Category Archives: Google Places Reviews

Missing Google Places Reviews – Same Old

What is the biggest frustration of a dedicated small business owner regarding their online reputation? Some could say it would be seeing a bad comment about their service/product somewhere on the Web. I’d say losing tens of legitimate, hard-earner reviews beats that. There are hundreds of such examples being reported on the Google Places Help Forum in the last week. Getting a negGoogle Places Reviews Missingative online review is not even close as bad as this problem. The business owner could reply to it, thus somehow softening the bad impact it could have on their reputation and a good response could be sometimes even more valuable then a positive review. Losing tens of positive ones means that no one can ever see them, or what you’ve replied to them. The time you’ve spent in asking customers to leave their feedback, and the time they took to do it is also gone.

This is not the first occasion when Google reviews are missing. However, now Google officially acknowledged the problem and claimed their fault due to a technical issue on their end. In the official thread of the problem Vanessa Schneider, the Google Places Community Manager wrote:

We’ve noticed a lot of posts in the forum here these past 48 hours about missing reviews on Place pages. Thanks so much for sending in these reports, we’re looking into it! Please leave any additional feedback here.

Some things to keep in mind in the mean time:

There are many reasons why a review may not appear on a Place page. We’re constantly working to make sure our reviews are legit and high-quality. And so to do this, we have systems in place that may remove individual reviews (ones that we find to be spammy or abusive). Some of you guys may be experiencing these review takedowns. Sometimes our systems may remove legitimate reviews in our effort to cut down on the abuse, but overall we believe these measures are for the good of presenting quality reviews on Google.

After a couple of days the issue seemed to be resolved and Vanessa wrote:

A fix for this issue is rolling out now — reviews that went missing should now be appearing on your Place page. If you don’t see them right away, please give it a little time. But if over the next few days you’re seeing something different, let us know (make sure to provide us the link to your Place page, and whether it’s Google users’s reviews specifically that are missing).

Thanks again for helping us track down the issue, and for your patience!

However, there are still reports of missing reviews. Google did not state what was the real cause of this problem, but one could speculate that it was an unsuccessful trial of an anti-spam filter. Whatever it was, I think Google has a long way to go until it turns its Google Places reviews from a spam heaven and burden for the SMBs to something more Yelpful. Hopes.

Small Business, Google Places and Reviews – How Tos

The year is 1991. You are a small business owner. The majority of your customers:

A) Are your acquaintances/neighbors;
B) Learned about you from A)s (via face-to-face or phone talk);
C) Learned about you from the Yellow Pages;

Fast-forward 20 years and…

You are still the same small business owner. The majority of your customers:

A) Are from your city/town area;
B) Learned about you from A)s (via face-to-face or phone talk, Skype/AIM chat, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, email, Yelp, or any other of these);
C) Learned about you from Google, Bing, Yahoo (organic or paid search), other IYP;
D) Contacted you via your website;

It is obvious that nowadays it is much more complicated to get your business stand out from the competition and be found by potential customers. One aspect that differs greatly and steals the sleep of every SMB owner is the fact that any information could be spread around the globe literally within seconds (check the public reaction section on The Death of Michael Jackson). This change has both positive and negative connotations. On top of it all, information spread around the web may stay there for a strikingly long time (which makes it very different from the real-world word of mouth) and be publicly available. You need positive feedback more than ever.

What you can do

We assume that you have already taken the advantage of a professional company’s service and your business shows up in the organic searches of your main search terms. Your online reputation is widely exposed to the public now. Improving your overall company’s customer service, thus ensuring no negative mentions would be associated with your company, is a great place to start ensuring a positive image. Besides that you need online reviews and you need a strategy to enhance the process of getting them. Let’s face the truth – there are not so many people that would go on Yelp and would take the time to write about how you fixed their central heating, or helped them redecorate their house or lawn (not to mention that Yelp isn’t available everywhere in the world). You will have to ask your clients about their opinion and show them where to express it, providing them the easiest possible access to the review spot.

Where to get reviewed

Many specialists agree that providing wider range of opportunities for your customers is important. In the yearly Local Search Ranking Factors survey, they pointed out the following review websites:

1. Yelp
2. Google Places
3. Citysearch
4. Yahoo Local
5. Niche industry sites (including TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and DealerRater)
6. InsiderPages
7. JudysBook
8. SuperPages
9. YellowPages
10. Kudzu

I agree with these, although it has to be noted that their importance differs from industry to industry, so this list is rather generic. I’d also add to it the company’s website itself, especially after the public announcement of Schema which among many other features allows for Google Places to import reviews from the business’ website.

How to get reviewed

There are many ways in which you could ask your clients to write a comment on you and your business. However, you must think on how to make that process as simplified as possible.

