Our clients who use Dentist Finder to send out patient review requests may have noticed an update to their Google Places listing last week….Google is now not displaying any 3rd party reviews or citations, only direct reviews through Google itself. This change is most probably down to the recent criticism Google has been receiving from prominent review companies such as Yelp and Citysearch – who are complaining that Google was building a competing review platform on the backs of their businesses.
But don’t let that convince you that local SEO is dead or that online reviews from 3rd party sites such as Dentist Finder aren’t important! Have a look at the following article to see why:
Why Local SEO Doesn’t Change
1.) Citations may not be visible, but they surely still matter.
Don’t (ever!) forget the three pieces of the Google local rankings algorithm: location, relevance, and prominence. Those are straight from Google, not something us consultants have made up.
Citations are still a primary way Google learns about a local business’ location. Citations also impact prominence: the more citations, the more prominent the business (in a very simplified way of looking at things).
2.) It’s like what Google has already done with links.
If we all agree that citations are the local version of links, and we do all agree on that, then think back a few years for some precedence: Google killed the LINK: search command so that people couldn’t see a page’s inbound links. But that didn’t mean that links were less important to ranking. Many would argue that links are more important to rankings today than ever. (In fact, there’s an excellent discussion on Sphinn about that exact topic this week.)
Likewise, I couldn’t imagine that citations/references are suddenly meaningless in the local algorithm. If they’re less important today — and that’s a debate we should have sometime — don’t blame the fact that they don’t appear on Place Pages now. Blame the introduction of “blended” local results that Google launched last October. Regular, on-page SEO became much more important with that change, quite possibly slightly minimizing the impact of citations at the same time.
3.) Local SEO is about more than citations.
No matter how important citations are, there’s a lot more involved in Google maps optimization and local SEO, in general. Consistent NAP data (name, address, phone), correct categorization in local business listings, solid on-page SEO — these are all extremely important today, and will be tomorrow, too.
Local SEO: Actually a Bit Harder Now
With citations now gone from Place Pages, it’ll be a bit harder to reverse engineer a competitor’s citations and web references. Now, you pretty much have to rely on tools to do this for you. I’d still recommend Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder — see my write-up of it from last summer for more details about how it works. I checked with Darren Shaw today and he says that Google’s Place Page changes have no impact on the tool’s ability to identify local citations.
Google’s decision to minimize third-party reviews also makes it a little harder to find all the sites where competitors might be getting exposure, but as with citations, this doesn’t mean reviews are any less important. It’s still smart to encourage your customers to say good things about you on whatever site they like to us — Twitter, Facebook, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, Avvo … wherever!
Here are some other articles you should read regarding Google’s Place Page changes:
- Mike Blumenthal: Changes in Google Places and Reviews – What Does it Mean for the SMB?
- Linda Buquet: MAJOR Google Places Update – 3rd Party Reviews and Citations Removed or De-Emphasized
- David Mihm: Quick Thoughts on the Cataclysmic Place Page Shift (“cataclysmic” seems a bit OTT to me, but it’s a great headline!)
- Nyagoslav/Optilocal: Google Places Interface and Reviews Changes
I don’t think you’ll find anything about “Local SEO is dead” in those articles. If you find anyone else saying that somewhere else, ignore them. Or give them the link to this article.