Matt McGee writes about the local panel at the recent SMX conference. Google wasn’t on the panel but Yahoo! and Microsoft were. Both seemed to say that ratings/reviews didn’t impact ratings on the main search results page (e.g., Shortcut) but did impact rankings on Yahoo! Local:
Brian Gill was talking about the Yahoo “Local Shortcut” — when they show three local business listings in the regular Yahoo SERPs. Here’s what he said:
Reviews and ratings have no impact on reaching those top three spots in the regular SERPs.
He said they do play a role in the Yahoo Local rankings, but not on the main Yahoo SERPs. So, when you do a search for something like [italian restaurants seattle] on Yahoo, user reviews don’t factor into the three results you see…
I would imagine this is also the case for Google as well:
In local searches a consumer may be looking for some specialized piece of information or a specific type of service. But typically the search is concerned with finding a specific business (already known), the highest rated business in a category or the nearest business in a category. (Closest business is typically not meaningful given the “centroid” orientation of most local search results.)
Ratings and reviews should be factored into the ranking of results, in my opinion, featured in the Shortcut or OneBox/Universal Search result. For its part, Google is showing 10 links to signal users that there’s more content on Google Maps. And there you can now sort by rating.
However, the main search engines, as opposed to their local properties, is where the overwhelming number of local searches are taking place. So the results there should be as meaningful as possible rather than simply acting as an indicator of better results elsewhere.
Update: There’s apparently a clarification that Yahoo! wants to make. Will provide an update as soon as I hear.