Cillian Bracken Conway
5th Jan, 2016

The recent Google Plus update resulted in major changes in local search. All local information has been removed from business pages. From a local search result of 7 (called 7-pack in the local SEO language, which later decreased to 3-pack following a Google update), search queries with local intent now has 0 pack. Until Google rolls out another local update, companies can only rely on their Google Maps listing and Knowledge Box for their business listing.

On a lighter note, they can have a bigger share of the local info pie through reviews. Reviews may have lost their strength in the local algorithm, but they remain important to potential customers. With local information pulled from Google Plus, local search will only show business name, contact details and, when implemented, reviews.

Reviews Page in Exchange for Testimonials Page

Google Analytics will show that the only traffic the testimonials page receives is internal. With a filter set up to remove internal traffic, testimonial pages on sites could prove even more useless. This shows that testimonials do nothing for a website.

Customers don’t read testimonials either, because they are aware that only the best five-star reviews are listed on site. No company would post bad reviews at the top of their testimonials page. But people are more interested to check out reviews to see if there are any bad ones. They also want to know how a company responded to bad reviews.

On this note, companies should ditch the testimonials page and replace it with a reviews page. But customers don’t want to read reviews on a company website, because of the assumption that only awesome reviews will be posted. They will skip on-site reviews and look for off-site reviews.

Reviews page should contain links to third-party sites, where customers can read honest and unbiased reviews.

Linking Rules

Add a message at the top of the reviews page encouraging users to read testimonials or reviews of past customers.

Google reviews are usually the most visible, so links to them should be placed at the top of the list.

Third-party site reviews should open in a new browser tab when a link is clicked. This eliminates the need to navigate back to the reviews page. Include target=”_blank” on the links list.

SERP links should be used when linking to Yelp. The company discourages direct linking to Yelp listing, with preference to see visits as originating from an organic search. To get the SERP link, conduct a Google search on “business name” Yelp. Copy the link of the URL returned.

What Marketers and Website Owners Should Do

With reviews having more weight to testimonials that no one reads, marketers and websites owners should link to third-party review sites. Good or bad, customers would prefer to read reviews that are honest and not written with a hidden agenda.