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. Mike: Trying just a couple of times with local hyperblogs I thought might have popularlity within a community…and not digging deep I didn’t find any reviews.

    What I did find though were citations. The citations, found in the “more about this place”, or citations….came from local blogs referencing an entity. What was further interesting was that the blog reference didn’t include an address, did include a name of the business and a link to the business sites.

    BTW: in my searches for local blog’s I inputted the blog url into the maps search field. One of those times no results showed at first, though a question appeared of this ilk…… urlname.com in (city in which its located. After a yes acknowledgement the citations appeared.

    Yep….Google is acknowledging the “localness” of some blogs….and taking their content and distributing them to place pages. It appears they are doing this in more ways than one.

  2. @Earlpearl

    To a certain extent, a citation is a citation and the line blurs between a review and a citation.

    I think that they are just rolling out this new capability to identify a citation as a review when it includes review like language. I would imagine the processor power and time to do this could be significant. I would anticipate see more of them showing up as reviews going forward.

    BTW what blog did you look at?

  3. Mike: further review found at least one review. the blog had a non link reference to a business with NAP info. The reference turned up as a review versus citation.

    Agree: upon picking these references up….how does google discern between which are citations and which are reviews. That is interesting in its own right: A distinctive step forward in categorizing the content language that google picks up from the web.

  4. Did a check here in Seattle market but have not yet seen this come up here yet. I will be on the lookout for it. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

  5. Fantastic post, Mike, about a very exciting development in the review world. You get this thrilling glimpse of the future of hyperlocal from the changes Google is making and you’ve done an awesome job of pointing the way for us all with this article. Bravo!

  6. @Miriam

    Thanks! And a hearty, public thanks for your incredible editing of the article prior to publication.

    You are a great editor!

    Mike

  7. I’d love to hear from others how you’ll turn this around into recommendations for Local SEO clients. The obvious answer to me is to advise local businesses to encourage their customers to share feedback through any local online channels – newspapers, community websites, neighborhood blogs, etc. — and not only in local directories or reviews sites. Any other implications I’ve missed?

    1. Hi Cindy
      here are several thoughts (by no means exhaustive):

      1)it dramatically increases the need for monitoring by both keeping an eye on your places page AND setting up google alerts around your name/phone number
      2)as part of encouraging reviews on the part of clients it opens more places to send the client to leave the review. I am a big believer in the active ask and making it easier for the reiviewer is all to the good
      3)I might encourage them to start their own hyperlocal blog. Take advantage of the potential power shift and become the site that generates the reviews

  8. “…3)I might encourage them to start their own hyperlocal blog. Take advantage of the potential power shift and become the site that generates the reviews”

    This is brilliant!

  9. HI Mike,

    Can i post the reviews from any country … Google will not track the IPs from where are that reviews are posted ??

    and if i can the what to get the real reviews from cleints and get your site on the top of the local listing

    1. @Pradeep

      I do not know exactly how Google evaluates this content. While most of it came from truly local sources there were several (see the german example above) that came from foreign websites.

      If they haven’t done so already, Google obviously will need to evaluate not just the quality of the content but the quality of the source when deciding to add general content to Places Page.

      Spamming of this technology could be a huge problem for local businesses. Imagine what would happen if two businesses were in a dispute and one hired an offshore company to generate a number of negative reviews….Or the opposite…

  10. Hey Mike nice find,

    How is Google dealing with the hypocrisy that it is creating duplicate content and not licensing this content? Originally when I saw reviews were being pulled from other websites I assumed that this was not the case, and Google setup a licensing agreement.

    This is over stepping a boundary in my opinion, and not fair to local blogs etc. In any case, if the traffic to the local website, or niche website increased because of the review, or links helped SEO for the local site then maybe its not so bad.

    ?

    1. @Jeff

      Good questions and it is much the same situation as the news industry.

      Google usually took reviews from sites that gave them a feed or had other type of quid pro arrangements..usually reviews in return for traffic…Google rarely pays for anything.

      In this case, they are just extracting “snippets” and I suppose they would argue that like they do on the main search engine with snippets relating to a search.

