If you’ve recently noticed some odd behavior on your Google Places page – missing owner descriptions, photos appearing and disappearing, missing review snippets, and a great big sign in button – don’t worry! You’re not alone, and it should all settle down soon. Google has been testing a new layout for their Places pages, and it seems those changes are now rolling out.
According to Google, many of their changes were driven by their desire to make the user experience “more focused, elastic, and effortless.” Reviews are all grouped together in one area of the page, making them easier to find and sort through. A large “Write a review” button has been added near the top of the page to encourage Google users to write more reviews.
Review snippets from sources other than Google have been removed, but they are continuing to provide links to sites such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and TripAdvisor so that users can get a “comprehensive view of locations.”
I imagine we can expect a bit more turbulence as these updates fully roll out and more changes in the not-too-distant future, based on Google’s statement about their vision for the future of local search:
Bringing you more personalized results when you search for local places — because we understand that information from the people you know is most meaningful;
Integrating some of the great information that’s been buried on Place pages into your web search experience across all Google platforms;
Giving you more ways to rate, discover and share places you love faster and easier than ever, wherever you are, and on whichever device you choose.
You can find the full, official Google blog post about this update here.
Based on Google’s statements, and their not-afraid-to-fail approach to product launches and updates, what do you think we’ll see changing in the near future?
Customer reviews are a key factor in capturing business online; in fact, they’re rated as the number one feature of a website by internet shoppers. But what happens when someone leaves your business a negative review? The reflexive response to a negative comment may be to go on the attack or try to delete or hide the review. Take a deep breath and resist that urge! Negative reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing; they may actually help you in several ways.
To begin, the average rating for all things online is 4.3 stars out of 5, so the majority of your reviews should already be in your favor. Beside that, consider what a listing would look like if it was filled with nothing but positive five-star reviews. Would you trust it? To potential customers, it can look highly suspicious. No person or business is perfect, and shoppers know that. They’re trying to put together the most complete picture of your business – and your competitors – before they make a choice. A variety of truthful, honest reviews helps them do just that and appears much more credible.
Negative reviews also provide a chance to display your customer service skills. Take the opportunity to set yourself apart from large companies who lack a personal touch in their communications. Respond with a cool head and in a timely fashion. Making things right for dissatisfied customers and handling criticism with a professional attitude can often win you the most vocal supporters your business could want.
The desire to defend your business when faced with a negative review is normal, but try not to let those feelings color how you react and reply. Critical feedback is an ongoing reality for any company, and changing how your business interprets and responds to negative reviews can make them work for you on multiple fronts.
97% of consumers use online media when investigating local products or services.
97%! You want your company to be in front of those interested local eyeballs.
So your business has a website, which is good, and you’re listed in a number of business directories across the web, which is even better. If you read our previous blog entry – and maybe even if you haven’t – you’ve claimed your Google Places listing and the equivalent on other major search players. That’s GREAT. (According to Google, only 8% of their listings have been claimed.)
But…now what do you do? How do you get the best results out of this Places listing that could reach a plethora of potential customers?
Take the time to make sure your business name, address, and phone number are consistent across all listings. This isn’t only good for your customers, it’s good for your listing – the more places all confirm your key business information, the more legitimate Google/Yahoo/Bing perceive your listing to be.
There is no such thing as too much information. Those fields are provided for a reason; fill them all out to the very best of your ability. Use your listing to answer as many of the questions a customer might ask as you can.
Take the time to upload some photos that are representative of the work you do. Humans are very visual creatures. It’s said that seeing is believing, so use your photos to emphasize what your listing is saying to searchers.
Bring your word of mouth marketing online – encourage your current customers to leave a review for your business. Happy customers are the best advertising any company could ask for.
There’s no way to guarantee top map ranking, but the tips above should lead you down the path toward better placement. More importantly, however, they’ll result in happier, more well-informed searchers-turned-customers, which is one goal that your business and the search engines certainly have in common.
You’re a business owner. You’ve heard about Google Places, and after some digging around online, you discover that your business already has a listing! What is it? How did it get there? Most importantly – how exactly do you make it your own?
Google’s made a lot of changes to their search results pages recently, many of them focused on local search. That makes sense, since according to Google at least 20% of searches are locally focused, and that number is only growing.
If you’ve been wondering what factors Google uses when putting these local results pages together, and how some of their newer product offerings, like Hotpot and Tags, influence the rankings, here’s a video that may shed some light on that topic. Google put out this video today to explain a little bit about how their local search ranking works.
Back in August, Google added a feature to its Places product that allows business owners to publicly respond to their reviews. If you haven’t checked this feature out yet, you should definitely be taking a look at it.
Collecting and displaying reviews is critical as reviews are continuing to gain weight in local search results ranking. Reviews let searchers get a feel for how your company does business and help build initial trust. Responding to your reviews helps you build stronger relationships with your existing customers and lets potential customers see your commitment to customer service. Letting your customers know that their voices are heard goes a long way toward increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Take the time to respond to your reviews when possible. A thank you to your happy customers, or an apology and offer to make things right for those customers whose experiences were less positive, can do great things for your business.
Coming soon to an AdWords account near you: Twitter-integrated display ads! An article this morning by Douglas Quenqua at ClickZ shed some light on Google’s newest quiet project.
The display ads update in real time with the latest tweet from your account and also include a “Follow on Twitter” button. A click on the main body of the ad – outside of the button area – brings up the advertiser’s Twitter page. Not surprisingly, Google isn’t talking about the program yet, and it’s only available to a handful of select advertisers at the moment. Google may have taken their cue on this from Volvo, who, as Quenqua points out, were the first to integrate Twitter with a display ad in an advertisement that ran last year on YouTube.
Following Google’s inclusion of Twitter updates in their search results and their recently discussed plans to introduce a timeline of archived tweets to show historical trending, this new feature isn’t too surprising. Google’s ads gain relevancy and freshness, and advertisers using both platforms gain a method of integration previously unavailable. This is also an interesting additional way to leverage Twitter for marketing outside of the Promoted Tweets platform.
A slightly older but still relevant article that raises some excellent points about why leaving reviews is important, especially with regard to smaller local businesses. The author also includes some guidelines for writing a powerful review that could help your favorite local business rank higher on reviews sites and gain more new customers.
As I see it, citizens leave positive reviews in places like Google Maps, Yelp and Yahoo! Local for 2 good reasons:
1) To praise a business that served them well.
2) To help neighbors find the best answers to their local needs
Reason #1 is revolves around a feeling of intimacy between customer and business owner in which the customer appreciated the services rendered enough to devote a little free time to write about it. It’s a type of thank you note.
Reason #2 stems from a sense of civic duty. The reviewer senses that his community, or visitors to his community, will be searching for local goods and services and that his positive review will help these searchers to find the best answer to their needs.
What do you think the main motivator is to write a review? When or why would you post a review for a local business?
This video explains some of the most important principles of how the Google ad auction works as well as what determines the quality score of a keyword and what determines your ad rank. Anyone that advertises on Google should understand these basic principles.