Recently, Google launched some major changes to Google Places, its local listing service, that allow local business owners to connect with their existing and potential customers in a unique and more human way. Google Places quite literally put local businesses on the map, and now, its replacement, Google+ Local, helps connect those businesses to consumers more directly. These Google+ Local listings are not only a part of search and maps but also have a new look and feel as part of Google+.
Google+ now has 400 million users. With all those potential eyes, local business owners on the site need to put a stronger emphasis on their customer reviews. In fact, 67% of consumers online read reviews of businesses before making a purchasing decision, and 70% of consumers trust a business with a minimum of 6-10 reviews. Here are ten things you need to know about the new Google+ Local reviews.
1. Reviews Lost Their Stars
Google certainly didn’t lose any “star quality,” it still averages 4.7 Billion search queries per day, but gone are the days when Google showcased a star-rating on listing pages and in search results. Now, Google is using a 30-point rating system adapted from Zagat. So now, in the place of stars, you’ll see a number rating in the format of “# / 30” displayed in local search results for a Google listing and on the page itself.
2. Google+ Local is Using Zagat’s Rating System
If you are a restaurant owner, you may be quite familiar with Zagat. For the rest of the business world, Zagat is a review site consumers can use to find restaurant reviews and recommendations in their city. The Zagat numerical system is based on a 30-point rating, which takes the average score each reviewer has left (on a scale from 0-3) and multiplies that number by ten. Google acquired Zagat in 2011 and has adopted their rating system for their new Google+ Local pages.
3. You Now Need 10 Reviews For Your Rating to Display
With Google Places, a business owner only needed five reviews in order for the star rating to appear on their listing. Now, with Google adopting the 30-point rating system, you need at least ten reviews for the number rating to display on your Google+ Local Page as well as in the search results.
4. There’s a New Sorting System for Reviews
Google+ Local reviews are now put through a sorting filter where the “Most Helpful” reviews are displayed first. This filter is based on the searcher’s connection to the reviewer, the text of the review, and how many votes that particular review has acquired from other users. The more relevant and popular the review, the higher it will be placed in this new sorting system.
5. Google+ Local Favors Reviews from Friends
As part of the new sorting system, when a user is logged in to their personal Google+ account, the reviews from their circle of friends will actually show up higher than any other reviews on a business page. In other words, reviews from other Google+ users in someone’s circles will display higher than reviews from people who aren’t in their circles.
6. Your Old Reviews Will Migrate to Your Verified Page
Once you have completed the PIN verification, your Google+ Local page will merge with your Google Places page. All of your reviews will merge over to the new format once you have completed this important step. Note that when you see a review from a “Google User,” this just means that particular reviewer has not created his or her own Google+ Profile Page quite yet and left the review prior to the switch to Google+ Local. Any new reviews added will require a user to log in before leaving a review, adding more transparency and authenticity to reviews.
7. Old Star Ratings Integrate Into Your Score But Don’t Include a Review
Your page will always show how many reviews your business has received, but it may show some users reviews with text along with “scores without review” – which is essentially an old star rating that did not include any review content. This star rating will be factored over into your new overall score.. Going forward, Google will not post any review now that does not have text in it.
8. It’s Important to Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews
It is very important to your online reputation to respond to reviews on your Google Plus Local page. But, don’t just respond to negative reviews; you should also respond to customers who give you great reviews! When others see that you are not just responding to the negative reviews, but also to the positive ones, reviewers are more likely to think of you as genuine, and therefore trust you enough to check out your business.
9. To Generate Positive Reviews on Your Page, Ask for Them!
To gain more positive Google+ Local reviews, focus on asking happy customers to leave you a review on the site. More than likely, when you ask a happy customer face-to-face to leave your business a online, when they will take the time to share their experience with your business, they’ll have positive things to say!
10. You Can Integrate Your Listing with a Google+ Business Page
Now that Google’s local listings are integrated into Google+, a Google+ page is now an absolutely critical part of any local business’s online marketing plan. This part can get confusing, but stay with me. Think of Facebook, where you have both a personal profile and then you have your business page. The same is the case with Google+, but they have also taken that a step further by adding your local listing onto the site. Not only that, but you can actually merge your business Google+ page with your Google+ Local listing to manage it from one place. This will allow you to connect directly with fans and followers, helping spread word-of-mouth about your business online, and potentially serving as a dynamic hub for your business, encouraging your fans to leave you reviews. If you haven’t already claimed your page, here is what you need to do.
- Step 1: Obtain a Google+ Profile Page. This is your personal profile.
- Step 2: Create a Google+ Business Page.
- Step 3: Claim Your Google+ Local Page. Once you have verified this page through PIN validation, the Google+ Business Page and the Google+ Local Page will merge. To learn more about merging and optimizing your Google+ pages, check out our free ebook Google+ Plus Local: Your Guide to Optimizing Google+ Local Pages.
Now that you have a better understanding about the new Google+Local reviews, what do you think of the change? How are you handling positive and negative review on your Google+ Local page?
To learn more about optimizing your Google+ and Google + Local pages, check out our Google+ Local ebook.
About the Author
Lindsay Paramore is an expert in online marketing and branding for business owners. She works as a Web Presence Professional for ReachLocal.