If you’ve looked up any business in Google Places today, you’d have noticed two BIG changes to the layout.
One change screams at users to write a review through their Google account—and not through a third-party site like Yelp or InsiderPages. The other change makes the reviews customers have written you through these other sites far less visible on your Google Places page.
Some more detail:
Change 1: Big Red Google Review Buttons
Both of these buttons were there on the Places page before, but they were far less visible—appearing as small text links rather than as big, visible buttons.
It’s always been a little tricky for customers to write a review of a business through their Google accounts—especially if a business owner asks them to write a review but they don’t have a Google account set up yet and have to take the necessary detour to sign up for one.
For some time Google has been trying to get more of its users to write reviews. It’s all part of an effort on Google’s part to make the Places Page “one-stop shopping” for customers to learn about local businesses—so that they don’t spend as much time reading reviews on other sites. This is a step in the direction of making Google Places more self-contained, and not reliant on reviews written elsewhere.
Change 2: No More Review Excerpts from non-Google Sites
Gone are the review excerpts from other sites. They don’t show up on your Places page any more.
Until today, you could have a total of 8 review excerpts showing up on your Google Places page: a maximum of 2 excerpts written by customers with Google accounts, and another 6 excerpts from reviews written on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.
Now your Google Places page can have a maximum of only TWO excerpts of reviews written by Google users:
Also, until today, all of your reviews would show up next to the little “average review stars.” That is, if you had a bunch of reviews written by Google users and a bunch of reviews that customers wrote through other sites, all your reviews would show up as one grand-total number–one big happy family:
The other day, if you looked at the Circus Circus casino in the local search results, you’d see that it has over 47,000 (!) reviews, written by its patrons on all kinds of third-party sites. Now all you see from the outside is “143 reviews”—the total number of reviews that Circus Circus patrons have written through their Google accounts:
So Google is showcasing reviews written by Google users, and is paying far less attention to reviews written on sites like Yelp, CitySearch, and many others.
All this could be another one of Google’s tests. But if these changes are at least semi-permanent, they represent the latest step in Google’s effort to make itself the “one-stop shop” for information about local businesses—including the customer reviews that used to be the domain of other, non-Google sites.
I could blab on and on about the implications of this change–and I probably will in a subsequent post!—but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this change.