Google Places Business Reviews

Google continues to expand and improve its Place Pages product with its most recent update adding third party reviews.  You can now see what people are saying about that particular resturant or business and simple colour coded rank bars. They have also added a new icon to clearly show if the location has been verified by the owner. The interesting test showed that even in large locations like NYC many chain restaurants such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Burger King… have not taken the steps to verify their locations.  Another failure for large business to take full advantage of services like Google Place Pages.
This central location of business data has the potential to change how people interact and search for business information, but it also adds another layer of complexitiy for reputation management.  It is easier for competitiors to pay people to write bad reviews across multiple websites and it can direct affect your ratings.  The issue with Google displaying averaged ratings is that it doesn’t offer transperancy on why the low rating was given.

Google is also showing an early preference for Citysearch.com data feeds, which maybe more valid but does demonstrate early favourtism of supplier.  It is possible that Place Pages may follow the same issues en counted by Google News as they are just skimming the best parts of these review websites while reducing the traffic of these review websites and their ad revenues.
Adsense?
The other problem is that the presence of Google Adsense on the page while funding the service can detract from your service offering by the offer of cheaper or better quality food.  The business has now have to compete with sometimes irrelevant and competitors ads shown on their Places page.
This particular business is an upmarket dining location, its guests don’t expect to see ads for discount food coupons and local buffets.

The potential expansion of the Adsense to include banner/image ads will likely detract from the benefit and effectiveness of this business service. But this will also allow smarter business to leverage off high traffic and well known brands and competitors.  A view of a BurgerKing listing shows ads for PapaJohns so lets begin the mud slinging between the marketing departments and find out who has the deepest pockets to steal away traffic.
Location Reviews?
One important question that needs to be asked is how often are these ranking/review points updated as a new owner/chef may change the whole aspect of quality/service but older outdated and negative reviews will continue to show.  The Place Pages also does it also open its self up for spam/paid reviewers to write great things about the location as it strips out much of the transparency such as who reviewed it, number of reviews that many of these sites such as Yelp offer about public reviews.
It will be interesting to see how their “Freshness” algorithms weed this review issue out and how its preference for CitySearch.com continues as more listing services either block Google or adjust their feeds to better suit Google Place Pages.
No Social Media…
An interesting point is that unlike many of the other services there is no social media products or sharing features enabled.  So if you find the perfect restaurant you can’t quickly tweet or post it to Facebook, which is a shame considering how important social media is to local business promotion.