Google’s New Review Filter shows a need for monitoring online reviews. The new Google Places page is generating quite the buzz across the net as it has created new opportunities for businesses to reach local markets. Consequently, analyzing how Google Places compiles, filters, and displays customer reviews is a crucial step to managing a business’s online reputation and developing a strong online presence on local search.
So what do Google Places’ latest changes mean for online reputation management?
For one, Google is filtering who can and cannot leave reviews on Google Places. Users who want to leave reviews on Google Places must not only have a registered account with Google, but must also create a Public Google Places Profile through Google HotPot. There seem to be pros and cons to this new review policy. On the positive side, this adds legitimacy to the reviews that do make it to the Google Place page and it shows that Google is pressing for more accountability throughout the review process. This change represents an attempt to eliminate “anonymous” reviews and shows that Google is trying to create an online community where reviewers help build up a reputation as well. It may serve to reduce negative reviews as well, since requiring a Public Profile page on Google will filter out some of the fakers and unhappy campers. Nevertheless, this change is a two-edged sword for small and medium sized businesses. It’s hard enough to get a happy customer to leave a positive review as it is, yet Google seems to be making it even more difficult since the requirement of a user Profile Page may prevent or discourage satisfied customers from leaving a review. Here at chatmeter, we’ve noticed some of our clients losing 10-20% of their reviews, and several of our clients are concerned that this new requirement will decrease both their number of positive reviews and the chatter about their business. But we are well aware of all the review spam going on and this move is certainly well overdue. To clarify, its new review filtering process puts new reviews, particularly those from new users, at the bottom of the review queue, which is a little puzzling, but this may just be temporary. Google seems to be building a method to determine which reviews move to the top, much like Yelp does. They seem to have devised a system for recognizing and using reviews from more trusted reviewers over more anonymous reviewers, a feature that should help compensate for some of the negative aspects of these review changes. This new review process will also increase transparency and consequently hedge against fake reviews since consumers will be able to see all reviews posted by a given reviewer. Google has also invited businesses to officially respond to negative reviews as the Business Owner, a feature that encourages a more direct form of customer-business interaction. Ultimately, we feel that Google’s changes are positive overall, since filtering reviews will weed out fake reviews and help businesses with legitimate reviews move to the top. The new business listing features will also allow for a more interactive customer-business relationship, which creates new opportunities for businesses to manage their online reputation. Google has demonstrated a commitment to staying on the cutting edge of local search (Read about Google’s recent changes to Organic Results for Local Search queries on our previous blog posting at www.chatmeter.com/blog), so there is reason to believe Google will further streamline the review process and reduce some of the negative aspects while maximizing the positive benefits that such changes bring. Staying on top of Google and all the other search engines can be difficult and time consuming, which has led to the rise of reputation management and reputation monitoring services to help marketers and business owners.