Google Cans Third Party Reviews From Places. Now What?

Have you taken a look at your Google Place Page listing lately? If not, may I suggest you go take a look now? Because it may look a little different today than how you remember it. Actually, it may look a lot different.

In part of the ongoing evolution of Place Pages, Google announced some important changes last week that small business owners will want to be aware of.

The first thing to notice is that Google has removed all third-party reviews from your Place page. That means if you were relying on Yelp or TripAdvisor or any other third-party site to woo customers over to your place of business, they’re gone. Also gone with them are all third-party citations and Web sources. Instead, Google is now linking users directly to the individual reviews. That means your Yelp reviews are now only viewable on Yelp. Users are not seeing them on your business’ Place Page. This should make Yelp very happy.

Another important change: With arguably more importance being placed on your Google Place Page reviews (since they’re now the only reviews on-page), Google is encouraging users to talk about your brand and leave reviews with a Write a Review call-to-action located directly on your business page.

Look how big and red it is.

As a small business owner, the combination of these two changes may result in a shift in your review and online reputation management strategy.

If you weren’t actively seeking out reviews on Google, I’d recommend making it part of your review strategy. Before it was easy enough to focus on the “big dog” review sites and to allow Google to bring in this content, but with Google now leaving that content on its native domain, it means many small business owners may find themselves with a pretty empty-looking Google page. And that’s not OK. The same way you are soliciting reviews for other sites, you now want to make sure you’re adding Google to the list.

However, that does not mean that you should abandon other review sites in favor of Google. Do not stop soliciting reviews on third-party sites simply because they’re not showing up on Google Place page (today). This content and these citations are still very important to both your Google presence and helping customers find you. As is so often the case when it comes to Google and local search, we’re just adding more for business owners to do. We’re not taking away.

The addition of the Write a Review call to action is also something SMBs should take advantage of. The existence of that button will encourage customers to leave reviews (which is a positive); however, it also means that someone on your team should be watching the page to respond to reviews, be they positive, negative or neutral. The more engagement and interaction there is on the page, the better and more trusted you’re going to look to visitors who land on it. You should be thanking those who take the time to share a positive experience, while also addressing the not-so-great things said about you.

Overall, the changes usher in what Google must assume is a more mature product and experience for users. The fact that they’re no longer relying on third-party reviews likely hints at a belief that their local audience is big enough to support its own review community. While I think this may signal a shift in many SMBs’ review strategy, overall, it shouldn’t affect what SMBs are after. Keep building reviews up in a variety of different sources, but if you hadn’t yet added Google Places to that list, this update is a clear sign that you should.

What are your thoughts on Google’s recent changes to its Google Place Pages? Does it change your review strategy at all?

For some additional food for thought and slight conspiracy theories, you may also want to check out Linda Buquet’s post on Google Places July Update Aftermath where an interesting conversation has been taking place.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

23 Reactions
  1. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what Google achieves with this – along with all their other social moves recently. But will Yelp be happy or will it lose?

  2. I wonder if Google’s preparing to implement onsite Social Q&A at all for Places. With their recent push on ZMOT education, they seem to be leaning in that strategic direction. For that matter, why aren’t Yelp and other business review sites moving that way? I usually have a specific question that I want answered about a business, and as a customer I’d liked to be able to connect directly with other customers.

  3. As with most changes that Google makes, everyone will quickly adapt their strategy to fit their needs and move on. Google is the 800 lb. gorilla of search and when the 800 lb. gorilla does something, you don’t get in the way or complain. You just deal with it.

  4. Thanks for the update!

    It’s great they have a big, bright “write a review” button…

    But did they make it any easier for a customer who doesn’t have a Google account to actually do it?

    Google’s cumbersome process kills most businesses chance to persuade their customers to spend the time to write a review.

  5. I’m actually quite happy about these changes – especially the fact that they’ve added that big red “Write a Review” button. In the past, when I asked our students if they would write a review for us, it was so hard to explain where on the Places page to find the reviews section.

  6. But you still see the third party reviews … do a search in Google for “pizza restaurant raleigh, nc” … edited example —

    Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers – CachedSimilar
    601 West Peace Street, Raleigh – (919) 832-3499
    “Overall Mellow Mushroom is a great lunch spot, numerous options and fresh …” – (45) (35) – (16) – (6)

    The user has 5 links to choose from before even considering choosing Places which is on the left hand side. They can click on the Mellow Mushroom website link, or any of the 4 third party review links. There’s no “encouragement” to click on Places.

  7. I saw that they removed them. I just thought my ‘Droid was acting funny. They pulled them. Wow.

  8. Joel is absolutely correct. The third-party reviews have NOT been removed. On the Google Places page, the position of the third-party links has simply moved lower on the page. But before people ever get to the Google Places page, they will have an opportunity to click on third-party review links.

    IMO you should correct this blog post so that misinformation isn’t out there.

  9. The reviews are removed from Google Places pages for now, but the link to the review site (with the number of reviews) is still present. Third party reviews remain a very important strategy for small businesses…especially through services that actually do reputation management, not simply serve as a forum for reviews.

    You can only write a review on Google if you have a Google account. My understanding is that only about 13% of email users have one. That means that small businesses cannot rely only on Google reviews.

    @Andrew Pettit – Customer Lobby offers a feature to our members that allows their prospective customers to interact with the customer who wrote the review. It is a pretty cool feature that has definitely translated into sales for the member/business.

  10. It seems to me that YELP is primarily really mean people writing bad reviews on just about every kind of business on the net. I sometimes wonder if really unhappy people with no life just sit around and randomly pick and business to trash? Most of the reviewers do not have the courtesy to use their real name or email address. That is kind of spineless if you ask me. If you are going to say some bad, or good, about a business or a person, have the decency to put your real name and email address. AND for sure, have personally used that product or service. BUT! Like hackers, I feel these are just amazingly unhappy people with nothing else to do but write negative reviews.

  11. Jess K. You may see the “really mean” side come out if you do NOT upgrade as their sales people hound you to buy more services. Let’s face the fact that it’s not a pretty sight that has been documented multiple times. There are plenty of other location based marketing services from which to draw reviews.

    • Yelp is the worst. There are so many blogs out there pounding them. Your right they have the WORST advertising program on earth and they do muscle you to run ads or down come the good reviews. Most of the negative reviews on my companies are from people who never used our services its either my competiors or yelp jerk offs.

  12. Thanks Lisa,
    I like your review of the subject best so far:)

  13. I still strongly believe that third party reviews will play a part on Google. (In a secret way). We have always encouraged customers to leave reviews. Now it’s probably a little easier all in the one main place of Google.

  14. Has or will Google ever let customers log in with their Facebook or twitter accounts to leave comments, if they don’t have a Google account? I am currently trying to find the best and most effective way for my customers to leave reviews of our company. Any suggestions?

  15. Does anyone know how to link reviews from other sites back to the Google Places?

  16. Will Helliwell

    I have a business listing on Google maps but nowheredo I see an option for people to leave a review. I also cannot leave reviews on other business pages unless on my mobile. Is anyone else experiencing this?