As business people we all know about medium to long term planning. And to enable us to do that we need a combination of hard research and common sense. Such is this prediction.
That Google will replace the current (almost random, SEO driven) seven local businesses in organic search with the 'top' seven in each area.
To establish how Google will choose the top seven (and to make sure you're right there), let's first look at how they are currently selected. It's mainly geographic: post code and any address details from Google Maps and G+. Key words in the business's G+ page also help.
And this is where Google is looking for reviews. It's one thing to return a plumber in your area, it's quite another to return the best plumbers - and the only way Google can do that is with reviews.
But they can (and will) get them, every day tens of thousands of new Google reviews are written, and businesses are struggling to understand how to manage them.
The issue at hand
Businesses should be engaging proactively with Google reviews, so why don't they? Why do most Google searches look like this:
These seven businesses are not averaging just one Google review each because they don't think great Google reviews (and the great score that goes with them) won't drive business - on the contrary, they know they will. But they just haven't found a mechanism which will enable them to confidently invite reviews without running the risk that an unhappy customer will use that opportunity to vent and do them harm.
And what will search results like this look like soon?
In this example - a snapshot of the future - Google have ranked the businesses according to their scores (note the numbers in the stars). The top four businesses have engaged: they have a significant number of reviews, most of them great, and have good scores whereas the bottom three have not (we call it Google denial - there's a specific article about that here) and as a result they don't look great at all.
Also, bear in mind that there are many more estate agents in Southampton who do not even feature in the top seven.
Play by Google's rules
- Get reviews
- Get reviews with Dialogue*
*This is important: a big part of Dialogue is Resolution™, the function whereby negative reviews are first channeled to the business for response. At first clients may be tempted to bypass this and invite reviews direct to Google, but they soon understand why Resolution is essential when they are criticised (in private) by that client they were 100% sure was 100% happy!