You may have heard the news last week about Google changing the layout of their Places pages, affecting reviews from 3rd party websites like Yelp, InsiderPages, CitySearch, and others. We wanted to take a moment to clarify what this change is all about, and how it may affect your practice. First, a little history on reviews with Google Places. In the past, Google had taken the position of the aggregator- they pulled in reviews from pretty much everywhere. This made it easy for a dental practice with, for example, 6 reviews on their Google Places listing, 12 on their InsiderPages listing, and another 5 on their CitySearch listing to display all 23 reviews in one place: their Google Places Page.
It was then believed by the SEO community that a greater quantity of reviews would conceivably result in a stronger search engine ranking. After seeing the amount of business owners exploiting the system by writing their own reviews or incentivizing their customers, Google revised their algorithm to place less emphasis on quantity, and rather focus on quality. Thus, businesses with reviews deemed more legitimate (not necessarily positive or negative reviews) would have greater weight for ranking considerations.
Now, with the redesign of Google Places, Google has stopped displaying reviews from third party websites entirely. The only reviews that affect the listing’s total count of reviews and star rating are those that were written directly on the Google Places Page. The third party websites that previously provided reviews still are displayed as a link at the bottom of the listing, but users can only read these reviews if they know to click these links.
So what does this change mean for your dental practice?
Well, for one, if you’ve been relying on other websites to publish your reviews to Google, it’s time to change your strategy. The reviews you’ve built on other public review sites are still valuable, as Local search expert David Mihm explains, but refocusing your efforts to get reviews on Google Places will be an important strategic shift for your practice. The good news is that Google is helping to make this process easier, and has redesigned the Places Pages to be far more user friendly, including a new, more prominent “Write a Review” icon appearing at the top of each listing. Let us know in the comments what you think about the recent changes with Google. If you have any questions about your online review strategy, let us know!