1) Asking clients directly:

This is the easiest way if you are servicing in homes. One good idea would be to create a scan-able QR code, which would lead directly to your listing on some of the mentioned websites, where the client could place the review. You can print the code on your business card’s back side, on a simple piece of paper, or even on your van. It should look something like this:

By scanning this QR code your customers would be led directly to the review panel on your Place page. How to create your own QR code? It only takes a few simple steps. First, go to your Place page and click on “Link” in the upper right corner. Then copy the whole link. For example (some Place page’s URL):

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?q=Gremillion+Mechanical+Heating+%26+Air+Conditioning&hl=en&cid=5772692510613524077

Then simply add the following code directly to the end of the URL above:

&dtab=2&action=openratings&ct=write-review

Forging ahead, go to any QR code generator online tool, like Kaywa, QR Stuff or GOQR.ME and generate it (kudos for that idea go to Mike Blumenthal).

Moreover, you can create a short URL out of the same one that is embedded in the QR code, so that your customers, who don’t have a smartphone could also leave their reviews. The best services for URL abbreviation are goo.gl and bit.ly. As a result, now you are free to set up the back of your business card to look something like this:

Back of Business Card

2. Follow-up email:

This would be easy if you are communicating with your clients mainly via emails and/or your customers are mainly people who tend to regularly check their gmail, hotmail or yahoo mail. I am purposefully pinpointing these 3 because they are an important part of the process of deciding how to formulate your email. Why? Because Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are smart and they know that saving time and making things simple matters. You will have to customize the content of your message  depending on what email provider your clients are using.

- Gmail – it is probably best to invite gmail clients for Google Places reviews, because as they are reading your email, they surely are already logged in to their Google Account, so they will automatically be able to leave their comment without having to log in separately;

- Yahoo! Mail – ask them to post a review on your Yahoo! Local listing. Just as with Google Places, attach “?open=review#review” to the end of the listing’s URL, and  the concatenated URL will directly open the review page;

- Hotmail – as you can guess, it would be smartest to invite hotmail clients for Bing Business Portal reviews by providing a link to your  listing (however, this is currently available only in the US)

3. Facebook:

You can place any link on your Facebook fan page. However, I would recommend that you emphasize on providing links to get reviewed on the IYPs. Many of these websites provide the opportunity for a new user to log in using their Facebook account (Citysearch, InsiderPages, Citysearch, JudysBook, SuperPages, YellowPages). This means that the clients viewing your Facebook page are one click away from writing a review. Furthermore, you could set up a special tab on your company’s Facebook page, where customers could directly leave reviews.

4. Be careful using Yelp:

Yelp’s policy differs from the majority of the other review websites. They have a specially created filter system, which very often catches irregular or first-time reviewers and puts them in the “Filter Folder”, where they are not visible for the regular visitor of the page. I usually do not recommend Yelp to be used as a review source, unless the business is a restaurant, cafe or a bar. The site is user-unfriendly for businesses such as electricians, plumbers, movers and towers, which generally provide one-time service to their customers.

Epilogue

Online reputation management is extremely important part of every small business. I am planning to write a sequel, including newly adopted features, such as Featured Review, Descriptive Terms, City Pages, as well as the new Google business-customer mobile connection systemTalkBin.

Interesting Google Places and Local Search Articles (22-29 May)

I proceed gathering all the interesting articles from the past week, related to local search, Google Places and the social-local. You can see the previous editions here:

Articles 15 – 21 May
Articles 7 – 14 May
Articles 1 – 7 May
Articles 23 – 30 April

I’d say the most interesting even of the past week was the discovery that the businesses which used rich snippets for their testimonials are now rewarded, as they get reviews on their Place pages directly from their own websites. Furthermore, a new feature of Google Places was discovered (by me) – “Featured review”. I wrote 2 articles on what it is and how it could be used. Linda Buquet also picked the topic and wrote a 2-piece post on the same feature. There were also numerous great articles on Yelp and Google Places reviews.

Google Places and Local SEO:

hReview Testimonials from SMB Sites Starting to Show in Places
Using hReview on Your Website
Google: 40% of Mobile Searches Local
Yelp’s Community Strategy and Google
How Yelp Crushed Citysearch & Yahoo Local … & Why Google Is Stealing Yelp’s Playbook
Study: Yelp has More Productive, Less Extreme Reviewers
The Growth of Reviews In Google Places (aka Hotpot)
Check-ins and rating places get easier with Google Maps 5.5 for Android
Google Places Mobile: Is a Broad Rollout of Check-In Offers Imminent?
10 Unorthodox Ideas For Local Citations & Links
Locksmith Spam Listing Issue
Google Places Big New FEATURED Reviews – Make that Place Page Stand Out from the Pack
Google Places BIG New FEATURED Reviews – How To – Part 2
Online Reputation Management: 10 Fighting Tips!

Social-Local for SMBs:

Have Deals ‘Jumped the Shark’? Unlikely
Survey: 44% Buy Daily Deals at Least Monthly
14% Of Groupon/LivingSocial Subscribers Respond To Push Notifications
Location-Based Marketing: The Convergence of Social and Mobile
For Small-Business Marketers, Are Fewer Channels Better?
Everyone Should Hire ‘Social Media Experts’
Friend Recommendations Drive Local Business Visits
Discover more places you’ll like based on people who’re like you

Have a nice weekend reading!

