If you didn’t freak out when you logged into Google and found that your Google Places page had been transformed overnight into a Google Local page, then your business probably doesn’t hinge on being found locally. For those of us who run a business based both locally and online, our hearts shot through the roofs of our homes. We all know that garbage hits the fan when Google makes huge changes like this, and I figured I would be waking up to no exception.
You can imagine my relief when I looked at our newly created page and found that all of our reviews were still intact. I was even more relieved to find that my Google account still had control of the page, and that Google hadn’t opened it up for first-come, first-serve takings again. But in classic Google style, they made plenty of changes that really don’t look so hot at first glance.
Google Local Changes
Along with the Google Local changes came about a difference in the way usernames appear in a customer review. Previously, customers would use a name they used in their Google account or Gmail (since this was automatically imported upon login) to post their reviews under. Now, Google just puts “A Google User” and a blank avatar if the reviewer is not on Google Plus. That’s right. Even if they have a Google account, it won’t import their details.
So do you know what that looks like to me? It looks like anyone with an account could go in and post under that name and there’s never a good way of knowing which one of your customers posted it. Granted, if they have a Google Plus profile, it’s easy to see, but many people don’t, which poses a problem if you’re trying to figure out which customer is which when they’re giving you a review.
But now, users actually have to join Google Plus to rate the business. That’s right. It’s like forcing someone to join Facebook in order to “Like” the page. Google really is a wannabe after all.
Ratings Changes to Google Local
Google Places used to just give you the option of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 star ratings, and that was it. But Google implemented a 3-choice, 30-point scoring system where three aspects of a business are rated. Each score earns that business 10 points. Thus, 10 would be poor, 20 would be mediocre and 30 would be excellent. Those scores are averaged out, just like the previous star ratings, to determine a business’s overall quality. Users also have the option of a zero-based score, meaning service was really awful.
Those three aspects represent different types of service: Quality, Appeal and Service. People give each aspect a 0, 1, 2, or 3 out of 3 rating. Those all combine to give the business an average score.
This, in my mind, will only confuse users more, especially those who don’t know much about Google Plus. But who knows – maybe next month Google will change its mind and make another huge change, so you don’t have to get too worked up over it.