If you have been paying attention to Google Places area for the last few weeks, you noticed Google has shut down the reviews area and is updating Google Places again. This is not at all unusual since Google is continually updating Google Places' back end. This a monumental task and takes time and it seems like it never stops. The latest updates were created to enhance the consumer experience when writing reviews online.
Here is the link to Google's latest announcement about the changes in Google Places announced on 7/21/11. http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2011/07/ongoing-evolution-of-place-pages.html This is a must read.
What they don't tell you is this:
- The reviews area is not working in most areas of the US and Canada, even though it is now easier to post a review. Be Patient!! I will let everyone know when the reviews area is live again.
- In the past week Google reverted back to the old system of only giving out GOLD STARS for Google Reviews. Reviews from other sites on the Internet can still be found inside your listing from 3rd party services such as Yahoo, Demand Force, Insider Pages, etc. but the stars that help attract attention are gone. Here is a link from a Sesame Communications email that highlights the real scoop on what is really going on. Seems Google is backpeddling at the moment with regards to its reviews tactics.
- I have also noticed in the past few months, Google Places, after beta testing maps business listings for almost a year, seems to also be reverting back to the old format based on location rather than SEO. Many of my clients that were number one in the maps area with an integrated organic page ranking are now located in a different maps position based on Google's idea of demographic, while retaining their number one ranking below in organic search. Since Google Places is the NEW YELLOW PAGES, this is a significant change and may not be to your advantage, so it is important to know how your listing may have changed and that it may affect you visibility online and new patient referrals.
It is still against Google policy to solicit reviews from patients and they are still tracking IP addresses in their algorithm as far as I know. Keep this in mind when creating reviews contests. You don't want to wake up one morning to find all your stars and reviews gone. Slow and steady… stay the course. There is no magic bullet when it comes to reviews on Google. Even they are subject to scrutiny. Be smart with your Internet marketing tactics.
Now is the time to get your ducks in a row to organize an effective Google reviews marketing strategy and be ready when the doors open again to post reviews. If this is all Greek to you, feel free to contact me at 877-295-5611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary Internet marketing consultation to discuss what can be done to improve your online presence.
Next week I will discuss the latest updates with the algorithm that can affect your page ranking in local search. It's a Google world whether we like it or not and if you want to be affective with your online marketing, seek gold stars and Google reviews.