Google is consistently rolling out changes to their products & services to improve usability and, of course, to keep all of us on our toes. This time the changes are to Google Places. Google Places is a major source of traffic for our clients and has become increasingly more popular. This is most likely due to the influx of smart phone users & the merge of organic & local listings. This newfound popularity could have been the stimulant behind the recent changes.
By far, the biggest change to Places is that Google is no longer displaying reviews from third party sites. This means that all business reviews from Yelp, TripAdvisor, Flip Key, etc. are no longer shown on your Google Places listing. The user has to physically click those reviews from the Search Results Page to see the them. Here is what the Search Results page looks like when you Google a Holiday Inn in Miami:
In the past, when you clicked on the reviews, it would take you to the business’ Google Places page. Now the reviews are showing up on the actual sites. This major change makes it harder for users to find all the reviews for your business. Now, the main sources of reviews are coming from Google Places where most companies don’t have many reviews.
To encourage more reviews on the Places pages, Google made the ‘Write a Review’ button more prominent on the page:
So what does this mean for the vacation rental industry? This means that your company’s online reputation management strategy needs to be updated. Instead of just trying to get reviews anywhere online, the goal should be to make sure your company has an equal number of reviews across all major review sites. (These include Yelp, TripAdvisor, Flipkey, Google Places) Since most companies don’t have many reviews on Google Places now, it would be in your best interest to focus on obtaining reviews on your Places Listing first while continuing to monitor the other major review sites. For more information on managing your online reputation management, keep an eye out for Visual Data Systems upcoming webinar by Mark Randle and Emily Thompson.
By Lauren Magyar, Online Marketing Consultant