Reputation Management

Google Business Profiles (GBPs) are an essential tool for businesses looking to increase their visibility online. Formerly known as Google My Business (GMB), this tool allows businesses to create a free account and manage their information across multiple platforms—including Google Maps and Search. With over 20 million businesses listed on Google Maps, ensuring your brand appears at the top of the map pack when motivated customers are searching for solutions like yours nearby is crucial.

Google reviews are an integral component for any Google Business Profile. They highlight how customers perceive your business through a star rating system and sentiment. They also can improve business visibility in Google Maps or Search results.

Google constantly updates its platform to provide a high quality experience for searchers. If you want to boost your chances of appearing higher in organic searches, you’ll definitely want to know about the most recent Google reviews updates. First, a quick overview on the current state of Google’s review offerings.

What are Google reviews?

Google’s local review feature allows individuals to leave reviews of their experience with a business on Google Maps and the Business Profile. Google reviews are highly visible in search results, can help customers find a company, and are a part of Google’s local ranking algorithms, as well.

Local business reviews are important for consumers when deciding where to spend their money. Consider, would you rather work with a business with 1 or 5-star reviews? Consumers trust businesses they know and like, and these reviews help them decide whether to patronize a particular establishment. Companies use local reviews to attract new customers, retain existing ones, and increase sales.

In recent months, we’ve seen some significant updates enterprise brands should pay attention to when it comes to GBPs. While we know that Google shows when a reviewer is a local guide, they are adding other reviewer identifiers, and there are valuable studies brands should check out. Here’s what you need to know:

Top 4 recent local Google reviews updates

Over the past several months, we’ve seen four Google reviews updates worth noting. Below, we will highlight each update.

1. Highlighting local reviewers

For some listings, Google now shows the number of reviews left by a specific reviewer in a local area. For example, suppose someone is looking for a restaurant. In that case, Google may highlight reviews by a reviewer who left numerous reviews in that city.

If someone in Charlotte leaves an abundance of reviews in that city, Google may show how many reviews they left there. So, if Dawn left 32 reviews in San Antonio, it would say “32 reviews in San Antonio” under their name in the review.

Why this matters

These reviews can hold more authority and value to searchers if they think it comes from someone local who often frequents businesses in the area. And they may put more trust in these reviews.

2. Categorizing reviews

So not only is Google highlighting how many reviews an individual may leave in a city, but they are also highlighting reviewers who frequently review a specific business category. This means that Google could highlight the number of reviews for a particular business category, such as café reviews.

Now, this doesn’t break down review categories by cities or countries but by business category type in general. So, if a reviewer frequently travels to coworking spaces, it might say “17 coworking space reviews” under their review profile name when they leave a review of a coworking space.

Google Reviews Updates number of reviews example

Why this matters

Google is making it easier for searchers to identify valuable and helpful reviews from reviewers with experience in their search category. This could mean it’ll be easier to vet and manage reviews at scale. In addition, it’ll be increasingly important for enterprise brands to promptly respond to reviewers with these identifiers (multiple reviews in one city and volume reviews for a particular business category).

Recommended reading: Online Reputation Management for Regulated Industries 101

3. Review count importance

Sterling Sky published a local ranking case study recently and found that reaching ten reviews on your local listing would result in a ranking boost. But getting more than ten reviews doesn’t help you rank better in either Google Maps or the Google Local Pack when you already have a substantial number of reviews.

For context, this case study focused on practitioner listings. Practitioner listings on Google Maps are business listings for doctors, accountants, dentists, or lawyers operating on their own. These listings appear when someone searches for those professions on Google Maps or in Search.

The case study also mentioned the law of diminishing returns. The law of diminishing returns states that when you increase the number of units produced, the marginal benefit decreases. This means the incremental profit or advantage per unit drops for each additional unit.

So, if a business already has an established base of reviews, then acquiring more reviews has less impact than receiving an initial couple of reviews on a newer listing.

Why this matters

As enterprise brands roll out new locations, those first reviews will really matter if you want to start with a positive and impactful presence on Google Maps and Search.

Additionally, rankings are based on various factors, so even if a location has many reviews, it may not be enough to significantly increase Google rankings as it did in the beginning.

4. Keywords in local reviews

Sterling Sky recently conducted another study on keywords in local reviews. This study showed that Google is taking a more intuitive approach to assessing reviews.

Marketers may think that if a brand wants to rank for a specific term and numerous reviews mention those keywords, it should help with its Google ranking, right? Not necessarily.

The study showed that even periodic reviews saturated with keywords didn’t necessarily help a brand perform better on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Why this matters

Encouraging reviewers to include keywords might not have the effect you’re looking for and could impact a location’s performance on SERPs. The more natural and helpful a review’s wording is, the more valuable it is.

How do local Google reviews work?

Now that you’re well-versed in the latest Google reviews updates, let’s dive deeper into how exactly local reviews work. When someone searches for a specific business on Google Maps or in Search, they will see a list of reviews for that business. If any reviews are left by people who visited the location, those reviews will appear at the top of the list.

Once logged into the brand’s GBP, or through technology that curates reviews from multiple platforms in one dashboard, a team member can respond to the review by clicking on the “Reply” button next to the review. Then they can choose to either thank the reviewer for leaving feedback or follow up on negative feedback.

Recommended reading: Best Practices for Positive and Negative Review Responses

Rio SEO's Local Reviews solution

Consumers must verify their account before submitting a review. Once a review is submitted, the business owner receives a notification email informing them that a review has been posted. They can view the review in question and reply directly through email.

This can get complicated at the enterprise level. It’s not a good customer experience if review notifications are sent to an unmonitored inbox and no one ever responds. Similarly, the brand’s reputation can suffer if franchisees or local managers, perhaps lacking marketing experience or even just having a bad day, respond in a way unbefitting the brand. This is why it’s important to use review monitoring and response technology that gives you full insight into reviews across the organization, with permissions, templates, and review analytics.

Final takeaways

If you still need to do so, now would be a perfect time to check out Google’s new local review updates and prepare a strategy incorporating them. Make sure your brand’s Google Business Profile review policies are up to date, and that you’re getting the most mileage possible out of star ratings and reviews by incorporating them in your local pages, as well.

Ensure you’re responding to Business Profile reviews promptly and create a review management strategy for new locations that focus on obtaining quality initial reviews.

It’ll be essential to stay on top of Google reviews updates as Google releases them. Though they may seem small, they could have a significant impact on increases in SEO visibility in local search results.

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