Mike Blumenthal has a very interesting post (from last week, which I missed but was alerted today by MediaPost) on reviews, Google local results and click-throughs. He cites/quotes a local florist who comments on changes observed in Google Local/Universal Search results:
The threshold to have review stars displayed in the One Box and Google Local summaries appears to have increase [sic] from 3 to at least 5 reviews. Up until last week, it only took 3 reviews to get the stars to show. Most of the One Boxes for major city queries used to displayed stars and now very few do.
The review stars and ratings had a HUGE positive impact on click-throughs and purchases. ….Traffic from the OneBox is down since the change.
You can’t really understand this unless you read his whole post. But basically what is being said here is:
- Google has made a change that discounts or eliminates some reviews (specifically from Citysearch)
- The number of reviews required to make stars appear on the top local results has increased
- Click-through rates on sites with associated star ratings are meaningful
- There’s a material impact in the real world flowing from these changes
See the shot below showing local results with and without stars, for the query “Sushi, San Francisco” (click to enlarge):
Positive user reviews are becoming more critical, and even more important in many respects than advertising. See my related post, “More Evidence of Reviews’ Importance.”
Shrewd small businesses could arguably focus all their time and energy on “online reputation management” and avoid paid advertising completely. Online video might be the exception because it has the (almost unique) capacity to “compensate” for mediocre or negative reviews or to reinforce positive ones.