Ratings and reviews have long been important to local search. Quantity used to be all that mattered – businesses with more reviews and ratings could rank higher than those without, even if the reviews were unfavorable.
Google has joined Bing (and Yahoo to a lesser degree) with today’s announcement that it’s emphasizing the content and sentiment of reviews and ratings on its place pages. Here’s a look at how Google spotlights review content on the Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant place page:
Google is pulling reviews from a variety of sources, classifying them, and then providing a review and summary of the sentiments expressed in those reviews. Searchers get a quicker glance at whether the business scores favorably on things like (in this example) food, service, atmosphere, and more.
Google is catching up to Bing with this feature. The Bing local listing for this same restaurant shows what Bing calls a “Scorecard” of review sentiments.
Yahoo also highlights reviews content, but in a different way. The Yahoo local listing for this same restaurant shows star ratings and user reviews, but there’s no attempt to analyze and classify the sentiments being expressed in those reviews. Yahoo does, however, display the full content of reviews out in its main local shortcut.
Google and Bing only show a star rating and a link to read reviews from their main search results pages.
There are obvious SEO considerations here: If Google and Bing, in particular, are doing sentiment analysis to determine whether the content of local reviews is good or bad, it’s logical to think those sentiments are being used in rankings. Higher ranking local business would be the ones that have the best combination of review quantity and quality.