Will the change in status of 3rd party reviews affect rank? This question was asked in 3 or 4 or perhaps 5 different ways over the past 24 hrs. There is a palpable sense of worry in the questions. The short answer: Who knows but I think not. Better yet, don’t worry about it.
From what I can tell this was ONLY a front end cosmetic change NOT a backend change that affects the algo or ranking.
In some quick ranking checks I did last night, it appears the lack of 3rd party reviews showing up in the count DID NOT affect rankings. Not in the rankings I’ve checked anyway. Regardless of how many 3rd reviews were removed from the COUNT everyone’s ranking stayed the same.
Same thing holds true for the lack of visible citations.
For example: Dentists that have 200 DemandForce reviews often have 300 DemandForce citations. Even though those reviews and citations no longer show in Google, the rankings have stayed the same. (Based on just a few spot checks, not saying I’ve done a thorough analysis yet.)
Here is what the recently released Google Local Patent says that was published in September ’10 just before blended results hit the streets:
 The number of documents with reviews of a business associated with a document may be used as a factor in determining the location prominence score for the document. Reviews for businesses can appear in a number of documents, such as newspapers, magazines, web pages, and blogs. In one implementation, the number of documents with reviews of a business may be used as a factor in determining the location prominence score of a document associated with the business.
Here is what I say:
Google is looking to represent the most popular and relevant businesses to their searchers. It would seem counter intuitive for them to ignore signals from websites that have more and better information about a business than they do. Just because they are not showing the data does not mean they are not using it. And just because they are showing the data does not mean that they are using it more.
While I do think this change is a perfect way for Google to get more information about businesses and to “up their review generation” game, I can not see how favoring their reviews over all of the other historical information on the internet would improve search results. Above all Google wants to return the best results. That is where their bread is buttered.
The patent that came out last fall clearly speaks of review diversity as a factor so I don’t think that is going away. Maybe in the future but not yet.
Stop chasing the algo. Treat your customers right, encourage them to say nice things about you on the internet at a place that THEY are comfortable with and all will work out.