Google Places Search to IYPs – What is the Message? Go Microformats, Young Man!

There has been a lot of discussion* (David Mihm, Greg Sterling, Chris Silver Smith, Andrew Shotland) in the local search community about the meaning and impact of the new Places Search organo-local blending of results on IYPs, directories and Review sites. All interesting and all of value. Clearly there will be winners and loosers, clearly Yelp made out better than Superpages. But is Google passing judgement directly on the IYPs and their future?

I would contend not. To me the message from Google to all of these (and other) sites that want to be included in the Places Search results: Send us unique review content about local places. Google has plenty of directory information, they pretty much have figured out location information…. what they want now is reviews.

When you combine this “message” of more reviews with the recent announcements around supporting Rich Snippets in Places and supporting testimonials marked up in hReview format as reviews, the message becomes even more nuanced and is no longer directed at just the IYP sites: Send us your reviews about local places in semantically marked up syntax.

This message applies as much to the up and coming reputation management company that focuses on presenting microformated reviews like Customer Lobby as it does to the small real estate website that has taken the time to properly mark up their testimonial page. Google is saying that everyone, big and small, directory or newspaper, local or national can now play in this arena.

Google has democratized the sourcing of unique review content around Places and has highlighted it front and center with a link. All comers are welcome. You no longer need a unique special relationship with them like CitySearch or DemandForce have. Everyone can play.

But is this just about reviews? I would contend that going forward it will be about other unique, high level information about local businesses…. coupons, sales events, specials… as microformat standards evolve and as microformatted content becomes widely available.

If you are building a site that deals with local, include microformatting as an integral part of the plan now and for the future. Go deep rather than wide as quantity about specific businesses is what will land you on Google’s front page. Keep track of the rapidly evolving world of microformats and be sure to apply it to unique content whenever possible.

——

* Others that have provided excellent high level overviews of Places Search but didn’t address the questions of Google’s “message” to IYPs:

Miriam Ellis – New Integrated Google Local A Game Changer
Matt McGee – 5 Quick Impacts of Google’s New Local Search Results

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places Search to IYPs - What is the Message? Go Microformats, Young Man! by

27 thoughts on “Google Places Search to IYPs – What is the Message? Go Microformats, Young Man!”

  1. Great as usual. I really looking forward to the changes that may appear with integration of coupons, events, etc. from directories.

    p.s.: You’ve linked the wrong article from Miriam, written last year.

  2. thanks Mike! as usual, a great post that summarizes the current new “Google BLEND” that we see up here in canuckland too…

    your comment “You no longer need a unique special relationship with them like CitySearch or DemandForce have. Everyone can play…” is spot-on too! with your posts of the past week or so, and David/Andrew/Matt’s help as well (Alan B too!) I now have enuff info to be able to learn how to do the new syntax for microformats as well as the background on why they’re going to help my client roster too!

    THAT’S why I come here, eh….to learn!

    :-)

    Jim

  3. Thanks for the shout-out Mike.

    As you might imagine, Customer Lobby is happy about the recent turn of Google-events. For those of us in the reviews business, I think the strategic imperative to add value to businesses and consumers beyond simply indexing content into the Place Pages is clear. That is good news for businesses and consumers.

  4. Microformats are really starting to take off now aren’t they? I’ve been updating my blog the past week to tag all my social accounts rel=”me”, I have no real expectation that this will help me immediately, but I am curiously anticipating what exactly will happen by doing this.

  5. @Kyle
    I think that the biggest immediate benefit is using hReview for testimonials….

    @Miriam
    Effectively though this really makes it an even playing field for those front page links… it will be interesting to see who else succeeds.

  6. Wow Mike!… I’m really enjoying your content since my discovery of your blog last week, and while I’m getting noticeably overwhelmed, I’m glad to be getting to the real meat of how to help my clients get local exposure over the long haul.

    Question on reviews/testimonials: Do you think it will help rankings and exposure in the SE’s (mostly Google) if there are keywords in the title and/or body of the review/testimonial? Whether these happen organically (best) or not, and how you get them in the review honestly and ethically is another discussion altogether… just wondering if keywords are even an issue when it comes to reviews.

