What’s Google’s Plan for the Future of Online Reviews?

Google is, inarguably, the most powerful influencer in the tech world, being the sole provider of more than 3.5 billion searches per day and offering dozens of products that align themselves with various digital needs of users everywhere. With all this power, Google is attempting to shape digital user experiences that give us the greatest satisfaction, and connect us in simpler ways to the information and services we need.

One of the most powerful forces in the online world, at least when it comes to purchasing decisions, has to be online reviews.

(Image Source: Moz)

(Image Source: SearchEngineLand)

Over two-thirds of consumers are influenced by online reviews when making a purchasing decision. Even more impressive, 88 percent of consumers take online reviews as seriously as they would a personal recommendation.

As you can see, how reviews are handled and displayed could have a massive effect on businesses everywhere. A blip in review displays could skew reviews negatively and cripple your marketing campaign, or skew them positively and give you an influx of new buyers.

Google holds much power over this process, and it may have big things in store for how it’s handled in the future.

Types of Online Reviews

The term “online review” in itself is vague, as there are many types of reviews that could be written. For starters, reviews can be for a product, for a service, or for a company overall. They could also be hosted on branded sites, or on external sources.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of online reviews, and how Google currently takes them into consideration.

These reviews are especially important because they could easily form a user’s first impression; they’re usually the first line of reviews a user will get to see. However, Google reviews don’t currently boast the same popularity as platforms like Yelp, which is frustrating the process.

Recent Changes

Over the course of the past few years, Google has implemented some massive changes in how it views, weighs, and considers these different types of reviews for business.

The biggest change came back in 2014 with the so-called Pigeon update, which changed how Google’s local search algorithm functioned. After the search update, features and entries in third-party directories began to factor in more heavily to Google’s evaluative process; now, third-party reviews are extremely important in calculating a business’s local rank, and directory pages (such as a business’s Yelp page) are more likely to show up in search results as standalone entries.

More recently, Google announced that Google reviews can now be left without being signed into a Google+ account. Reviews can’t be left anonymously, which addresses a major concern for review abusers, but this is a move to make it easier for users to leave reviews. A higher quantity of reviews is beneficial for brands, consumers, and Google itself—it means you’ll get a wider diversity, a “truer” picture of the companies and products in question, and hopefully better differentiation in search results.

Goals for the Future

Based on what we currently know about the online review world and some of the recent moves Google has made, it’s reasonable to predict a handful of ways Google may hope to change the interplay of online reviews in the future:

With these future developments in mind, it becomes obvious that online reviews are about to get even more important. Optimize your strategy now to attract the best possible reviews for your business and products, and stay one step ahead of the competition.

What can we help you with?