Over the past 18 months there were many other bloggers who complained that Google's online review system was tainted by spam. In fact, all review sites have experienced review spam, which refers to business owners going to their own store listing and creating a few good reviews.
For a while Google didn't show reviews from other review sites like insiderpages.com, judybook.com, yahoo.com, or citysearch.com; but those seem to be included in the new Google+ Local business layout. Each of those other companies have grappled with review spam in their own way, but is seems like Google may not care any more...
Did you know that Google bought Zagat for $151M USD in September 2011?
I remember hearing the news about it while spending a day in NYC with my mother. I travel around the USA and Europe and I see many stores with the "Zagat Rated" logo in their window. As soon as I heard about the acquisition, I knew something would eventually be different.
That difference came about when Google+ Local was launched. From now on all Google reviews are formatted like the Zagat Rating reviews. It's not a scale of 0-5 stars any more, now it's 0-3 with an average 30-point Zagat scale.
It's important to be aware of how this new method of online reviews will affect your future business, so here are the basics.
All the old Google Reviews were converted to this new scale:
0 = Poor - Fair
1 = Good
2 = Very Good
3 = Excellent
Posting a new review now requires that everyone convert their normal Google account into a Google+ account. This is certainly one way for Google+ to gain new users.
Each review has the potential for up to 3 rating categories. The 3 categories change depending on the classification of the business. From my initial testing, I found that jewelry stores will now be rated on Quality, Appeal, and Service.
Within each category you will be rated 0 to 3. Naturally the consumer has a large box to write the review in too.
When the user submits the review it quickly posts to the Google+ Local page, but then the screen changes instantly and the user sees a green "Share" button. From the user's point of view this actually looks like a preview of your review. I expect that most people will click the green share button thinking that's how their review will get posted.
What's actually happening there is that the user just posted the review to their Google+ stream. In Facebook terms it's like posting to your timeline. This is good for your business because this will have an SEO effect in Google Search.
When the final review posts to your G+L page it shows the rating for all three categories as Quality 3/3, Appeal 3/3, and Service 3/3.
Overall, I like this new Google+ Local feature. I've examined how it works on the smartphones and on the computer. Whether people realize it or not, the Google+ membership will rise because of this single feature, and before anyone realizes it all those reviews posted to G+ Streams will find their way into search results.
You should make it a habit of casually asking your customers to write Google reviews for you.