How to Use Google Places Featured Review

A few days ago I wrote about an interesting new feature I found out by chance – “Featured review” on Google Places. Unfortunately, I struggled to uncover more about it as I don’t have an Android phone and the people in Google seemed not to be willing to give away some information on it. However, I spoke with Linda Buquet on that and she picked up the topic and wrote a two-parts article on the feature. Her blog is probably followed by Vanessa Schneider, who is Community Manager for Google Places and she clarified how these “Featured reviews” appear (she gave me the same answer as in the comments under the post of Linda, on the Facebook page of Google Places):

When a Google Places user posts their rating or review to Twitter using Google Maps for Android — more info on how to here: http://goo.gl/ohmqF — their followers receive a tweet containing a shortened URL. The URL directs followers to the Place page for the business, where the recently tweeted rating or review appears in an easy-to-find section called “Featured review.”

What new information did Linda discover and what more was brought by this answer of Vanessa:
- only Android users retweeted reviews are being shown as “featured”
- when you go to the Place page via organic search or via Google Maps you don’t see the “Featured review”, you can see it only if you follow the short URL sent with the tweet
- this feature most probably exists since the announcement of the option to tweet your reviews and ratings from March 3rd, 2011

What did I come out with from all this:
- “Featured reviews” do not expire
- every review from a Google User can be featured, using the correct URL direct
- this could be helpful only for businesses that use buttons such as “See our reviews on Google Places” on their websites, so it isn’t useful for the spammers

Here is how to create a “Featured review” out of any review:

1. Go to your Google Places Place page and click on “Link” in the upper right corner:

2. When you get the link, delete the bolded parts:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&q=hotel+las+vegas&fb=1&hq=hotel&hnear=0x80beb782a4f57dd1:0x3accd5e6d5b379a3,Las+Vegas,+NV&cid=5442487001343959034&z=14

so that it looks like this:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034

The numbers after the “cid=” are the unique ID number of each Place page, so they will be different for your particular Place page.

3. Save this link somewhere and scroll down to the “Reviews by Google users” section. When you go there click on the nickname of any of them. A new page will open, whose URL will look something like that:

http://maps.google.com/maps/user?uid=215234974382015503873&hl=en&gl=US&ved=0COoCEIUK&sa=X&ei=XgDgTZWLDZemsQbrx8TfDQ

4. From this link, take just the numbers after “uid=”. In this case the numbers are “215234974382015503873

5. Go back to the URL of your Place page (in this case: http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034) and add the following at the end of it: “&cad=source:gmm-twitter&ppht=review_permalink&author=“. The URL should look like this:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034&cad=source:gmm-twitter&ppht=review_permalink&author=

6. Add the UID number of the user that you have chosen in step 4 (in this case: “215234974382015503873″) to the end of the URL that we just created in step 5. The URL should look like this now:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034&cad=source:gmm-twitter&ppht=review_permalink&author=215234974382015503873

*Note: the numbers after the “cid=” and “author=” in this pattern URL are unique and they will differ when you create a “Featured review” URL for your own business Place page.

The “Featured review” section should appear right under your description on your Place page. In our example it looks like that:

Some examples how you could use that:

A) On your website, if you put a link leading to your Google Places page. The “Featured review” pops up almost on the top of the Place page, so that potential click-throughers (new word?) could immediately notice your great review.

B) Create a QR code leading to that “Featured review” Place page. As Linda Buquet noted, not only the “Featured review” section contains a great, clearly visible review, together with enlarged stars bar, but also a good call-to-action: “Local recommendations powered by you and your friends. Start rating“. This could potentially help you get more reviews from your customers that you do not directly ask for review.

C) Use it in your email review gathering campaign the same way as you are using the link to your Place page. This time you could link to the upgraded “Featured review Place page” (also a new term?)

These are just a few examples, but using your imagination, you can definitely think of something interesting. I’d be happy to hear some thoughts.

Google Places Featured Review

I just discovered by chance a new feature on Google Places. Did you know that you can tweet your reviews on Google Places? If you didn’t know – now you do, but if you did – I have something interesting for you. Check out the “Featured review”:

In the beginning of March 2011, Google announced that anyone could tweet their Hotpot reviews via their Android phone. That’s one of the reasons which is making me unsure if this feature is a new one, but I should repeat – today was the first day that I spotted it. New or not, after checking around I understood one sure thing – the featured review is one that has been tweeted. Unfortunately, currently I cannot say if it is the newest tweeted review, or just a random one, but this is definitely of huge importance for the local businesses. The featured review is showing up right under the main section of the Place page, which makes it instantly visible when someone enters. Moreover, the stars are much bigger than the ones in the normal “non-featured” reviews. This review is also going to show on Google Maps:

What does that mean for the SMBs? Even if you have hundreds of shiny 5-star reviews, both from Google Places users and third-party review websites, one “featured review” can take you down instantly. I am still not sure how this review is chosen to be “featured”, but if this is the only special “feature” of this review, than it widely opens the doors for a new portion of headache for each local business owner. Especially if it looks like this:

A few questions I couldn’t find the answer of:

- how is the featured review chosen (other than being tweeted)
- is it a recent review or could be an old one
- if the business owner replies to it, will the reply appear at the “Featured review” section too
- when did these reviews start appearing