      Here though, Google is creating a “one stop shop” of information that may or may not share the audience with the review site or the business site. In the case of organic, the snippet is used is to send them off to the page. Here it is used for the purpose of keeping folks on the Places page…

      No telling how the traffic will wash out. For the time being, Places pages are not visited all that much. That could change if (or should we say when) Google includes them in the main index.

      That all being said, I don’t have a problem with my content being used in this way and if I did, I guess I could put up a robots.txt file that kept Google out.

  11. Wow! This is big news and I hope to use it two ways. I have a local search business – Get on the Map http://getonthemap.us but I also have a travel recommendation site – Things You Should Do – http://thingsyoushoulddo.com

    It’s not hyper-local, it’s multi-hyper-local. I have a category of Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles etc. The majority of my content is from California, but I do have recommendations of businesses all over the US and the world beyond. Do you think there are any html tags I should add to encourage getting my reviews picked up?

    I know the info is indexed in the map system. One of my projects was a Google map of the 100 Best Restaurants in the World and G offers a suggestion to add other locations from thingsyoushoulddo.com

    If anyone has any suggestions on how I can capitalize on this, I’m all ears.

    1. @Julie
      We don’t really know exactly how to get Google to look at your pages at this point. Previously, the inclusion of hcard review information was recommended but with their new capabilities that doesn’t seem necessary.

      Would love to hear back after you have tried a few things. 🙂

  12. I love this. One of our clients now has reviews on two of their biggest competitors’ Google maps results. Thanks, Google! 🙂

    Seriously though, there are some huge problems here.

    First, if the situation were reversed and their reviews showed on my clients results, I would be livid. Is there a process in place to report inaccurate or irrelevant reviews?

    Second, I think Google is a little over estimating their abilities here. They are good, but they are not THAT good. I think their technology is just not advanced enough yet.

    1. Reporting problems of this nature has always been a problem. They are pushing the “Report A Problem” link out into various places on Maps but there is NO formal way to remove this sort of erroneous information.

      This is a first shot at sentiment analysis. Google ALWAYS releases early and reiterates often…obviously they will be making some huge errors.

      They should, while they are working out the kinks in this, provide a better way to handle the kinds of errors that WILL crop up….begging in the forums and hoping that they will take a look is very frustrating for most. An influx of bad information to the Places Pages will be very frustrating for many.

      That being said, they are currently NOT showing the Places Pages in the main index and given the way it is now, the content is just not viewed that often…

  13. This is all very nice. However, have you ever though what it will be like when google will have gathered enough data to become trully monopoly? Majority of local search sites get their traffic from search engines. And ask yourself when was the last time you clicked on a review link to read the whole review instead of just the preview google shows. Google having over 65% (in US) of market has one strategic advantage over all the sites where content is pulled from – one day they can just decide to dump everyone as they will have attracted enough audience to generate the content for them (audience i.e. us, people). We will have (or we already have) another Microsoft, but this time even bigger. Where is space for healthy (and meaningful) competition? I honestly hope facebook does something about local search this year and so does microsoft. I actually believe when (it’s not a question of “if” anymore) facebook gets involved more in local web, it will bring in a tough new player with their global presence and addicted users.

  14. Mike: I have seen ZERO response on the “report a problem” link. While you referenced it, I see you didn’t suggest it. Good move. I wouldn’t suggest it to my worst enemy.

    Lord knows how often I’ve tried it. (actually I know, over 20 times for one particular problem).

    The “report a problem” link is an absolute Google joke. I think I would appreciate an email response of this ilk from Google:

    “Look fool, quit filling our automated “report a problem” boxes with your garbage. We don’t look at them. We don’t care. We don’t do customer service.

    We don’t care if people spam the standards we set up. We don’t take actions…..

    OTOH we appreciate you sending all those emails for the last month and a half. It bought us time. It kept you from going vocal in the forums or worse yet, going vocal in some other larger environment. We hate that. It forces us to take actions. It embarrasses us.

    If you want customer service call the phone company, call the electric company or better yet call one of those small businesses whose Maps records we don’t fix, (unless someone lights a fire under our butts).

    Small companies have to give customer service. Its their life blood. We are Google. We don’t have to do anything we don’t feel like”.

