As of November 25th, Google has added a brand new feature to business searches: Reviews. These reviews will show up on the search, as well as in the new “review inbox.” Businesses can see what people are saying about them and respond, and customers can learn about co-consumers’ experiences and thoughts on a business. The benefit of business reviews to the customers is easy to see – they don’t have to take a hit-and-miss shot at the first few Google rankings that come up or search for a business twice, once to find a name and once for a review. Now they can just search once and make a more informed decision on where to take their custom.
What does this mean for businesses?
Positive Side of Business Reviews
Local businesses will love the SEO boost that comes with actual customer reactions. This will be particularly important to restaurants and other such local venues. Their customers will know what atmosphere to expect when they visit, and the unsolicited input of customers is always more convincing than self-promotion. Not to mention the additional SEO visibility.
Larger businesses will also find the reviews helpful in locating and informing their target audience, for much the same reason. People tend to trust the experiences of their peers. It’s almost like word-of-mouth advertising but with a digital voice.
Another plus is the Reviews inbox. According to Google’s Jane Wang in their announcement, the reviews inbox will show “any reviews Google users have left for your business as well as snippets of reviews written about your business on other websites.” In other words, this will be a tool to see what the customers are saying about you, allowing you to respond both in words and by supporting things they like or changing anything people may have had trouble with. And responding in that manner tends to have a positive impact on customers.
Negative Side of Reviews
As with anything else, this new feature is bound to have drawbacks. What about those customers who can never be satisfied and are very vocal about it? What if someone is intentionally trying to give your company a bad name? With a reviews feature like this, it will be easier for troublemakers to smear your reputation. And for the same reason that positive customer input is valuable, negative input, whether or not it’s true, can have some nasty effects. So this new Google reviews section is bound to come with plenty of reputation troubles.
The positive side of this new search feature will generally outweigh the negatives, but it’s good to know and be prepared in the event of smear campaigns. In the meantime, enjoy the automatic customer feedback!