Google Intros the Mother of All SMB Review Monitoring Systems

Google has announced on the Google and Your Business blog today that they have rolled out what appears to be the mother of all review monitoring systems today.

The system, a new module for the updated Places for Business Dashboard, not only shows Google based reviews to dashboard owners and managers, it shows every review that Google has found from the thousands of review sites that it indexes. In addition Google is providing review analytic reports for both the volume and rating stats of reviews from Google and across the web.

Google has also integrated the owner review response option directly into the dashboard and will now be showing those responses in the review panel on the front page of serps

Other Items of Interest

  • The rollout is global and will be available by days end to all new Dashboard users
  • The reviews from around the web are presented in snippet form
  • Yelp reviews are not included in the reviews from around the web view
  • Reviews can be seen and responded to by both account owners AND managers
  • The ability to respond in dashboard is limited to businesses with a fully social Plus page.

What’s missing

  • The functionality has not been added to the mobile version of the Places Dashboard for Android
  • There is no ability for a business owner to flag a review as inappropriate from within the dashboard. He/she must still visit the About page for the business to flag reviews.
  • There is currently no active feedback alerting the SMB to new reviews
  • There is no ability to limit whether a manager has access to provide responses or not.
  • No enterprise abilities to rollup reports across locations

Help Files - the updated Google Places Help Files covering this product:

What’s Important About this Announcement

For the first time since the dashboard was created Google is providing small business owners and their managers a reason to return to the dashboard periodically. The ability to monitor reviews from both Google and around the web, easily respond to the those reviews and quickly access those on other sites are all features that leverages Google’s strengths and provides a basis for Google engaging with more SMBs on a regular basis. Products of similar ilk have cost SMBs from $30 to $200 a month.

The rollout, one in a string of several recent upgrades to the new dashboard, indicates that not only is Google able and committed to adding new functionality to the dashboard on an ongoing basis, it signals that they are prepared to provide significant ongoing value in doing so.

The Places Dashboard has long been a once and done experience for SMBs. The analytics were the only reason for regular visits.  These analytics have been less than inspiring and often didn’t function leaving SMBs baffled and frustrated. Once a listing had been claimed and photos added there was little reason for a business to revisit the dashboard. The addition of social functionality, now provided automatically with every new claim, doesn’t occur from within the dashboard and while it might increase engagement for some SMBs it is not appropriate for all. Reviews are important to a much broader swath of the market.

Here are screenshots of the features:

Dashboard Reviews
New Review Widget in Dashboard
Review Inbox – Google Reviews
Review snippets from around the web
In dashboard owner response
In Dashboard owner & manager response functionality
Review Stats
Summary of volumes and ratings at both Google and around the web
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Google Intros the Mother of All SMB Review Monitoring Systems by

74 thoughts on “Google Intros the Mother of All SMB Review Monitoring Systems”

  1. This is great to see. Here’s to hoping that improvements to those “less than inspiring” analytics are on the coming soon list from Google.

  2. No reason for the overpriced review monitoring software guys to be scared yet. This product from Google is incomplete and isn’t really “on demand” or comprehensive.

    It is a step up from the sleeping giant, but there’s still a long way to go before it becomes a staple reputation monitoring tool for local businesses.

  3. @Dave
    Good question. One that I have thought a lot about. Review monitoring is not a huge part of we do. Feedback, review generation, minimizing bad reviews have all been a more important focus.

  4. I wish they would have focused on transferring everyone to the new dashboard first. Will be more monumental if it ever actually happens. I guess this is a step in the right direction, though. Thanks for the info Mike!

  5. @Ben
    I hear you but I think Google feels like they need to do both things.

    There are indications that the conversion is speeding up. I think (fear) that what is left to move over are the more difficult cases but I think you see them moved over soon come hell and high water.

  6. I checked my Google Places dashboard and see a note at the top saying “We’re making Google Places for Business easier to use. You don’t have to do anything to get the new Google Places for Business, it’ll be automatically updated when available.” This message has been there for a while. Any suggestions for how to move this along so I can get the new dashboard you reference in your post?

    Thanks!

  7. Interesting developments, Mike. Thanks for reporting on it. From a quick glance from the user perspective on the first page of google I’m seeing the reviews from other sources below Google’s local info on the right when you click on a business from the PAC. At that level I suspect it will receive a serious minority of user views.

    OTOH, from a competitive perspective I’m seeing reviews for smb’s and competitors from a wide variety of sources. Ha Ha. LOL. That is an interesting competitive perspective and google has made it easy to see a variety of views from a vast array of places one might not have thought of …besides the “usual suspects”.

    Interesting and telling that google excluded yelp’s reviews. Its quite interesting that in Google’s initial response to Europe with regard to “opening competition” somewhat, Yelp was one of the sources it placed on a page.

    Google’s response to yelp is interesting if nothing else. meanwhile apple maps is reliant on yelp. I wonder if apple and its applications will expand beyond yelp in showing reviews.

    Showcasing many reviews is, as you note a terrific application for business operators and a reason to visit the google dashboard somewhat.

    Frankly I’ve considered google’s dashboard stats to date; a purposeful presentation of misinformation and purposeful partial information for the most part. Sort of a disgrace….and done purposefully. But that is another story.

