, so they book through Google, so Google gets its vig.

What’s my advice?  Ask customers to review you directly on Google Maps, rather than through Local Services Ads.  Those reviews will still show in your Local Services Ad, but won’t be limited to your ad.  Usually all customers need to do is Google your business’s name and click the “write a review” link.

The Google Maps route is only slightly harder for them and for you, and there’s still a chance their reviews will get filtered, but that’s an acceptable trade-off.  I suspect you’ll find that Google Maps reviews – the kind everyone sees – pack more of a wallop than the Local Services Ads reviews.  Partly that’s because (in my experience) LSA reviews are more likely to be dashed-off, short, and not too helpful.

By the way, what should you do about the reviews people already wrote through Local Services Ads?  Consider asking those customers to re-post their reviews in Google Maps.  At least on Maps the review will be more visible to more people.  If your customers find it easier, they can just copy and paste the review they already wrote you through your LSA request.  Now you’re thinkin’.

 

If you’ve found it tough to get people to write you Google Maps reviews, here are some economical ways to make it easier:

Especially if you also get reviews on other sites online, those Google Maps reviews can help you bring the thunder.  They can help your rankings and help you get more customers, no matter how invisible or visible you are now.  To work on getting Google reviews right is worth the heartache, and it’s about the highest-payoff use of your time I can think of. 

How do you balance Google LSA reviews and Google Maps reviews? 

Any questions?  

Leave a comment!

Want to End Your Lease But Not Your Local SEO? Factors to Consider If You Might Leave It Behind

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Now you’re looking at your lease through the local SEO lens.  A combination of the pandemic, the lockdown(s), the quasi-reopening, and other changes has made you want to save money where you can, or work from home indefinitely, or move your HQ.  The basic concern is, “Will I destroy my local rankings if I rent somewhere else or stop renting altogether?”

Your more-specific questions might include:

  • Should you stay in your current building?
  • If you stay, how long should you stay?
  • If you move, which address (old or new) should you show online?
  • Should you stop showing your address online?
  • How important is your exact address, in the grand scheme of local SEO?

The answer to those questions and others in a similar bucket is: “it depends.”  It depends on a lot of factors you need to weigh.

In recent months I’ve helped several clients transition to work-from-home, develop or reopen with virtual/online/not-in-person services, or move to a new address.  (I also did some of that pre-COVID.)  You might have similar goals.  In that case, I’m here to point out all the ways an address change can blow up in your face, so you can decide what the least-bad course of action is.

Below are some factors I suggest you include in your head math as you decide whether and when to drop your lease (or make a similar big change).  The more of these you can answer “yes” to, the better.

  1. Are you OK with the risk-reward balance of using an old address for your Google My Business page – AKA “hermit crab SEO”? If not, then you probably have little choice but to keep paying rent a while longer. If so, it might be at least a short-term way for you to cut your lease but still stick around on the map for at least a while longer.  The main risks of hermit crab SEO are (1) your Google My Business is somewhat more likely to be removed from the map at some point, and (2) it will be harder or impossible to re-verify page at that address again, if you ever need to.  By the way, a tool like Persuaded.io can tell competitors whether the USPS considers your address occupied, which may help those competitors send in a Google Maps edit that sticks.  Read my post on the pros and cons, if you haven’t already.
  1. Do you get customers / clients / patients from a variety of cities or towns or neighborhoods, rather than only from the one you’re in? You’re taking a real gamble if most or all of your business comes from one small spot. But if you get people from a variety of places – and if you suspect they found you online and aren’t all just word-of-mouth referrals – then your visibility is probably diversified enough.  Your rankings go down here and go up there, but you’re still OK.  Not all your eggs are in one basket.

 

  1. Do you rank for any important search terms outside of your immediate, hyperlocal area? In other words, how location-sensitive are the Google Maps rankings you care about? If you only rank for your important search terms within a very small patch of land (like in a few neighborhoods in your city, or in one small town), then any change of address will probably mess you up.  How do you find out how location-sensitive your rankings are?  I’d look in a combination of the AdWords Ad Preview & Diagnosis Tool, in a local rank-checker that uses a proxy, in Google My Business “insights,” and maybe in Search Console (under “Performance” -> “Queries”).  No method is perfect, but if you piece together what you see in various places you should get the picture.
  1. Do you have solid organic rankings in addition to solid Maps rankings? If not, removing or changing your address will affect your visibility on the map – probably for the worse. But if you do have that solid baseline of organic rankings, removing your address from Google My Business or changing your address is less likely to cut into your overall visibility.  How can you find out the breakdown of your Maps vs. organic visibility?  Look in the places I mentioned in point #3 (above), and maybe at a rank tracker.

