Important Changes to Google Local Reviews
As more and more consumers move away from traditional forms of local business inquiry such as the yellow pages, and depend on online business directories to find local businesses, user reviews are becoming more influential and more important for your optometry practice. Largely due to this ever-growing influence, reviews have become a prominent factor in search engine ranking as well. Consequently, we encourage our clients to be forthright and get creative when it comes to encouraging happy patients to write reviews of their practices.
For some time now, Google has put significant weight on user reviews from their own Google Places pages, their local recommendation engine, Hotpot, and other popular third party local business review sites such as Yelp or Citysearch. In a recent press release, Google announced that they have decided to permanently integrate Hotpot into their local business product, Google Places, unifying the connection between their online business listings and user ratings and reviews. This move, which seems to be a response to the popularity and success of Yelp’s user review platform, now requires users to create a reviewer profile and login (which is separate from the user’s Google account).
What does this mean for the user?
Ultimately, Google is creating its own option for user reviews that will carry more weight in search engine ranking than the third party sites such as Yelp and Citysearch. Therefore, in the long run, your website SEO will benefit more from reviews on Google Places than through third party sites.
The downside to this is that it may be harder to get reviews. Now instead of being able to review a business directly from a Google account, a user must create a Hotpot profile first. This adds another step to the process, which may be a deterrent for many users.
When asking patients for reviews, it’s even more important than ever to provide clear instructions. Here’s how to review a business on Google Places/Hotpot:
Even though the rules have changed, the importance of user reviews is not going away any time soon. Google’s efforts to get more social are being seen both in the direction they are taking with their programming and in their search engine algorithms. By this move, it looks like they are trying to elbow out the competition and businesses may have to respond if they want to remain competitive in the rankings.
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