Friday, July 22, 2011

Google Places Third Party Reviews - Wall Street Journal Agrees with Me

I had no sooner posted the below regarding the anti-monopolistic angle regarding the 3rd party reviews on Google Places, when I received a Google Alert for a Wall Street Journal Article saying almost exactly what I said.  In fairness to the WSJ, they must have done their own research.  :  ) 

Google Places 3rd Party Review Change Exposed - Reporting Falls Short

Google Places has changed its policy with regard to counting third party reviews from Yelp, Insider Pages, and other Review Sites.  In other words, companies that had 35 reviews last week with 12 of those actually created at Google, will only show 12 reviews this week.  The 23 from the other sites are not counted in the total.  This can dramatically effect the visitors impression of the company.  Especially if competitors had concentrated on generating Google Reviews and now might be showing more total reviews than the poor sap who was generating reviews on multiple sites.

In addition, Google had been showing the actual content of the 3rd party reviews on the Google Places page, and they were showing these reviews in a more prominent location than their own reviews.  This has ended.  The 3rd party reviews are not visible on the Google Places page at all as of this writing. 

These two changes have been widely reported.   What has not been noted in any of the articles or blog posts that I've seen to date, is that there is still a list at the bottom of each listing on Google Places showing 3rd party review counts.  Moreover, on clicking inside to the Google Places Page, these 3rd party resources are shown again.  In both cases, these are clickable links which go to the 3rd party site and open the site in a new window.  This takes some of the sting away for those who have worked hard to get a balanced review stream on multiple review channels. 

What is at the root of these changes.  I have written extensively that Google is worried about Google Places being investigated by the US Government for monopolistic practices.  Basically, without getting into tall weeds, the question would be whether Google is using its dominant search ranking, and its clear advantage regarding location on the first page of search for Google Places on blended "Everything" pages, to take unfair advantage of the other directories, Local Search Engines, and IYP sites.  The inclusion of their actual reviews may have seemed to Google to be a step-to-far.  By backing off showing the reviews, but now providing a link into a new window, Google looks like a good citizen regarding the other competitive sites.  You be the judge.

Finally, also notice in the example above, the inclusion of a blogspot reviewer.  This was the first I'd seen of that.  Checking with the Guru who knows more about this stuff than me, Mike Blumenthal, he was not surprised.  He suggested I check his earlier post.

How to Correctly Pick Your Business Category on Google Places

Click below for a complete tutorial!