Over the past 6 weeks, we have seen a lot of local algorithm changes from Google. What I mean is that nearly every change they have been rolling out recently is geared towards making local search more relevant and much more social. It is obvious that Google is really grasping the idea that local social media presences can help bring the best search results back for Google users. Now that nearly everyone in the United States has the internet, and the number of smart phone users is drastically rising, social mentions, geolocation, and reviews matter more than ever.
In an article I wrote about improving your Google Places ranking (right after a few Google Places updates), I briefly mentioned the importance of user review websites such as Kudzu, Merchant Circle, Citysearch, and more. It seems as if those play a great role than I once though. This is mostly speculation, but it seems as if the review sites that are more accessible to all users, the more important the site reviews are to increasing your Google Places ranking.
If you make your way into a Google Places page for a local brand, check to see which outside reviews show up first. Write down the order. Then go look for another brand. What I have found is that if a brand has multiple outside reviews, and one of them is from Kudzu, then that Kudzu review is ranked in front of the other review sites as if it were more important. Since Google is very intentional, and you can see that Kudzu reviewed companies seem to be preferred, one can only guess that Kudzu is hitting all the right spots with Google right now.
Why Google Loves Kudzu
Nearly all of Google’s recent updates have to do with local search. As these local Google Places have been affected, I noticed that Kudzu was a preferred outside review listing to pull into the Google Places page, and that Kudzu reviews could increase a brand’s ranking on Places. Here are a few reasons why Google might like Kudzu more than the other review sites:
- It’s an established review site that nearly everyone knows. The model for the (directory) business is very sound and reflects Google’s best code of conduct laws that they have in place (It’s Panda friendly.)
- Users can login with a variety of accounts: Google, Yahoo, Windows Live, Hotmail, Facebook, and more. Because Kudzu makes their directory so easy to login into and actually be social, Google’s new social emphasis might be rewarding Kudzu for their openness to users.
- Each review is social. Not only can nearly anyone with any reputable account login and leave a review on a Kudzu page, but they can then share that review on Facebook and Twitter. Depending on your privacy settings, Google will most likely crawl that post as well, and attribute it to the brand almost instantaneously. Google wants people to share information about brands; good experiences and the bad ones too.
In no way is this information set in stone. However, it would seem as if Kudzu really is preferred by Google because of how easy it is to use for users, and how easy it is to share information by customers who leave reviews. Kudzu is ahead of the curve when compared to all of the other directory/review sites out there right now. Now, it’s never good to put all of your eggs in one basket since Google can change their mind about something any day, but it would appear that focusing more on making your Kudzu presence accessible to happy customers would be in your small business’s best interest right now.
If you were going to allocate any other review attention around the web, I would maintain your Google Places page and also keep your Yelp review page up to date as well. Apple’s iPhone 4s is making headlines with their new voice recognition product, Siri. Many experts are worried that Siri’s capabilities will hurt local SEO. This simply won’t happen. Siri is in beta, so it’s searching capabilities will only grow from here. As of now, it seems as if a lot of the search results for local listings on Siri are provided by Yelp. It might be a good idea to begin monitoring your Yelp page and occasionally drive loyal customers over there for a review. It also will typically rank a little higher organically as well because they opted out of being pulled into Google Pages. However, it is not to the point where you need to stay up all night worrying about it. Your first points of attack should be a well optimized website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel.