Its been interesting watching the increasing encroachment of the Zagat recommendation framework into the mainstream Google results over the last couple of months. During the last 12 months, Google’s local framework – which lets be honest was never particularly great to start with – has undergone a significant overhaul and has now been incorporated into Google’s ever increasing social landscape framework under the guise of Google+ Local.
As a concept, I think this is a great idea – but Google of all people should know that its one thing working in principle – but those principles often go out the window when cold hard money gets involved. Lets be brutally honest – thats what us SEO’s have been doing for years – and one of the biggest reasons Google feels the need to change its algorithm 400 odd times a year.
Over the last month or so I have started to see the Google+ Local reviews start to be integrated into the mainstream serps, not as part of any rich snippet, or review extension but via the Google+ Local reviews – which are pulled through on many brand and local-intent searches. On brand searches often these are positioned within the local result to the right – on generic searches via the Google Local results packs. As we know from previous studies with regards to review extentions and rich snippets, these star ratings systems can have a significant impact particularly where they occupy prominent real estate – and have been made slightly larger – and bolder than normal….. – as we see below.
Again – in principle – this is a great idea – but lets put this in context. What is to stop me from building up an army of Google+ social media profiles – and leaving some wonderful reviews across a number of my/my clients local listings. At the moment there doesnt appear to be a significant threshold required in order to trigger these results as we can see below
Explore those results in particular the final result with the 4.2 star rating yet further and we can see potential evidence of this already at play. 2 reviews seem perfectly OK at first glance – however the other three would appear to be particularly suspect particularly if one chose (as I did) to further review their profiles with the following results
- The only activity for any of them was review based – surprising that
- All followed at least one celebrity (Jamie Oliver, David Beckham)
- The Imperial War Museam was a particular favourite amongst the suspect profiles
- Gender association wasn’t particularly good – Rizwan – female
This is not a dig at the organisation above but it does highlight what is very likely to become a significant problem in the not too distant future. When one considers the fact Google have enough problems dealing with their link issues – throwing a high admin feature such as this into the mix certainly wont help them – particularly as scale picks up which one would suggest it will do in the not too distant future.
Now lets take that analogy a step further. If we know it works positively, whats to stop me doing it the other way round???? Now theres a whole new can of worms for you to think about……