Google Places Upgrades Review Display, Yelp Reviews Back

Yesterday afternoon, Google upgraded the display of reviews on the Places Page. The new display aggregates reviews from third parties with an icon and a  link to the the review site and continues to show individual Google reviews below that display.

The aggregate display shows the third party site with the most reviews at the top of the list and displays 2 recent reviews from them as well as the aggregate star rating and total number of reviews and one review for each of the other two sites. Only the top three review aggregators are shown on the first screen with additional review sites visible at the More from around the web » link. This puts a real premium on volume of reviews from review providers because if the Places Page gets moderate traffic after 2 clicks, the More from around the web » gets far less.

The new display shows below the sentiment analysis if there are enough reviews or just below the business details & photos if not:

As David Mihm points out, this is likely in preparation for the influx of testimonials as reviews to the Places page. It would allow them to be easily deprecated to only show in the more from around the web section if need be.

This display is consistent with the review display in Google’s test of organic-local listing integration in the main serps, with the review sources being given more visibility and a link rather than showing all of their content. It is the first recent development in Places that moves users away from Places. That being said it still spawns a new window, leaving the Places page open on your desktop.

In a TechCrunch interview at the end of July, Jeremy Stoppleman of Yelp noted in talking about Yelp’s review spat with Google:

“And then yeah, we found our content was showing up there and it is ranked dead last right now. I don’t think that’s sort of a permanent situation from what we gather from talking to Google, they are sort of headed in a new direction that which hopefully will be more positive.”

Clearly this display of summary review information, a high placement on the page and a colorful icon seem to put more emphasis on the review source and will likely lead to more traffic for them. WhetherObviously, this treatment is enough to bring Yelp reviews back into the fold of Places is yet to be seen but the above statement indicates Stoppleman’s willingness to allow Google to include Yelp’s reviews as they are now again showing.

One interesting design element related the new display is the handling of the destination a user is taken when clicking on the the Review link in a OneBox. If the user selects the review link they are taken to the Google reviews, effectively hiding the 3rd party reviews.

Update: Here is the Lat Long announcement on the new review display and here is TechCrunch’s take on the Yelp reviews once again showing up.

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Google Places Upgrades Review Display, Yelp Reviews Back by

17 thoughts on “Google Places Upgrades Review Display, Yelp Reviews Back”

  1. I just don’t get it. The review system is already being gamed by people posting reviews/having friends post reviews to their pages. Now site owners are going to be allowed to tag testimonials on their site, which are added directly to the page as reviews? It just seems like Google is opening the local listings up to more shenanigans.

    When I recently told a friend about how some business owners are faking their reviews online, she basically told me how she “wouldn’t trust reviews again” online. The last thing Google needs is for people to doubt the legitimacy of reviews.

    1. @Jason

      Its not totally clear which behaviors Google causes and which they respond to. Gaming seems to be endemic regardless. While testimonials may be spammed (or rather will be spammed) they are no worse than a fake review by a sock puppet. In some ways that are better as Google knows exactly who is creating them and will have some relationship with that entity. That relationship gives Google some power to control the quality.

      In the end, if the review system is to withstand the onslaught of spam and maintain credibility with the public, regardless of the source, Google is going to have to step up and figure out which reviews and testimonials are real and which are not.

  2. Good observation about how Google’s review link takes the user to the Google reviews. I think it’s interesting that they chose to display the Google reviews below the external site reviews. They must have put some thought into the positioning and I’d be curious to know why they decided to do that. I also wouldn’t be surprised if we see that change in the future as they test it both ways.

    I do think this is going to increase the amount of spam/manipulation reviews though. Especially with testimonials getting pulled through as reviews in the near future.

    I just wrote a post about this over at my blog and searched to see if anyone else had noticed the change. Of course you and David Mihm had beaten me to it, but I’m glad there’s already so much discussion about the implications.

    1. @Alex
      What is fascinating about the link taking people to Google reviews instead of third party reviews, it does so regardless of whether there are any Google reviews there or not. It is odd to click on the reviews link seeing 8 or 10 reviews and be taken to empty space. I appreciate you not dropping a link but given its total relevance I will drop it for you: Google Places Reviews Now Separated by Source

  3. All interesting developments, and taken in context with the microsoft/facebook move it shows that Local is a dynamic arena with lots more going on.

    The reference to the TechCrunch interview w/ a Yelpie back in July was something we missed in discussion here. LOL it augered on going changes, some of which we are seeing with this presentation of reviews by source.

    Its all dynamic and its all interesting and it will force those of us who follow these things and work on them to stay on our toes.

