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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Review Stars, Zen and the Art of Local Search

A very brief history: Rich Snippet review stars have had a tough week. Starting last Wednesday I noticed they were missing on a few searches I was using in a demo. By Friday, the reports of their disappearance were widespread.

Interestingly not all instances of the review stars disappeared, even during the “darkest” hour.

Many in the industry were asking about them being missing and wanted to know what could be done. There was, as is often the case, a certain intensity and near panic about the situations.

I assumed that it was one of Google’s many re-calibrations and that Google was once again “clearing the clutter” that was accumulating in the search results.

Yesterday they started returning and today John Mueller has noted that there was a bug and their massive decline was a mistake.

Zen: I often tell people that the best thing to do in Local Search when the s%$t hits the fan is to take two beers and call me on Monday.  I need to take my own advice more often. This was one of those cases where Google was having a “rankbrain fart” and the rest of us were along for the ride.

We live in a Google world, where they ship products early, iterate often and leave bugs for years. They test changes in real time on the real products and these “rankbrain farts” are not uncommon. We have to all remember to take a few days/weeks and assess the next step before conclusions are drawn.

Local Search: Local search is hard, always has been and always will be. Not only is it an amalgam of multiple algos its an area of heavy experimentation by Google.

That being said if you keep in mind some general principals you can minimize the impact of these changes on your business.

1- Communicate early and often with your clients when they come on board about the fact that Google changes frequently. Prepare them for the inevitable.

2- When issues like this crop up, be out front of the issue and alert your bigger customers and communicate to staff what they need to know to answer the inevitable questions.

3- Be prepared for change. Be sure that you are leveraging multiple local marketing tactics so that one change is not the end of the world.

4-Always keep an eye out for the next marketing opportunity that might help that customer and be ready to implement if things change.

5- Stay on the right side of ethics and best practices behaviors so if things go south, you are not the one responsible.

Review Stars Best Practices: Clearly review stars are a valuable asset and as much as possible you should craft your client strategy around them for longevity and visibility. This is an opportunity to review your practices and make sure that they have staying power. Here are some thoughts along those lines:

1- Use review rich snippets on original content. While this is no longer explicit in the guidelines as it once was, it makes sense that Google wants fresh and original content. Simply slapping Schema on Yelp reviews is a likely scenario for failure in the future.

2- Use the aggregate review snippets to inform customers NOT to try to game the search engine. Don’t just slap it on your home page in an effort to get Google to show them in the results.

3- Stay on top of and follow Google’s rich snippet guidelines.

4- Put your reviews and testimonials on a page that is of value to your readers. Burying your testimonial page deep in your site and expecting that page to show review stars is unrealistic.

5- In the case of multi location businesses consider putting them directly on the local landing page. For single location businesses consider putting them on the home page.

barbara oliver Google Search6- Testimonial pages that had significant internal and external SEO continued to show in the search results. This indicates that some form of page prominence is likely the variable as to whether they show and that you want to consider both internal and external linking to the page.

Don’t assume just because you have rich snippets that Google will show them. Or that just because Google has shown them in the past they will continue to do so. At a minimum, as adoption of reivew rich snippets moves across the web it is likely that we will see periodic recalibration on the part of Google. Put in place a sustainable plan now.

Full disclosure: I am a founder and principal in and  as such you need to view anything I say about reviews and rich snippet with that in mind. 🙂