Google has recently modified its “Local Pack”. The search engine juggernaut now only displays three search results in the “Local Pack”, instead of the previous seven. In addition, users do not longer see all information about the business or branch. What implications does this have for the online findability of stationary retailers and service providers?
At the beginning of this year, Google was still displaying seven local results (“7-pack”) for local searches, depending on location and search term. Following the update released in July, however, the list of local results has been reduced to three (“3-pack” or “Snack Pack"). Since then, users of the search engine have only been able to learn the street, telephone number, and opening hours of a business from the results.
So far, so good. But what other information does Google display to its users when they click one of the “Snack Pack” results? The first item attracting the viewer’s attention: customer ratings. Google is presenting the star rating and number of ratings given at the time in a conspicuous centred location. When the user scrolls down, the latest customer feedback is displayed automatically. The results still include a Google Maps snippet with the location of the requested business, but again, the star rating is shown right underneath the Google pin.
Google has been motivating its users for some time to share and rate their experiences. This year, the technology corporation has enabled users of Google Maps to rate the target location directly through the app. Frequently, it even requests customer feedback proactively by asking specific questions: is this location too loud? Did you have to queue for long time?
The question is: why is Google increasingly focusing on customer feedback in its search results? Google has recognised that the majority of consumers find it increasingly important to access the experiences of other users with services or products through rating portals or social-media platforms. Why else would Google consider large amounts of predominantly positive feedback an important ranking factor?
This is why the “Snack Pack” is a wake-up call especially for those who have not yet grasped the connection between customer ratings and purchase decisions, on one hand, and customer feedback and Google rankings, on the other hand.
Engaging with local reputation management is becoming increasingly important for stationary retailers and service providers. There is no way around it: products and services will be rated in any case, and not only through Google Maps. Sharing experiences with a service or a product over Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, or similar websites has become standard practice for consumers. This makes it worthwhile to monitor, identify, and analyse opinions about your products, services, or branches on a continuous basis. It is the only way of influencing your brand reputation in a targeted manner and preventing it from deteriorating.
The constructive use of customer ratings published online further requires a sustained understanding of negative feedback. Critical comments about the quality of your products, the extent of services offered, or the company culture should be an incentive to question and optimise existing processes. It is also important to understand that negative ratings are not always bad for your business. On the contrary, they lend credibility to the overall result derived from large numbers of ratings on different online platforms – more effectively than any promotional slogan.