  1. Do you have a plan ramp up your organic visibility fast? Easier said than done, I know. But if anything happens to your Google Maps rankings, the organic results will probably be your main or only source of “free” visibility.  (Most of your visibility on the map depends on your organic SEO strength anyway.)  Your main alternatives are (1) wait for a miracle, (2) spam the map and hope it doesn’t backfire, and (3) pay for ads as your only source of sun rays.  Not a great scenario.  How can you ramp up your organic visibility fast?  Well, short of spamming or earning a ton of good links, I’d suggest (a) getting at least a few solid and relevant links, (b) creating a separate page on every specific offering you’ve got (so as to get more “one-box” visibility), (c) working your homepage WAY more, (d) going after  “near me” terms, and (e) maybe creating the kind of “areas served” page that would bring a grin to my mug.  In general, my suggestion is to create in-depth pages (not blog posts) on very specific topics that people both nearby and farther-away research at some point in the buying process.

  1. Do you already have “virtual” or “online-only” customers, clients, or patients? Before you might make your business less bricks-and-mortar, you need to know whether the people who pay you are fine with a service that’s less bricks-and-mortar.  Not everyone will stay on that road with you, but some will need to.

 

  1. Does your “virtual” or “online-only” clientele include some people you started working with after COVID and the lockdown hit? For one thing, you need to establish that you can get new customers / clients / patients when it’s clear to them from the start that your service (at least for now) is done remotely. Also, as I mentioned, it’s great if some or most of your tribe has made the transition with you, but those people already had in-person connection to you.  That’s a kind of glue.  Can customers get attached to you even if they don’t start off with the glue?  How long do they stay attached to you before you start looking like just a floating head with a voice and an invoice?  Good questions.  The short answer is, “it depends.”  Most of my longer answer you can piece together between this post, this one, and this one.
  1. Will your service area stay pretty much the same? If so, then you may not need to wait until you’ve built up organic visibility in more of your service area. If not, you’ll probably want to fill in some gaps before you drop your lease.  Your local SEO effort needs to go beyond the map.
  1. Do you have a solid pile of non-Google reviews? Put another way: even if people never see your GMB page and its Google reviews, will they still see a rock-solid reputation and know what to expect of you? Diversify where you get reviews, whether or not you end up cutting your lease.  By the way, you’ll probably find that’s not too tough to do.  With the exception of Yelp, Google is a harder place to get reviews on that pretty much every other review site.
  1. Do you have a good way to explain PUBLICLY what your location is? If you want or need to specify it on your site, or explain it to Google My Business “support,” or clarify something in a response to an online review, you don’t want your place of business (or lack thereof) to seem dodgy.

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  1. If you use AdWords and run location extensions, do your ads without location extensions do well? If your CTRs or other important metrics are only good when your Google My Business page gets dragged along into your ad, and then you make a big change to that Google My Business page, your Google Ads visibility may become collateral damage.
  1. Are you fine with your old address (or your home address) showing up on certain local listings? Your address won’t show up on all listings (especially if you take pains to conceal it), but it will appear on some sites. Probably shouldn’t be that way, but it is.  If the address you’re leaving or the one you’re switching to is absolutely top-secret, then you’ll need to reconsider.
  1. Is your current place itself not a big selling point for most of your customers? If you don’t know already, see if you can glean any insights from your customers’ reviews of you. Maybe your possible new location or non-location is better for you and not a deal-breaker for your clientele, but how many people would miss something irreplaceable about the old location?

Lifting anchor from your lease may or may not be voluntary.  Whether it’s a change you have to make, or want to make, or that you figure you might as well make because so many other things are in flux anyway, it’s worth engineering in your favor as much as you can.  Knowing the trade-offs and blind spots is the best way to do that.

What are you considering doing with your lease or address?

Any factors you’re weighing that I did not mention?

Any unique twists in your situation?

Leave a comment!

Free SEO Help for Small, Locally-Owned Businesses Hurt by Looting & Rioting in 2020

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Pro Bono Local SEO Help for Businesses Locked Down by Coronavirus

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How to Make a “Service Areas” Page That Hunts

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An “Areas Served” or “Service Areas” or “Cities” or “Locations” page doesn’t get much consideration in the local SEO world, and that’s a shame.  If you do it right, that kind of page can rank for some juicy terms, help other pages to rank, make your site structure simpler, help people navigate your site, and […]

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