Sunday 28 August 2016

Google introduce 'Top rated' - one of the most important changes in search for years

As regular readers will know - we have a long-standing habit of making predictions about where Google will go next.  They are based on logic (and lots of research - reading Google blog posts and other sources). Now, at long-last, as we say in the headline, Google have fulfilled our most ambitious predictions. How?

The two types of filter - desktop (l) and mobile (r) have exactly the same effect - they filter businesses out of search that score less than the user-chosen criteria

Last week they expanded their Filter beyond hospitality for the first time - allowing users to choose a minimum rating...

   The two agents that do not have a Google score - are stripped out of search by the filter, set at four stars (who would choose to set it lower?). If there were any businesses that scored less than 4.0 they would not appear either (see the results below).

Now they have introduced 'Top Rated':

  None of the restaurants that feature in this unfiltered local search (on the left) show in the filtered search on the right. The user did not have to select any specific filter, they just needed to tap 'Top rated'

Why is this such big news?

Because businesses that have happily appeared in search without any reviews - or with less than five - or with poor review scores (less than 4.0) - will now be subject to the filter and the best businesses - in the opinion of their customers -  will, for the first time, be shown above those with no reviews or low (less than 4.0) Google scores.

Our predictions (again!):
  • that Google will begin to show businesses in order of their Google score - the business that scores 4.9 above the business that scores 4.6 and that business above the one that scores 4.
  • that Google will then delete the option to select reviews by star rating, leaving Top Rated as the default filter
Implications for businesses:

This is a fundamental shift for Google - away from purely location-based search towards what their users have always wanted: the best hotel, the best plumber, the best accountant - the best business for any given search.

And it has massive implications for businesses that have yet to engage in proactive review management:
  • No reviews? Your business will be filtered for the overwhelming majority of searches. 
  • Score less than 4.0? The same
  • Score between 4.0 and 4.3? Your business is on the edge of the filter
  • Score less than your competitors? You are likely to rank below them in the very near future
  • Score less than 4 of your competitors in mobile search?: you will be relying on your potential customers to scroll down to see you

Don't panic!

Don't immediately embark on a campaign to get Google reviews. This will almost certainly backfire in ways that you will currently be unable to imagine, and harm done now has the potential to haunt your business for years to come.

With our help you can look like this: safely and professionally - on your own website and on Google

We strongly suggest you speak to us: our initial advice is free and we have seen all the mistakes before.

And one final note:

We occasionally meet potential clients who feel that they don't need to look great in Google search - only occasionally, but we do. Our message to those who do not rely on the web or their website to generate business is:
  • No matter how insignificant the amount of your business directly generated by search or visits to your website your potential clients are influenced by how your business looks there, even if they have only visited to check your telephone number or email address. A business that takes the trouble to invite and display verified reviews will, all other factors being equal, impress.

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