Online reviews have become the Achilles heel of local businesses. What people say about your business matters. I’ve seen clients lose 40 percent of their organic traffic, after a customer left a 1-star review, and tanked their average rating. I’ve even seen negative reviews force local businesses to close their doors for good. It isn’t fair, but it’s the harsh reality of owning a business in the digital age. The good news is that there’s plenty that business owners can do to reinforce their reputation.
Since machines are sophisticated enough to understand complex, conversational queries, users are beginning to speak to search engines in the same way they would speak to another human being. Machines don’t just listen to us anymore; they are now capable of engaging and interacting with us, too. Voice search is taking this semantic technology to the next level. Instead of typing a query into Google and choosing from a list of search results, voice search technology allows consumers to use voice commands on their smartphones or personal assistant devices.
BrightLocal recently released the results of their 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey. The purpose of the annual survey, which BrightLocal first launched in 2010, is to evaluate how online reviews influence consumer behavior, and how these trends shift over time. This year’s survey had just over 1,000 participants, and consisted of 16 questions. The 2016 data further reinforces the growing importance of online reviews, and when compared to data from previous years, you can clearly see just how much online reviews have evolved over the past six years.
Going forward, similar to Panda, the Penguin component will be integrated into Google’s core ranking algorithm, meaning that the data is refreshed in real-time. This hopefully means that sites won’t need to wait nearly as long for the penalties to be lifted. Now that Penguin is running in real-time, Google said that they will no longer issue announcements or confirm future Penguin updates.
Google local packs have changed quite a bit over the years. First, Google cut down the local results from seven to three listings. Then in June, Google announced that they would start testing ads within the 3-packs, and earlier this month we’ve seen several instances of this happening in the wild. Now Google is shaking things up again, rolling out some major changes to their local reviews guidelines. In this post, I’ll explain what each guideline means, and how they impact local businesses.