Google Maps: Now Adding Reviews from News Sites, Hyperlocal Blogs and Other Non Traditional Review Sources

What’s New in Reviews at Google Maps:

With their newly implemented sentiment analysis, Google Maps is apparently now reaching across hyperlocal blogs, local portals and news sites and retrieving blog entries, general editorial reporting and even blog comments for inclusion as reviews on their Places Pages.

This change portends a dramatically changed review landscape where both the volume of reviews for some types of businesses will rise and the dynamics of reputation management will change. It could very well shift  the balance of power away from centralized review sites and could be one more impediment to any recovery of the IYP sites.

With the advent of Places, Google Maps started including more meaningful review snippets on the Places Page and recently they added the ability to parse reviews into finer categories for a better understanding of reviewer’s perspectives about that Place. It appears that this new sentiment analysis capability is now also being applied to general web content to both identify and categorize these new reviews.

Google Confirms this new capability:
Carter Maslan, the Google Maps Product Manager, has confirmed this new capability to add reviews from any web source. He noted in an email conversation that “In this case (noted below), for example, we want to surface posts like this that reference Von Ray at his business”.

The First Example:
The new types of review were first spotted by Michael Cottam, shortly after the first of the year, who noticed this review on his client Von Ray’s V-Shape Fitness Places Page:

Von Ray is awesome. If you live in Portland and you need a trainer, you should call him to talk…

Von Ray is awesome. If you live in Portland and you need a trainer, you should call him to talk about your options: 503 421 5577. In the last year I’ve quit smoking, lost 10 pounds, done a triathlon, and can regularly do 300 push-ups as

This review was retrieved by Google from this blog post on Matt Davis’s Portland blog about his personal trainer. The blog, while very locally focused, is not review focused. Note that with little context other than the language of the post, the business name and phone number Google was able to attach the information as a review to Von Ray’s Place’s Page and highlighted the review like language from the post.

Some Additional Examples:
Here are a few more examples that demonstrate the broad array of content that Google can now understand as reviews and include with the appropriate local listing.

This review was extracted by Google from a weekly entertainment site in Toronto, the eyeweekly.com . As you can see from the review on the site, the content is written in a typical review narrative style typical of a newspaper. On the Places Page for the Factory Theatre in Toronto Google included a number of reviews from local sites with the following coming directly from the eyeweekly.com review:

Hot on the heels of her first full-length production — last fall’s East of Berlin at Tarragon…

Hot on the heels of her first full-length production — last fall’s East of Berlin at Tarragon — playwright Hannah Moscovitch is back at Factory Theatre with remounts of the two, one-act Summerworks plays that launched her as a local…

Google is able to find, on these very local sites, information that would otherwise be unavailable. For example from this page from blogto.com about the Bob + Paige Salon, Google was able to use the comments as review material for their Places Page:

Unfortunately I got a really crappy hair cut here. After being really specific as to what I did …

Unfortunately I got a really crappy hair cut here. After being really specific as to what I did and didn’t want, I know what suits me and what looks good, and asked exactly for what I wanted and got the exact opposite.

Here is a another example of a performance review from blogto.com, the popular Toronto blog that shows in the Places Page:

With a healthy mix of irreverent humour and serious thought-provoking moments, and of course

With a healthy mix of irreverent humour and serious thought-provoking moments, and of course some sexy scenes, this show makes for a good way to spend an evening out. I think I’ll start with what this is not… In case you were hoping ….

Finding Review Sites in Your Market:
Once I figured out that Google was in fact retrieving and adding these types of reviews, finding more examples was a matter of identifying local news and blogging resources and doing a quick scan of the Maps index on the domain. In my case, I asked a person knowledgeable about Toronto to recommend some hyperlocal sites there and he suggested blogto.com and eyeweekly.com. These sites, when searched in Maps by domain, showed strong presence in the index.

In finding them on your own, I would suggest a similar procedure. Identify locally prominent sites (ie news, hyperlocal blogs) that have a strong presence in the market and occasionally or regularly comment about local places.

Go to maps.google.com and simply type the domain that you identified into the Maps search box ie, blogto.com You might want to include a local modifier. Maps will display an array of Places listed in which the site you identified has been mentioned. You can verify that they are a review source by then examining the review section of the Places Page.

All of these new review entries that I found had several things in common on the originating site. They were all on sites that were very locally focused and had obviously strong standing in the local market. All included review like language and many had rating stars. Most of the entries contained complete business name, address and phone but some like the Von Ray example included just a link and the phone number. It is too early to say definitely what a blog post needs to have to be included in the Places Page reviews section. As we learn more about what Google is looking for, we will be better able to determine a structure that will reinforce the likelihood of a blog post being included in their review index.

