Zagat, Google+ Local and Your Business

Google+ Local Page

Great reviews are important for any local business. Google+ Local pages have recently rolled out and feature a Zagat style rating system. Positive consumer reviews are more important than ever before. It’s time to find out how this change affects your online presence and marketing mix.

Google+ Local Integration

Google has promised greater integration across services and they’re still delivering. If you search local results you’ll find quite a few changes. Gone is the standard Google Places page. In its place you’ll find the new Google+ Local layout. The appearance of the page is essentially the same, no matter if you’re using Google+ or if you’re using standard search.

Google+ Local Pages

The first thing you may notice is an overall score (some haven’t been calculated yet) and the number of reviews on the Google+ Local page. Under that box is an ‘at a glance’ section where the description is said to be written by a human. However I doubt that on-going human editorial is possible considering the scope of the rollout.

At this point, only restaurants display the traditional Zagat format which displays price and rates food, décor & service. Restaurateurs should be pleased to note that select Local pages are displaying in the top corner of regular SERPs for food related queries. Other business types display a single aggregate rating. It’s quite likely the rating is determined by not only reviews on the local page, but also reviews from Kudzu down to the most obscure review sites.

Any reviews from your Google Places page have been ported to your Google+ Local page. However, the reviews no longer display in chronological order. This makes the time tested tactic of “pushing down” older negative reviews null and void.

Update: Scores are now showing in local results.

False Reviews and Spam

False reviews have always been a huge problem. It appears that Google+ Local hasn’t tackled this issue and may encourage even more false reviews. As previously stated, the Zagat rating system appears to take into account ratings from across the internet.

There seems to be a strong correlation with large amounts of positive reviews and higher aggregate ratings.  Naturally a high rating is likely to sway at least a few potential clients.  And if attaining a higher rating means spamming every review site on the internet, there are more than a few people that are willing to do just that.

Google+ Local for Business

At its core, Google+ Local pages aren’t entirely different in purpose from Google Places pages. The intent of both iterations is to provide information about local business to searchers. However, the former has upped the qualitative game considerably.

You may be asking yourself how you can achieve a higher rating. The answer is the same as getting Google Places ratings. First, provide a great service. Second, as in most things, sometimes you just have to ask. If all else fails, there are many ways to ethically incentivize positive reviews. Engaging your clientele on Google+ is yet another great tactic.

The most important thing to remember is that very few Google products go unchanged throughout their life cycle. This product isn’t a likely exception. It’s critical that you understand how those changes impact your business. We will keep you posted on emerging trends related to Google+ Local pages.

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