And another change on Google…
The Google Places Listings seem to have vanished.
What now? Am I keeping my ranking?
Where are the 5 star ratings? What happened to my reviews?
These kinds of questions might have been going through your head since Wednesday when Google deployed yet another major change to your places listings.
What has changed?
Lets look at a search result:
The new score system uses the following scale
The biggest change is that the places listing is now located on Google Plus, also called Google Plus Local. It looks like the image below (click to enlarge) and features the images and reviews from the Google Places account.
The following changes have been introduced:
- The Google Plus Local pages replaces the former Places Listing and became part of the Google Plus account.
- Individual reviews have a score of 0-30 and the names of the reviewers are only shown if they have a Google Plus account, otherwise it will say “A Google User.”
- Reviews are sorted by a ‘secret’ algorithm, Google calls “Most helpful”. How Google determines the order is unknown so far, but one can assume social interaction with the Google Plus Local page is playing a big role.
Why is Google doing this?
Google wants local business owners to interact with customers on Google Plus.
These interactions will have an impact on search results.
Speaking of search results, there will be two search pages in the future:
- The standard Google Search page, when going to Google.com as you know it.
- The new social local search page on Google Plus Local (see below, click to enlarge). When you go to your Google Plus account and click on the new Local icon, the term “local search” has a new meaning. Google wants visitors to get enticed to find a lot more information about local businesses.
Let’s use a search result in Local Search in Mountain View (click to enlarge), where three different filters allow to select the order your customers prefer:
- Top reviewers are using Google Plus at its full extent and leave many reviews (see also marker 4 on the image to the left).
- Just for you is impacted by your history of reviews to Google Places and recommends similar places to you based on your previous reviews.
- Your circles contains reviews from friends in your circles (see here for a quick demo)
So Google Plus (if Google has its way) becomes the social network for local business owners to connect with their customers.
The first step absolutely needed for every local business is to have a Google Plus Business Page because Google will merge/reference this place with the Google Plus Local page. See here for an example where Google has done it already.
What happened to my ranking?
Currently there are no significant changes to the ranking on Google.com. Over time the social component will change that. Please look at blog posts like here, to see how that is already happening. The search ranking on Google + Local is determined by the filters described above and already contains social aspects to a much higher degree than the search results on Google.com.
What happened to my reviews?
Unfortunately, some of you have lost some or all reviews from Google Places when Google moved 80 million Places listings overnight to Google Plus. We recommend to wait up to three weeks to see whether they come back, and then solicit reviews from your customers at the counter. AutoVitals offers a service, which selects all Gmail addresses and sends them a review contest email to collect reviews. The number of submitted reviews so far is between 1%-5%. Please feel free to contact us if you want to take advantage of this service.
What else will AutoVitals do for you?
For all AutoVitals clients, we will create a business page, which will be managed by us and which also links to the Google Places account. Once Google has ‘merged’ the two (to be expected soon), we will also offer a series of services to strengthen your engagement with your customers on Google Plus. Stay tuned for the next announcement and please feel free to leave questions, suggestions, and your experience with Google Plus below.