One of the first points of contact for customers and businesses in today’s digital world is the search engine. And when someone looks at a particular company, the reviews it has received from customers greatly impacts whether they take a look at it, or move on to another business.
Google plays an important role in this, and the recent announcement that Google+ Local pages will no longer be supporting reviews, categories, directions, stars, photo uploads, interior photos, maps, hours, etc., integration means businesses, especially small businesses, will have to reassess their relationship with the company.
In an email interview with Small Business Trends, Andrew Shotland, president of Local SEO Guide, said, “Any of them [small businesses] who had invested in their Google Plus Local pages now are seeing that effort as wasted time, and these are the types of businesses where an hour or two of time wasted on a digital marketing effort can be a big setback.”
Even though the news may have come as a blow to some, many SEO companies were already making plans to deal with the eventuality. Mike Blumenthal, chief review officer and co-founder of GetFiveStars, explained in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “Google has been signaling the separation of Plus and Local for quite some time.”
Other indications that Google was separating more features from Plus included the discontinuation of mandatory email integration in 2014 and then the separation of Google Plus and YouTube accounts in 2015.
“The Google Plus page was a place to send customers to leave reviews on the desktop,” Blumenthal added.” It has not worked on mobile for a number of years.” This is an important point to remember as mobile continues to be the preferred computing solution for increasing numbers of consumers.”
The negative feedback Google received when it announced it would no longer support reviews most likely came from small businesses that have invested all this time in building good reviews, as Shotland mentioned.
The BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2015 highlights that very point. The survey revealed 92 percent of consumers now read online reviews (vs. 88 percent in 2014), and 40 percent of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews (vs. 29 percent in 2014). So not having a review or not having it easily accessible can be the difference between consumers considering your brand, product or service and skipping your site altogether.
If there is one thing small business owners constantly need to do, it’s adapt. The good news is reviews are still accessible, you just have to take additional steps to make them visible.
The new Google+ pages will be focusing on interests, so Collections and Communities features will figure more prominently by letting users share with greater ease and to a wider audience. The search, navigation and page recommendations have also been simplified and improved to be much faster.
The local information can be accessed on local pages in classic Google+ on Web, but it is limited to email, address and phone. Blumenthal suggests businesses send a new link to engage their customers on reviews and make the review card visible on the front page of Google.
He outlines a number of steps to make this work.
To generate the review page URL:
- do a search on your business that generates the Knowledge Panel,
- select the View all Google reviews link in the panel and
- capture the URL (this is easiest in Chrome) for the Review Card.
The resulting URL should look something like this:
This URL can be shorted at goo.gl to something looking more like:
The shortened URL can be given to a business’s customers as a convenient place to leave a review.
That URL works well on desktop and mobile, whether the user is logged in or not so, unlike the Plus URL, it works everywhere.
Shotland also gives some advice all small businesses should remember. “As always, the lesson is if you build your business on someone else’s platform, don’t be surprised when at some point they pull the rug out from under you.”
Image: Google Local Search, Small Business Trends
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