    Now a response like that would have been honest IMHO. 😉

  15. You are extremely welcome, Mike.

    I want to ask, are you seeing review results like these yet in Olean? I’ve been playing around with this since last night, looking for stuff in my own small town and have yet to find a hyperlocal blog/site being used as a review source. Maybe this has only been rolled out in major cities so far? Or, maybe I’m missing things. I’ve been looking at big categories (restaurants, hotels) with large numbers of reviews, and so far, I’m just seeing the same old players.

  16. My guess is that initially Google is looking for reviews for things that are not normally reviewed (or at least that is my sense)…musuems, theaters, etc. I am seeing a lot of “arts & entertainment” type sites being used.

    I have not explored deeply if there is a correlation between town size and local reviews. Matt McGee did not see his local real estate blog being used for reviews but it was for citations.

  17. @EarlPearl

    You could have worse problems. 🙂

    @Lee

    The reality of the business world that we live in is that companies either grow or they will be consumed and/or pushed aside. Google is just doing what any business would do, grow their business. That leads to monopoly. And super profits.

    The world of laissez faire capitalism in the end offers up little in the way healthy competition. Almost every major business segment of our consumer society is controlled by one or at the most, several domineering firms (oligopolies).

    Their interest isn’t in having healthy competition, their interest is in squashing it. That is the absolute best way to guarantee happy stock holders.

  18. @Mike

    I must disagree with you no matter how business orientated you are. If we look at Microsoft as an example, we could argue that it benefits their customers. For consumers, most products are overpriced and pricing strategy built on the fact that they are monopoly (same for businesses actually). That’s why many people use pirated MS products. Internet is different medium and google has been encountering law suits all way long – from media that google pulls content from one way or the other.

    Monopoly market doesn’t benefit anyone – only the business who holds the monopoly position. Google itself doesn’t produce enough rich content yet so as per their mission to organize the world’s information, they simply pull it from other properties. It is a healthy competition that not only ensures competitive products and evolution of the market itself, but also drives innovation in different directions.

    Even a German politician recently sent a warning to google basically outlining that they (the German government) will involve itself more in market control.

    Yes, I agree that every business’ mission is to build a substansial market share. But there is also the danger that monopoly position can lead to indirect control of the user base – us.

    For that sake, I hope MS, facebook and others will both come up with products that can compete successfully wih G.

  19. @Lee

    Lee, I am not describing what is good, I am describing what is.

    We live in a world where the governments (particularly here but Europe as well) are largely acting on behalf of large corporations. They will represent the interests of those corporations where they come from, not the average person on the street. If there are anti-trust efforts, frequently they are precipitated by and are executed on behalf of competing corporate interests.

    Imagine if you will a new form of polio virus that is very successful. It has evolved to circumvent current prevention procedures…would you blame the polio virus? No, it is doing what is demanded of it.

    You would try to prevent it but not by blaming the virus. You would remove its breeding ground or develop a new vaccines. You would change the ground rules under which it was operating.

    I am saying that in this case, it is not Google that you should be blaming. They are behaving as the context demands.

    If there are demands for monopoly control they will likely be fueled by their competitors not out of interest for your or my well being.

    If you want to stop monopoly than you need to think bigger than some politician engaging in populist rhetoric. I am suggesting that monopoly is an outcome of how society is organized.

    I would suggest that we look at the underlying organizational principals of our society…if we don’t it will be more than the limited consumer choice to contend with.

  20. Thanks for checking out Seattle, Mike I am more narrowly focused in my searches and did not see it happening in my area yet. I am sure it will spread in every field soon.

  21. I’m trying to wrap my brain around this. Very interesting. Say that I have a personal blog and I go to Chicago for a weekend and give a mention of this as I’m recapping my travels on my blog. As a blogger, do I have to do anything on my end for Google to crawl this and know to add it on a maps review or does the Google bot automatically do this? I get the impression it does this automatically but I want to make sure.

    1. It is automatic. Google does little or nothing by hand….if they could figure out how to automate serving lunch they probably would. Whether every blog is looked at and considered for inclusion is still unclear.

  22. “We live in a world where the governments (particularly here but Europe as well) are largely acting on behalf of large corporations.”

    Sad, but true, and no – it isn’t good. But it is what it is.

  23. 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?

  24. 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.

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