The Implications:
Google Maps is now using the new capability of sentiment analysis to better understand content and add “reviews” from non traditional sources like newspaper articles and single blog entries that appear across the internet. This new capability will dramatically increase the reach of hyperlocal blogs, change how businesses manage the review process and could, over the long haul, change how and where reviews are generated and aggregated.

-Businesses will need to be more aware of and responsive to many more sources of reviews than previously, complicating reputation management.

-Hyperlocal News and Blogging sites should be aware of and plan for Google’s new capability. Content should be structured so as to enable Google’s bots to include this information in the Places Pages. It could become a significant traffic source and slight changes to layout could improve their ability to be aggregated.

-IYP’s and less dynamic sites like CitySearch have one more reason to worry. Once the sole source for Google’s review content, this new approach to sentiment analysis could further impact their traffic as a million little sites start cutting into their previous position.

-Spammers will have new fertile ground to exploit for both their own and their competitors’ reviews.

The Conclusion:
Certainly, Google is in the very early stages of adding these reviews and there are bound to be some glitches and snafus. It is unclear whether they have in place the necessary spam prevention tools.

That being said, this is a significant and potentially game changing technology. By expanding the sites from which reviews are gathered and expanding the pools of reviews, Google will be able to aggregate this sort of information about many more places. It could very well portend a shift in the review landscape, moving power way from centralized review sites towards active and aggressive hyperlocal sites.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps: Now Adding Reviews from News Sites, Hyperlocal Blogs and Other Non Traditional Review Sources by

74 thoughts on “Google Maps: Now Adding Reviews from News Sites, Hyperlocal Blogs and Other Non Traditional Review Sources”

  1. OK,

    Tell me which reviews won’t get wiped when Google for some reason decides to wipe out 9 months of review collection for no reason.

    This is my second review issue. First my reviews for 1 site I have got posted to someone else’s listing and have remained there since and now all my reviews for another site (40 in total) have been wiped. I didn’t backup /copy or record any of these reviews and I know they made a real difference to my business.

    They not only added credibility, but allowed me I feel to gain more enquiries than my local (higher placed) competitors because of the sheer number of positive reinforcing, bona fide reviews I had received.

    Whose property are those reviews? How can they just be wiped without any reference point? If treated so shabbily why shouldn’t one embark on a friends and family review creation process to get back to a starting position? Why act ethically if you just get cut?

  2. There is always a “reason” from the point of view of the algo involved. But after all it is just an algo and nothing more.

    For whatever reason the algo is having difficulties retaining the citations/reviews with the cluster of the appropriate business. It is most likely some confusion between your listing and a duplicate listing or a business in a similar business.

  3. how do I figure out the best sites to have my customers (dental customers) leave reviews on? e.g. yelp, ratemds, judysbook, dooogle, google or other?

    I need to be very prescriptive and ask them to go to X site and submitt a review.

    great stuff, thanks MP

  4. Mike, some links in your article leave to empty pages (e.g., V-Shape-Fitness) , no reviews visible (anymore?). Any clue why? Google changing the algo as we are writing this?

    thanks

  5. Google maps for business / store finder use has a very basic API platform with no advanced Geocoding (so accuracy is always an issue), no SLA so if there is a error / hack or should Google feel you should be on the premier or enterprise solution – you will be cut off.

    No support or use of asset management. Importantly the functions and customisation is low with weak directions compared to proper Mapping providers like Microsoft or ViaMichelin, with Google offering very little by way of export opportunities, criteria searches. No serious business / company would use Google maps as the user experience is low with privacy flaws and no guarantee of advertising not appearing on the map.

  6. I blog a lot about lawyers when they are running for elected office. I just checked all these lawyers’ Google Places sites, and my blog posts are not showing up as “reviews.” My blog posts are showing up below in the “more about this place section”. If my blog posts showed up as “reviews” on law offices, I would probably change my blogging practices. Political candidates are fair game, but i am not targeting their practices.

  7. Well the fact that they are showing as a citation means that Google recognizes that the blog posts are in fact about a specific business. As long as you are careful not to use review specific language with particular sentiments like value, service and ambiance you are probably safe….

  8. Mike,

    I am seeing a lot of “sentiment analysis” showing up again, mostly reviews pulled from blogs on blogspot.

    Do you know what triggers Google Places to find these reviews?

    It does seem a little dangerious once spammers figure out how to exploit this, no?

  9. When Google finds a phone number it becomes a citations and when they find “positive sentiment”, they are able to associate it as a review

  10. It’s just that simple, huh? So anyone with a blog in blogger can write a review about a business and as long as they add a phone and/or address + your business name and it should then technically get picked up your places page’s listing, right?

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