As I’m sure everyone saw, there was an amusing/shocking story in the NY Times over the weekend showing how one merchant, DecorMyEyes, gamed Google rankings by abusing its customers. Google was shamed and embarrassed by the episode and so changed its algorithm to prevent this sort of thing from happening again:
We were horrified to read about Ms. Rodriguez’s dreadful experience. Even though our initial analysis pointed to this being an edge case and not a widespread problem in our search results, we immediately convened a team that looked carefully at the issue. That team developed an initial algorithmic solution, implemented it, and the solution is already live. I am here to tell you that being bad is, and hopefully will always be, bad for business in Google’s search results.
It’s reasonable to assume now that reviews are factoring more directly into ranking — although Google won’t confirm this. Reviews have been very important in the past for multiple reasons and the potentially increased use of them by Google as a ranking signal makes them all the more important now.
Things for SMB channels and aggregators to consider:
- Reputation management/monitoring tools become even more essential in helping navigate the space: Vendasta, Marchex, Yellowbot and so on.
- Cultivating positive reviews and rewarding customers becomes the subject of “best practices” material that needs to be conveyed to SMBs by and through their trusted partners
- Review fraud will no doubt rise as more people try to ensure that positive reviews show up for themselves or clients
There’s considerably more to say about this but I just wanted to get some quick thoughts out. Online reviews are a permanent and increasingly important part of the local online landscape and all merchants need to know how to get them ethically and do CRM in a way that minimizes negative reviews.