In order to increase the volume and coverage of reviews on its Place Pages, Google is now apparently looking beyond the range of traditional review sources to new, non-traditional sites (e.g., blogs, articles, etc.). Mike Blumethal has written a lengthy post on the subject. As Mike points out this could potentially complicate the emerging area of reputation management for local businesses.
In the near term it’s unlikely that Google will simply cast far and wide for any local business mention. Rather it will identify selected sites in particular markets, but those sites apparently need not be “review” sites to be included on Place Pages. Here’s an example that Mike cites, from a personal blog: a positive mention about a Portland-area trainer:
Here’s the “review” text:
Particular “hyper-local” blogs or sites may gain significant influence if they’re heavily relied upon by Google. Mike speculates about what attributes a “hyper-local” blog review will require to be included in Google’s index (as a SEO strategy).
I would caution here that it’s reviews in the aggregate that matter and not the outliers. Ultimately the true way to manage online reputation at the SMB level is to provide a good service and follow up on complaints to the extent they’re known. Having said that we will see more tools emerge this year — Marchex has one and others are coming — that enable discovery of online reviews content. However, to be comprehensive, such tools will have to mimic what Google is doing with Place Pages.
Indeed Place Pages itself becomes a reputation management tool of sorts as it improves and captures more local reviews.