Over the past year with the development of user generated content and the rise of reviews in particular small businesses have been struggling with exactly how to approach this new form of customer input. The more internet aware have embraced the review process and have been using the process for reputation management, quality improvement through the feedback process and customer relation management. Certainly for those businesses that have quality as a focus and execute well, having customers so publicly proclaim their virtues can be a very positive thing.
But most small business lack the time to manage and review all of the possible review sites that might affect them. The fragmentation of the IYP market and the growing number of review sites has made the chore ever expanding. Typically the recommendation I would make was to choose a site that was locally popular, industry relevant and picked up by Google. This advice seemed even more appropriate when it became clear that Google was using review quantity as a factor in Google Maps ranking. Some small businesses went beyond just responding to reviews to setting up formal systems to actively encourage reviews that would ultimately show up in Google Maps,
However over the past 2 months the changing landscape of Google has made this practice more difficult to pursue. There are a number of interesting and seemingly related reports of changes in Google’s handling and listing of reviews.
Just the facts, mam:
Add your reviews to businesses on Google Maps Google Lat Long Blog, June 19, 2007 at 10:59 AM
Google Maps Not Counting Own Reviews SEO Igloo, January 1, 2008
Insiderpages Reviews Gone From Google Maps SEO Igloo, Thursday 24 Jan 2008
At MacWorld I asked a Google staffer what had happened to the CitySearch reviews and they responded that they didn’t know but stated that perhaps is was just a realigned business relationship like happened with Yelp and the removal of their reviews. Go figure, I hadn’t noticed the loss of Yelp reviews.
Now that we have the “facts” as we know them out of the way lets look at them a little more closely and move into the much more enjoyable area of speculation!
Maps guide Jen noted on Jan. 9th: “As you’ve noted, Citysearch’s content is currently missing from Google Maps. We are taking steps to resolve the system error and repost their listings.“. Despite what Map Guide Jen contends, it seems unlikely that Google misplaced a couple hundred thousand records and still has not found them.
We do know that Yelp, CitySearch & InsiderPages are no longer in Maps. We also know as the Google staffer pointed out that these things happen as a result of changing business relationships. As Miriam pointed out, Google has minimized the importance of their reviews at least visually.
My speculation: The lowering profile of the Google reviews is a response to the blow back on Google getting into this new content creation area as opposed to them just indexing the world’s information. I think some of their “partners” are responding negatively to Google getting into the review business and Google is thus rethinking the priority of their own reviews.
What’s a small business person to do when navigating the changing tides?Google Maps: The changing landscape for reviews by Mike Blumenthal