Breaking: Changes to Google Review Snippets and Why it Matters

By now, you're probably getting tired of my constant badgering about the importance of third party reviews, and particularly those on Google+. But, over the last couple weeks, along comes another sudden change by Mother G that once again ratchets up how critical it is that you have a solid Google review strategy. 

As a brief reminder, Google+ reviews are the most important ones of all for your home performance business because:

  • they are increasingly visible as Google uses the data from your G+ page throughout its search footprint;
  • they are known ranking factors for service area businesses; and
  • consumers are increasingly dependent on independent reviews within the contractor sector, sometimes reading what others have to say about you before even visiting your website. 

Over the last couple weeks, Google has been tweaking the way they display review snippets--essentially pieces of content from within your reviews that they display prominently. The key change is that the snippets of old were small, often one or two words. Now they are much larger, longer (as in full sentences sometimes) and substantially more prominent. 

Of course, when you're reviews are good, this change is awesome. But if you're reviews are bad, the way Google elevates their exposure is, as the children's book goes, very, very bad. 

We're talking about the Knowledge Panel that appears to the right of search results when conducting a branded search for a company name. 

At the bottom of the panel, you can see three snippets extracted from Evergreen Home Performance's 17 Five Star reviews (well done team!) These, obviously, are all very positive. 

But what does it look like when your reviews aren't all like Evergreen's? Local search guru Mike Blumenthal has been collecting a Review Snippet Hall of Shame, and here are a couple frightening examples:

I know what you are thinking but we haven't figured it out yet. No one knows how Google selects the specific snippets to display, or the words/phrases to put in bold. But suffice it to say that if you are a hotel the phrases "pubic hair" and "bed bugs" are not positive. What is very clear is that you have ZERO control over what Google chooses to show. There is no appeal process. This is not a democracy. 

You need to accept the fact that you will eventually get a bad review. People can be cranky at times, and even the very best companies with the very best quality systems will mess up at some point. No one knows this for certain, but I'm confident that Google's algorithm looks for both sides. So even if, like Evergreen, you rack up 17 perfect reviews, chances are Google's going to show that one that isn't perfect. 

To repeat what we've counseled before:

  1. Have a process for asking all your customers for feedback--single out your happiest ones and ask them to write online reviews;
  2. Slow and steady wins the race--be mindful of an unnatural burst or your reviews will get filtered;
  3. Don't assume you have much control--a good review strategy produces lots of them over time, and the natural things your customers say will make for good snippets
  4. Don't panic about a bad review--people are increasingly skeptical of perfection, so a little bit of off color may actually give you more cred. Respond to reviews and engage. Not just bad ones. All of them. 

It's a brave new world, for sure. But smart home performance businesses that understand it, respond, and lead will come out on top. 

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