    Thanks for everything!
    Eric

  7. Mike-

    How do you if Google will pick up those reviews? In other words I create a testimonial site for bakeries with hopes that my testimonials are picked up as reviews for Google

  8. @Dave

    We don’t really know yet that they will. They have said that they will but everything is all so new that we have yet to see it.

    We have seen them pick up hReview formatted data from 3rd party review sites as mentioned above which they said that they would do. So we presume that they will ultimately pick up testimonials as well.

  9. @Dave in my opinion if you are starting testimonials site right now and you are not the grand master of SEO optimization Google most probably will pick them in 3-6 months. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I think that the hReview is ? standard created for time-tested directories, so the reviews there will be picked more often and easier. I’m not sure, but I heard that is the reason for Yelp to be liked more than Superpages.

  10. Thanks for the tip on Customer Lobby, I had missed that one. We have used Demandforce for our dental clients which has been very helpful. Is anyone else seeing the Customer Lobby reviews picked up on Google? I went to some of the client examples on the Customer Lobby website and Google is not finding the reviews of these customers. Before I start preaching this to my clients I wanted to get a couple of data points that they were being picked up.

  11. @Jeff
    This search; shows that Customer Lobby has other results starting to show in Maps. I am sure over the next 12-24 weeks as Google figures out what is where you will see more. But if you have any questions, call the owner Ted Paff. I am sure that he would update you on their progress.

  12. Microformats and rich snippet data are getting more and more prominence and it seems logical that it will be the next development after the initial ‘Web 2.0′ hype.

  13. Hi Mike, I love your blog, thanks.

    I’m confused about the Google places “reviews from around the web”. I’m a doctor in NYC. I have the most reviews of all podiatrists in NYC but my ratemds.com reviews are not included in my places page but I see they are in another doctors. I wonder if you can shed some light on why they would include one and not the other. Links are below.

    My places page w/o ratemds.com reviews: http://bit.ly/avJCeo
    My competitor with ratemds.com reviews: http://bit.ly/aXzzJc

  14. Hm, anybody else noticing that the names in the Google reviews are gone? I’ve checked 10 hotels in Las Vegas, NV and 80% of the Google reviews are anonymous. Maybe they are testing the reputation algorithm or this is just another bug.

  15. @Plamen

    They disappeared in Canada last week and in the last few days, disappeared in the US. Not sure why… it surely makes hunting down spammers MUCH more difficult

  16. AMEN to that “spam hunt” telltale, Mike…and Plamen!

    However, we’ve been tracking daily this new Google BLEND, and those names fluctuate in and out…right now, they’re MIA…but just yesterday pm they were back…

    Seems to me from all I’ve read/tested, that G is still testing too…ie nothing appears to be “carved-in-stone” at this point (at least in g.ca) so far….

    …sigh…Friday and already my weekend off is “flummoxed!!!”

    :-)

    Jim

  17. @Mike Sorry I’m skipping news about Canada :D

    I’ve checked some of the reviewers and they have only one review or many but on different kinds of businesses. They don’t seem spammy at all, so maybe the anti-spam algorithm is working.

  18. @Mike

    I’m not sure either. I was in a hurry. Now the longer version…

    In the businesses I’ve checked there are some reviews with names. I clicked on some of them and read all the reviews. They seem real. Maybe the reviews with names are from from trusted users. Just guessing.

    p.s.: I really think that this is bug, but who knows…

  19. I think this initial microformat requirement is opt to deliver more valuable inputs in the future. And it’s more credible to start with reviews.

  20. @Plamen

    I am seeing the same thing. It depends on whether what we are seeing is the stable or not but it looks to me as if it might have more to do with your Google Profile setting:
    Display my full name so I can be found in search (also required to use Google Buzz and Latitude)

  21. Want to thank you for answering my developer’s question yesterday. Your answer helped us a great deal. We have been developing a unique brand of customer reviews, and need a strategy for getting them into our clients’ Google Places pages. So a big thank you for your help.

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