Just how important are local reviews? Google’s latest updates appear to be placing a great deal of value on them. Google has recently rolled out two new local interface changes in the main search results. The changes suggest that Google has shifted towards increasing the visibility of their reviews by placing a lot of emphasis on keeping users on their front page, Google.com, rather than redirecting them to Google Maps, Places, Plus, etc.

So what do these changes look like? The first change aims to cut out the confusion of finding information on different Google pages. For instance, instead of requiring the user to head over to the Google + page for more details on the business, Google has changed the format so now users see a local pop-up that provides review content directly in the main search results. Despite the recent change, not all users are currently able to see it but Google has said this is a permanent addition and will become universally visible in time. It appears that if you are on Google Maps and select reviews or more information, this will still redirect you to the Google + page. Google is not ditching the Google + pages entirely and will still be using those as signals for local SEO, so it is still very important to claim and optimize those pages.

To access this feature, you first type in what you want to search. We typed in San Diego car dealerships and took a screenshot of the first link with Google reviews below it:

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Next, you click on the blue link in the bottom right corner that says “97 Google reviews”. Once you have clicked, this is what the local pop-up will look like:

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Google has also unveiled their new local carousel feature. Essentially, just like the first change, the carousel aims to increase the visibility of reviews. This is the second major change and it is available for all local businesses, extending itself as a tool to be used beyond just the hotel and restaurant industries. According to Mike Blumenthal, “…Google has added a faceted search facility to the carousel that allows users to discover businesses by ratings directly from the carousel and in the case of restaurants by pricing and cuisine as well”. For more information, visit Mike Blumenthal’s blog.

Here’s a screenshot of the two changes on the Google interface:

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With the addition of these two changes, Google has quite literally forced its users to see how important review management is for your local business by strategically featuring them on the first page. Google has made it clear just how vital reviews and local SEO optimization is. Are you managing your local business listings and your reviews at the local level? For more information on review management, click here!

In today’s ever changing world, local SEO and review management are becoming more and more prevalent. Like Yelp, Google will also be adding local reps to its repertoire to help drive local reviews. According to TechCrunch, “Google has quietly launched a new program called Google City Experts to encourage more high-quality local business ratings and reviews on Google+”. As this article clearly demonstrates, managing your business listings and reviews at the local level are becoming more important than ever. Are you using everything available to you?