    Somewhere, somehow, google is going to thrust the places pages into an easy to access, see, and review format. I still sense that places pages are relatively rarely visited. Over time I expect that is going to change in a big way.

    (btw, Mike: Just noticed your “confirm you are NOT a spammer” button. Some would consider everything I write pure spam :D)

    1. @Earl
      I have been saving that quote from Stoppleman as I recognized its importance. It thought thought that it might apply to the new integration local/organic results.

      I agree with you that Google is planning on pushing Places front and center…. most likely in mobile…

      I added the “confirm you are NOT a spammer” just to control the incredible amounts of bot spam making it through the WordPress Askimet filters…since it is a self assessment it only matters whether you think you are not a spammer. 🙂

  4. Great reportage, Mike, and interesting moves on Google’s part. I must say, with the ever-growing heap of spam in the review sector, the adage about making a silk purse out of sow’s ear is coming to my mind, seeing these handsomely implemented icons and so much effort being put into the display. I think the display is fine, but the thing contained is rapidly becoming of less and less value due to crooked practices. Better that Google should set about deleting questionable review profiles rather than finding prettier ways to display them, eh?

    1. @Miriam

      Thanks…it is interesting to think about the question of whether Google is responsible for the quantity of spam reviews or just a victim of it… and what the balance is in that dynamic. I would bet, if I were a betting person, that we will see more effective spam filters and quality control in the spam arena in the not too distant future. … I just hope it arrives before total consumer disbelief sets in.

  5. I don’t buy the “fake-testimonials-flooding” argument. Fundamentally, there is no difference between a fake review posted directly on a Place Page and a fake testimonial that gets pulled into a PP.

    It is just as easy to create multiple accounts to post fake reviews as it is to fabricate testimonials on your own site. (Actually, the former might be more reliable since Google has been known to sometimes drop/lose data pulled in from 3rd parties).

    So in the end, the opening up of the new testimonials-as-reviews avenue probably won’t create much more fake “5-star boosting” than does the regular review forgery that’s already going on.

  6. I agree with Alex, I am very surprised/angered at the decision to place the third party reviews above the fold and above Google’s own reviews. Don’t they know that people don’t scroll!? Now the 4-5 star ratings I have achieved for some of my clients are hidden behind old content from years ago on third party sites. This seems like a very bold/stupid move on Google’s part…

  7. @Yaro

    I am with you, Google knows how to control content from websites. Obviously they have not yet gotten the fake review world of the sock puppet world under control given the open nature of their registration…. truly a case of whack a mole….

    Now more than ever, it makes sense to spread your reviews over multiple sources. I have long been a proponent of using other review sites in addition to google. I have recommend CitySearch and Yahoo and now the case for Yelp is also clear.

    The reasons are many:
    1)Exposure – a review on Yahoo shows not only on Yahoo local, Yahoo main serp but in Google as well. Total exposure is the goal, not just showing well on google.

    2)Safety – Google periodically looses reviews, sometimes theirs, sometimes others…usually not both at the same time…. best to cover your bases and have something showing rather than nothing. Trusting Google to be the sole protector of your on line “assets” is risky at best. They have lost 26 legitimate reviews of mine and they have been gone for 10 weeks.

    3)Footprint – It is natural that real users would leave reviews at THEIR favorite review site. It makes sense that your review footprint should reflect that in a natural way.

    4)And now you have a new reason – Google is displaying these aggregate reviews higher up the page and with nicer graphics…..

    5)That being said – Google still sends folks from the front page on a branded one box directly to Google reviews completely hiding the third party reviews…

    so….. you need reviews everywhere. Put your anger into getting good reviews at a range of sites.

  8. @anyone: I noticed for a long time, Yelp data was no longer showing as data for Places listings. Does Google intentionally discriminate against competitive local listing sites, or was it just an over “site”? 🙂

  9. Thanks Mike, you’re a rock star in my local search world.

    Hey I’d love to know more about how testimonials are going to be treated as reviews. Should we start putting up a page on our clients sites so they can have their clients write testimonials? Then do we need to do anything special for them to show up in the places page?

    This is fascinating to me, love to hear your thoughts and insight.

    Cheers, Kiwi.

  10. @Kiwi

    I think that every smb website for which there are legitimate testimonials should include a testimonial page and that page should be marked up in hReview format. Google offers a number of help pages on how to use rich snippets like hReview for content and in particular offers a test to allow you to see if your marked up page is valid.

  11. @micaheath:

    I’m just guessing here, but it seems to me the “price” of getting yelp reviews was to move them and other third party sources to the top (gotta put all of them there for consistency) and above Google reviews.

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