I really hate that you use reviews as a signal for ranking websites and Google Places pages. I just got another email from a vendor who was trying to sell me review postings for $3 per review. Don’t get me wrong Google, I REALLY do like reviews but the more they hold weight in search engine placement, the more companies will game the system and the entire review system will be worthless to the end user.
I really like reviews. In fact I almost always look for reviews and ratings when deciding to make a new purchase with a company. I go to Google and type “company name reviews” and read what others have written about a company. I read these reviews on multiple websites so I can get an overall picture. But what happens to the quality of the review data when it becomes known that review data plays a role in getting your Google Places page, and even your website, pushed to the top? Businesses and SEOs will game the system and you will quickly start seeing an increase in fake reviews being spread all over the web. Sure, this has always been a problem with reviews, and I know you can’t completely get away from it. But it will only get worse very quickly now that Google is using reviews as a signal to rank their Places pages and local websites. Do a local business search and look at the websites positioned at the top in the Places pages section. Do you notice they all have reviews and a Places page? Look at the screen shot below as an example. I removed the top paid ads section to save space but you will see the first 7 slots consist of businesses that have a Google Places page and reviews.
Businesses will quickly realize they need reviews and a Places page in order to compete. Some will get reviews honestly but many will get them dishonestly because they will need to in order to compete.
It has also recently been announced that both Google and Bing are now using social network links as a factor. For example re-tweets, likes, mentions, etc. about your brand and to your pages will play a role in your quality score. This I don’t mind as long as Google and Bing can determine that these likes and re-tweets are valid and not just a bunch of spam accounts that have been setup for this purpose. It is the reviews playing a role that I have an issue with.
Remember when Forums were the rage? I personally think one of the main things that ruined forums was that they became overthrown with spam because it became common knowledge that links in forums hold weight. While those types of links don’t hold as much weight anymore, forums are still flooded with spam and are not used or trusted like they once were. So did Google ruin forums? I fear the same thing will happen with reviews.
I understand that Google and other search engines need to look at different factors to determine a website’s value and popularity. I guess I would like to see content place the largest role but I also understand that when you have thousands of sites competing for that same content, other things need to come into play. I personally think quality, relevant, in-content links from other trusted sites are a better signal than reviews. I know, I know, those are easy to game too, but at least gamed links are not going to ruin reviews that users have become reliant on to help determine a company’s value.
Please Google don’t ruin reviews!!!