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New Local Review Guidelines from Google

Posted on 2.28.2017
Google has reduced the number of reviews it requires in order to appear in the local pack of its search results to just one; that's down from the five-review threshold which seems to have been in place since all the way back in 2013.

Obviously this change is quite significant and will make reviews far more important for businesses because consumers will now be able to access this rather influential user-generated content on pretty much any businesses they discover on the search results (at least those with at least one review (be it a good or bad review).

In addition, it will further help those with many reviews and will negatively impact those with only one bad review. In a way, it's the perfect digital storm for local-focused enterprises.

Why are reviews, and further this specific development, so important?

There's a rather sizable percentage of the population that weighs reviews very highly in their purchasing decision. The new change could mean that a brand's reputation could suffer dramatically if reviews have not been a core part of their strategy to date.

Product and service reviews make it easier for users to obtain useful information, but it's not easy to process and judge information. There are factors, however, that affect the attractiveness of products including the characteristics of reviewers to other qualitative and quantitative measurements. Knowing what they are could make a world of difference.

What most of the successful brands I've encountered share is that they realize that a combination of both "measurement" and "message" characteristics provides the most positive effect.

The impact of Google's change to one review could be far reaching and contribute directly (and greatly) to the success of any manner of promotional initiatives including search, social, advertising and emails as well.

Let's explore what some of the elements of reviews that might influence a user's conversion - be it the purchase of a product or a subscription to a service or solutions.

Quantity: The actual volume of reviews is important to many. Not only is it often possible to sort by the number of reviews total, but a high number of reviews provides the confirmation to prospects that the solution they are looking for is also the same as others.

Relevance: Audit the review profiles of the most successful brands and products and find that there are almost never those that are outright irrelevant. If you're going to leverage reviews, and foster an environment where they stand to produce a positive effect, filtering out irrelevant reviews and eliminating those that don't belong will take you a long way.

Descriptiveness: Including an average numerical rating or showing related or popular reviews is another way to emphasize the positive aspects of a product or service.

Authority: Say that you were searching for a security solution. Would a review from a grandmother in suburban Buffalo speak more highly than a similar review from a former military general?

What do you believe the impact will be of Google's shift to the one-review minimum for inclusion in the local pack? 
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