One of the standout features from Google Places is the review data being added into the search results. Anyone selling online in the past two / three years will tell you how much impact can be gained from positive third party review of your product or service.

But similar to search rankings you can inflate your positive reviews and …. deflate your competitor’s reviews (don’t do this as it just creates a vicious circle of fake review posting).

Looking at the listings on Google Places currently Google is displaying…

  • Thumbnail picture
  • Address and phone number
  • Finding reviews from various sources
  • Displaying a count for 3 / 4 review sites
  • Creating a total sum for all the reviews
  • Pulling our an average rating out of 5.
  • Sometime displaying a snippet of a review

All those items are optional, the majority of the examples I’ve seen feature all the above, but I’ve also seen some with just the image, address and phone number.

The review site used doesn’t even have to have any microformats data. Google will count a citation of the hotel’s address and phone number with a comment as a review. For example is listed as a review site for the Norwood Hotel in Blackpool. The review isn’t in any microformat, its coded in atag in a table.

So it seems you don’t even need reviews to be on “review site”, I’ve seen a hotel review located on a chef site, beerintheevening etc.

Tip 1. Make citations to your hotel on other sites, even if it’s not a hotel review site. Use the full address, phone number and then list review under a heading “Customer Review”

It appears such reviews won’t contribute to the star rating, this only appears to come from bigger sites such as Trip Advisor, where microformats are in place or Google have been willing to scrape the data.

In general it looks better to have more reviews than less reviews. E.g. a place with 4 reviews doesn’t seem as good as a place with 452 reviews.

To work out which sites are being used to source the reviews I’ve recorded and counted the review sites over 10 search terms, on average listing 6 local listings with 3 to 4 review sites for each listing.

I picked the key phrase “hotels in… Blackpool, Preston, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, London”

The below table shows the review sites listed often. In total there were 230 review sites listed.

Trip Advisor came out top with 63 listing over the 10 different search results. and Active Hotels were also popular. Interestingly sometimes different domains of the same site are used e.g. Trip Advisor uk, com, ie, in all list as separate sites.

One site managed a list a review from the same domain??

Tip 2. Get listed on the most popular sites in your sector. Look for local listings sites, e.g. Sites with the location in the URL.

Strangely at the moment it doesn’t appear if that any of the reviews given to Google directly are being displayed in the search engine results. On each local business listing (e.g. the midland hotel) Google users can add reviews, this doesn’t seem to be used or listed as a review site.

Clicking the “xxx reviews Place page” or stars takes you to your local business listing with Google. This is going to be getting a higher level of traffic due to the link being more prominent on the page and being next to the stars. People will want to check over a couple of review before considering the hotel or making a booking.

Tip 3. Ensure you have claimed your local business listing on Google, filled out as much information as possible and respond to any negative comments in a professional and positive manner.

Most of these tips should be relevent in other sectors restaurants, services etc. The difference will be the review sites, for restaurants e.g. Tipped, Urban Spoon etc. If you looking to improve you rank I would suggest counting which review sites are being listed and start to add reviews onto those sites.

In the spreadsheet linked below the first worksheet contains the review sites in the hotels sector. So if your promoting a hotel I would suggest looking over the list and ensure your hotel is listed on the top sites. I’ll expand the spreadsheet over time adding in which review sites are referenced in different sectors e.g. restaurants, local services etc

It’s going to be interesting over the next couple of months to see more review services popping up, how the result change and more importantly how Google handle people’s problems with Google places, the official forums are notorious for being full of complaints, people pointing out errors and very very frustrated local business owners. I’ve got a feeling that a few more business owners are going to be getting even more frustrated with Google.

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