We know that customer reviews have a substantial impact on acquiring new customers for a variety of businesses- from hotels/resorts to restaurants to retailers and more. In fact, nearly 8 in 10 consumers reportedly read online reviews to determine whether a local business is good. Unfortunately, many businesses in the hotel and lodging industry seem to take a passive approach to gathering customer reviews as part of their digital marketing strategy. However, recent changes to the Google search results landscape could force local resorts to take a significantly more active role in requesting customer feedback.
Google Carousel: Putting the Emphasis on Local Businesses
Back in 2013 Google released an update to the way it displayed search results for local business listings. Before the update, most local business listings were presented below the paid search results and in a vertical column (similar to how most listings are displayed).
But today, Google now displays local search results (for certain industries) in a horizontal row, above the paid listings. This new format is referred to as the Google Carousel because, similar to a spinning carousel, searchers can now scroll through the local listings.
Interestingly, a 2013 study conducted by DMW revealed a positive correlation between the quality of user-reviews for a hotel and the hotel’s ranking in the Google Carousel (in other words, the better a hotel’s reviews, the higher its ranking in the Google Carousel search results).
But there’s something else even more noteworthy.
I recently performed a desktop search for “hotels in Boston MA.” Check out the screenshot below and see if you can spot this incredible feature in the Google Carousel results:
Do you see the little “Hotel class, User rating” box in the upper right-hand corner of the Carousel area?
That search filter, when clicked, allows searchers to narrow down their search for hotels based on the star-ratings of the hotel.
And where do you think those star-ratings come from? That’s right- from ratings on the hotels’ Google+Local page.
In essence, if a hotel has a low star-rating on their Google+ Local listing, consumers can quickly and easily eliminate these hotels from their consideration set the moment they filter the Carousel results by 3.0 stars and up, for example.
Talk about an incentive for amplifying your Google+ Local review strategy!
What About Local Search Results on Mobile Devices?
I can already hear people saying, “But Jeremy, the carousel won’t necessarily show up when I search on my smartphone!”
And to that I would respond, “You’re right! But your star-ratings can still show up next to your local listing.”
Check out the screenshot below, which is taken from a search on my smartphone:
As you can see in the screenshot above, star-ratings are still visible in the mobile search results for local businesses.
What This Means for Hotels, Resorts and Local Businesses
For many local businesses trying to get found for regional search phrases and topics (for example, “hotels near lake george, ny”), having a strong set of user-reviews on your Google+ Local page could be the difference between getting more clicks and getting filtered out by potential guests.
While trust for online reviews has been tested in light of the news on paid reviewers and credibility of Yelp! reviews, the benefit of Google+ Local is that reviewers must have a Google account. Yes, there is still the possibility of users posting fake reviews, but the lack of anonymity makes that possibility less likely.
If your business needs help developing a customer review plan into your overall digital marketing strategy, contact our team today to schedule a digital marketing assessment.