Recent Updates To Google+ Affects The Review Process
Google has changed everything, yet again. It’s like that old saying The only thing constant is change. That seems to be their motto, since they just made a major update a few months ago to their search engine results, and now they’ve rolled out another update, without any warning. That first update dealt with removing all aspects of Google+ from the search results page. Users could no longer find links to Google+ business pages or posts; they had to search directly within the Google+ social network to find this information. In the most recent update, Google has decided to remove reviews from Google+ altogether. Again, without any fair warning.
How Does This Change Impact Your Firm?
There are two distinct reasons for wanting someone to come across your Google+ business page: to educate potential clients, and to keep previous clients engaged. The page would allow potential clients to learn about the history of your firm, your practice areas, and the areas you service — all written in a tone that you wanted portrayed. Most importantly, they’d be able to read reviews of your business written by real people. Before even making contact with you, they had a pretty good idea about your reputation and what cases your firm handles.
The pages also allowed firms to keep previous clients engaged. Attorneys encouraged clients to leave reviews if they were satisfied, and to “follow” the business for important information. By following the business on Google+, they could keep up to date with firm news and recent blog posts while also being just a click away from contact details. Leaving a review showed that they were satisfied with your service, and they usually went into great detail—a very helpful feature for potential clients who are interested in your services.
In the past, getting a client to leave you a review on Google was simple: all they needed was a Google account and a link to your Google+ page.
How Have Google Reviews Changed?
Everything about reviews is different now. The link that you used to send to clients is now obsolete, because Google+ doesn’t contain reviews anymore. If you send someone that link, they can’t even find out things like your hours of operation, practice areas, or read about your business, let alone leave you a review. In their latest update, Google has essentially removed most of the original functionality from Google+, as they appear to be sunsetting the defunct social network.
How Do I Get Google Reviews?
Don’t panic: reviews are not gone; they have just moved. Google is making a drastic push for Maps and “smart” search results. All of your business information, including reviews, will now be shown in those two places. First, let’s take a look at search results. If you do a branded search (firm name + city) for your business, you’ll see that on the right-hand side, there is a “knowledge panel.” Inside of this knowledge panel, users will be able to find most of your business information, along with your reviews. What’s missing? Your business description, recent posts, and communities, as seen before on Google+. However, potential clients will be able to see your business in a snapshot and read through your reviews. Past clients have the ability to leave your law firm a review right from this panel, by clicking on the “Write a review” button.
As mentioned before, your business information and reviews are also being pushed out to Google Maps, which is where Google wants you to direct clients. From the Maps listing, users will be able to see:
- -your address
- -phone number
- -hours of operation
- -business photos
Clients can also leave you a review from the Google Maps listing too. But again, it’s a little challenging getting someone here because of all the extra steps involved: directing them to Google Maps, having them perform a search, scrolling down to the bottom of your listing, and then clicking “Write A Review”. Because it is now harder for clients to find your listing and leave reviews, they may be less likely to do so.
On mobile devices, there are even more steps involved, whether or not someone is using the Google Maps app or a browser. First off, the vast majority of people who own a smartphone have an iPhone. Why is that a problem? Because the default maps application on an iPhone is Apple Maps, not Google Maps. So for this to even work, a user would have to download the correct application, Google Maps. Then they would have to perform all those steps from above to leave you a review.
With so many other things happening before you even get to the “rate and review” section of Maps, like Google wanting you to “make edits” and “add photos,” you are sure to lose people in the process. In theory, those other sections are helpful, but are placed in the wrong spots, which is distracting.
Can’t I Just Send Someone a Direct Link to My Google Maps Listing to Solicit A Review?
Sure you could, but the link is rather lengthy and has a good chance of being copied or entered incorrectly. You need to remember that not all your clients are computer whizzes, and most of them will actually struggle with this. For example, the Maps link you will need to send them will be similar to this string of 155 characters:
https://www.google.com/ maps/place/ Bryan+L+Salamone+ %26+Associates+PC/ @40.791592,-73.419076,17z/ data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1! 1s0x89e82bd55f4e6a 53:0x64e06af1058f82b
Before the change, you could simply just send this Google+ link: google.com/+DivorceLawyerLongIsland. This link is even easy enough to tell someone over the phone! But the maps link? No chance. What you’re going to need to do is shorten the Maps link for them. Here’s how:
- 1. Go to https://goo.gl/
- 2. Enter your Google Maps URL
- 3. Click “I’m not a robot”
- 4. Click “Shorten URL”
- 5. This is now your new (short) URL that you should be sharing with your clients
There has to be an easier way
Of course there is, but it’s probably only temporary. Most of the time when Google rolls out a major update to one of their products, there are ways to revert back to the original product while they are working in beta. With that said, you can still send someone your Google+ link. The user will then be prompted to “Meet the new Google+.” If they select “No Thanks,” everything stays the same. They can leave you a review right away, read your posts, browse through your videos, and learn more about your business — all through Google+.
If they have already converted over to the new Google+, in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, there is a link to go “Back to classic G+.. A user can click on that and go back to how everything used to be. We don’t envision this option to be available for very long, probably only a few months. When the option to revert back finally disappears, you’ll need to direct clients to Maps or the search results, as explained above.
The main takeaway here is that Google has separated Google+ from your business listing, but Google reviews are still extremely important for your business, and you need to continue to get them. Unfortunately, the process of getting those reviews has changed. That Google+ link on your website, in your email signature, and on your business card will only work if the client is intuitive enough to revert back to the classic Google+. And eventually that functionality will cease to exist. When that happens, you will be stuck sending clients to Google Maps or the search results for reviews.