Of Stars and Local Search

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.


2 Responses to “Of Stars and Local Search”

  1. earlpearl Says:

    While your post above references another failure of another effort to address local, the simple fact is that the search engines have direct significant impact on local businesses. The comments about volume of reviews and stars, and your reference to another recent article about reviews points to evidence that visitors are on the web, identifying businesses off the web and making buying decisions on that visibility and information.

    Enclosed is an excerpt from an seo forum with comments on the impact of google maps showing for organic search for local businesses…..

    “Google’s “Local Business Results” have seriously hurt my business. In the past, the most I had to worry about was having 2-3 sponsored listings appear above my site. ….
    But once Google implemented the local business results, local business plummeted. Now I’ve got to deal with two sponsored results, and three local competitors …. with their phone numbers visible. My site is listed on the map and additional results if you click on “more results” (which no one will), but I’m towards the bottom of the list…….”

    The implication to me was that this business had obtained high, even #1 rankings for organic searches for its products/services within its community (the reference to 2-3 sponsored ads(PPC))

    Subsequent to the G Maps One box being inserted into organic searches, the business in question has now lost more valuable SE real estate on the first page to the top 3 businesses identified in Maps and has subsequently lost business.

    The commentator above also referenced they had a level of response with their own efforts at PPC.

    But the reference from the florist and this commentator suggest that high rankings, high visibility within search engines, consumer response through ratings all has an impact on their volume of business.

    Years ago most cities had multiple newspapers. Over many decades most cities lost those multiple editions. I assume one source dominated ad revenues with both display and classified and the losers of revenues ultimately folded.

    Different radio stations survive in that their formats can appeal to very diverse markets and consequently drive advertising dollars towards those segments. That market is clearly under attack via sattellite advertising.

    At this point it appears the dominant on the web form of marketing is high visibility in search engines for local queries, via organic rankings, ppc, high visibility in G maps and/or Y local. The comments about reviews/numbers of stars adds an additional twist to those efforts but it still focuses on high visibility in the search engines and especially Google.

    One set of additional comments from aggressive web marketers and from my own efforts are the effectiveness of Craigs List to attract traffic. That huge source of traffic is a real dilemma for any effort to monetize a marketing alternative if only because it is soooo low cost and sooooo traffic heavy.

    The importance of the internet to local business will only grow and the efforts to address that will continue. For the time being and into the near future my bets and bucks are on the search engines.

  2. LocalInternetMarketing Says:

    Very Interesting! I didn’t realize that reviews were taking into consideration when ranking local results. Great Information!

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