    It will be interesting to see how this evolves. AGain, thanks for breaking the story and giving it a complete perspective on many levels.

  8. @Dave
    This update reflects a transparency in approach that has long been missing from Google in the Dashboard. I am hopeful that they will get positive feedback to it and apply a similar logic to the dashboard analytics.

    Like you said, its pretty lame and could use more data, clearer data, more date options, integration with the full blown dashboard (ala webmaster tools). There is no reason to leave owners in the dark about what is really happening.

  9. @Mike: I think the data in WMT for a local smb s*cks…certainly with keyword data. Its way way way different for every smb I look at relative to what used to show pre “not provided” data. Plus the impressions data is for the nation…not your location. Way off in my experience.

    but c’est la vie. Google controls the highway, the exit and on ramps to search data… (and that is another story also)

    Broad review data is a really great addition for smb’s though, as you stated. Its appearance on the local info on the home page in a broad way is REALLY interesting from a competitive perspective.

    As you referenced its a big step up in getting smb’s to interact with google far far far more than they had reason to before!!!!!

  10. Love it! No idea why it took them so long to offer this functionality.

    How long until the data (including the insights analytics) replaces the current reviews pop up window?

  11. @Ted
    Yes it is surprising why Google doesn’t play to their strengths like this more often in local. They are in such a powerful position to provide compelling reasons for the SMB to hustle back to the dashboard and yet this is the first one.

    I am just hoping that owner responses now make it back to the pop up window… lets not get ahead of ourselves. :)

  12. This is great news. Thanks for reporting, Mike. It’ll be interesting to see how this will fit into what I’m guessing is a long-term freemium plan for the dashboard.

  13. Anyone else seeing non-reviews showing up in the list of reviews around the web? Our dashboard is showing some blogs and links to reviews directories with no reviews.

    Hmm….maybe this is why they have not released this functionality in the past. I wonder what else it says about data quality issues in the local index….

  14. Mike, few things after playing around with this:

    1) I can’t seem to reply to reviews. No option to respond once I click “View & Reply.” Last review (client I recently started working with) is over a year now. Could that be the factor here? Can reply on their G+ page though. Bug?

    2) There are no ratings for “Reviews from around the web” at the moment. I’m assuming Google engineers simply didn’t get there yet but this is coming…

  15. @Max, ratings are showing for at least some reviews around the web with proper mark up. I can see them for Customer Lobby reviews.

  16. Mike,

    Great job reporting on this new feature. This is great news as it means Google is telling business owners to start paying attention to their reviews.

  17. As always good stuff Mike, thanks.

    Those of you wanting to jump into the fire and see if this is working or that is working, relax… work on something else for the next week or so and let things play themselves out.

    It’s not the one thing we do, it’s all the things over time that build stronger 1′st page listings!

  18. @Ted

    Google has long “parsed” blog content as review content. And it hasn’t always done that with perfection since the content is so unstructured.

    Now we will finally get a better look at what they are seeing.

    @David & Ted
    Are the missing reviews pre+ (no persona) reviews that are missing?

  19. @dennis
    I would say months if not years if the past is any predictor of future behavior in terms of bug quashing. :). That being said I love the feature and like you can no reason to find fault as whatever they show will be infinitely more than most SMBS have ever seen.

  20. @Phil

    I saw that but it really is just confirmation of a position that they took first in August 2012 and that Joel has reinforced at Local U seminars. Its ok to request and remind that clients review you…. it just needs to be ethical and at their convenience not yours.

  21. @Mike

    Thanks. But I’d call it more of a clarification than a confirmation. Last year the policy simply wasn’t clear, as you mentioned in the last couple paragraphs of that great post.

  22. @Mike

    This August or last? (I think you’re referring to 2012.)

    Although I’m not sure it makes a difference: if clear language is not in the Google Places Quality Guidelines or in other easily findable “letters of the law,” then Google is simply confusing or misleading most business owners. I maintain that whenever Google added the language that I saw for the first time today was the first time they stated the rules clearly and visibly.

  23. Wow this is amazing. While I don’t have a local brick and mortar business now, tools like this definitely makes me want to get one. Does anyone ever question just how much information Google collects on us as we browse the web?

    I’m sure rebranding is nothing new to anyone but it just seems that the sheer amount of data that they collect, its something!

  24. @Phil
    Google is very careful to speak with one voice. When someone like Jade or Joel or Derek or anybody that works at Google makes a statement that has policy implications it has been cleared up and down the ladder. Its what makes them so powerful on the PR front. One voice.

  25. @Mike

    True enough: by the time someone at Google speaks, everyone there is on the same page. The question is how much of an effort do they make to get business owners on the same page about the rules.

  26. Re reviews, I’ve heard Jade say and always thought they were fine with people asking for reviews. In fact I quoted Jade one time say something like it’s best to ask customers at time of service or right after instead of in batches so that’s what I’ve always recommended. But you are right Phil it was never really spelled out except in forum comments or LocalU which the majority of business owners would never see.

    I posted a new screen shot in my thread covering this update about the fact the owner responses to reviews are now showing in the SERPs overlay, which is kind of a big deal to businesses that had a negative review on top.

    Is that new or has it been around and I missed it?

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