In this edition of Throwback Thursday, I have to report some news which saddens me. It relates to how your business websites reviews appear; or rather; no longer appear in Google search results.
In October 2014, I wrote this Nugget explaining how to use Google My Business to find and reply to online reviews that are not part of the Google system. In other words, customer reviews that are not written on your Google+ Page, but rather sites like JewelerListings.com, or MerchantCircle.com, or CitySearch.com.
Using that previously explained method, you could simply log into your Google My Business account to track online reviews instead of having to manage multiple directory accounts to keep track of those reviews.
Sorry to say, Google has squashed this entire thing.
Google still shows reviews in the search results pages, but only the results that were collected directly through Google Reviews. All the other reviews are now hidden from the SERPs.
Here's a screen shot I dug up from a previous Nugget:
Here's what that same local listing looks like today:
As you can see, the "More reviews" section is gone.
According to reports, Google confirmed that they were removed to "present accurate and reliable information." In other words, they don't want to rely on the review vetting process that other companies use.
Every directory site has reviews, and many of those directories have poor business models, or worse, are spam. Google's automated system was finding all those poor quality review sites and including them in the Google SERP.
My opinion is that Google didn't want to spend any efforts to create a new filtering system to block spam directories, so they just turned it off completely.
You won't see the reviews listed in your Google My Business account any more either.
Other Affects Unknown
A while back, I was able to measure the positive affect that reviews had on SERP rankings. I found that reviews from local directory sites that used the Schema.org/Review rich snippets, specifically Yelp and Foursquare, seemed to help boost ranking for local businesses.
Now that Google hid the "More reviews" section I don't know if they've also withdrawn the positive ranking boost. This is very difficult to measure, but I will keep trying to find evidence of a change either way.
What Do You Do Now?
First of all, you need to keep an eye out for all the reviews you have around the internet. Claim your business listings and reply to all your reviews.
Second, from now on, you should only ask customers to write reviews for you on Google. Honestly, they will write the reviews wherever they want, but you should request that they use Google Reviews.