Google’s Place Pages are becoming increasingly critical to the ability for local businesses to capitalize on their online presence. With mobile increasing in popularity (is it the year of mobile this year or is that next?) and more people who actually do searches understanding maps (meaning that while we, the industry, prattle on about these options they are only as good as the searchers’ understanding of them) this element of local search will only increase in importance.
Google knows this and has finally responded to one sore spot in the whole place page experience for business owners: being able to respond to reviews. The Google LatLong blog tells us
Starting today, if you’re a verified Google Places business owner, you can publicly respond to reviews written by Google Maps users on the Place Page for your business. Engaging with the people who have shared their thoughts about your business is a great way to get to know your customers and find out more. Both positive and negative feedback can be good for your business and help it grow (even though it’s sometimes hard to hear). By responding, you can build stronger relationships with existing and prospective customers. For example, a thoughtful response acknowledging a problem and offering a solution can often turn a customer who had an initially negative experience into a raving supporter. A simple thank you or a personal message can further reinforce a positive experience. Ultimately, business owner responses give you the opportunity to learn what you do well, what you can do better, and show your customers that you’re listening.
Here’s a look-see as well.
Now some of the caveats are that you have to be logged into the account that verified that listing in order to respond (makes sense). One that is not clear , however, is whether these responses to reviews can be made to reviews that are imported to the Place Page from third party sites like CitySearch.
From what I can gather this response mechanism is for reviews that are done in Google Maps only (I am willing to be wrong here if someone from Google would like to let me know). This would limit the ability for the business owner to truly manage his / her online reputation completely but it is a very good step in the right direction to make the Google Place Page an even more important part of every local business’s online presence.