If your Google Places page is an important part of your local search engine optimization activity, the news that Google has revamped its offering and removed external reviews from its Places function may be a surefire signal that you need to sit down and revise your strategy.
In its notification posting, Google said that it was on a mission to “…make the user experience more focused, elastic and effortless” across all of its products. This drive has led to reviews from external sources, once an important part of a strong Google Local presence, being removed. Only reviews and ratings left through Google will now be attached to your Places listing.
Each Places page will now include a more prominent ‘write a review’ invitation as well as making it clearer to users that they can upload photos and leave their own rating. The idea is that Google want to make it easier for users to find places based on their own tastes and the preferences of friends. But what does this mean for users who’ve spent the last few years building up positive reviews outside of Google? Quite simply, your entire Places optimisation strategy (and by default at least part of your wider local search engine optimization plans) need to revolve around encouraging users to interact with your brand directly through Google Places.
Here are a few ideas to get you started…
1. Link from your website
Just as you link to your Twitter page to increase your Twitter follower numbers and to your Facebook page to increase your ‘likes’, sites boasting links to their Google Places page is something we’re likely to see a lot more of. Why not get a head start on the competition and put a link on your website today?
Linking to your Places page from your website makes it easier for those who are already engaging with your brand (by visiting your website) to leave their thoughts, reviews and feedback. If you’re a restaurant or hotel or bar for example, you’ll also make it easier for guests to upload their photos from their visit, making your Places page more of an up to date and powerful conversion generator.
2. Consider how you got third party reviews on places such as TripAdvisor
Can any of those strategies by used now to encourage clients to interact via Google Places? Should traffic that would be sent to a third party review tool now be funneled to Google to leave their thoughts there instead? Consider whether you want to turn visitors off from using third party review tools in favor of strengthening your Places page or, if a mixture of the two is the best way forwards for your business.
In most circumstances, if a well established, well respected review site exists for your particular industry – such as Trip Advisor – a longer term view would suggest splitting traffic if possible in order not to compromise a presence on an established site proven to deliver qualified traffic. Sites such as TripAdvisor with a strong industry standing can also help in other areas of marketing so it’s often wise not to burn bridges simply to secure a stronger Google Places presence.
3. If you have the budget, offering incentives such as a gift certificate or money off voucher towards their next purchase can encourage customers to log in and leave a review
The key is to make it worth their while – even a one off competition such a prize draw can be effective.
4. Have a place on your website for sharing reviews
This can act as a conversion tool in that positive reviews will reinforce buying signals. From there, you can also offer a link to your Google Places page for customers to leave a review – they may not have left one before simply because they weren’t aware of the facility or because they believed that no one read them. By flagging them up on the website, you are confirming their usefulness.