- Google Maps recently rolled out a site redesign, adding star ratings (on a scale of 0-5) for bars and restaurants right on the map view, according to Android Police.
- A recent study from Brightlocal shows that Google is acquiring reviews faster than Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review platforms.
- Infusionsoft reports that Google surpassed other review sites when mobile internet overtook desktop searches in late 2017. Since Google smartphones are equipped with Google Maps, the app has become the default location search for the Android platform.
Android's share of the U.S. mobile market is about 54%, so elevating ratings on this default map platform is significant for audience capture alone. Google facilitates the ratings process once a user visits a spot using its Maps app, inviting them to rate the business then and there. Google has made the process somewhat frictionless, while other apps require consumers to take extra steps to open their app and leave a review.
Convenience is critical for fast-paced consumers, so offering the ability to both leave and read reviews quickly is key for mobile search — especially as more consumers rely on customer reviews and 84% of consumers expect businesses to respond to online comments.
But there are drawbacks to Google's reviews. One reason the search engine's ratings system surpassed Yelp's is because Yelp has become more judicious about its review process, weeding out fake reviews. So, while Google may gain reviews, it could backfire unfairly against restaurants. A Lexington, Kentucky-based pizzeria recently generated a wave of negative reviews on Google, for example, when a controversial Barstool Sports group was kicked out of the establishment. The group retaliated via this platform and users not aware of the backstory may have simply seen an abundance of bad reviews about the establishment when they opened their Maps app.
Google's decision to elevate reviews to its "front page," in other words, can add significant pressure on restaurants who can't control the platform's lack of regulation.
A high percentage of millennials (68%) trust online reviews, according to Modern Restaurant Management. By comparison, just 34% of this demographic said they trust TV ads. Younger generations, especially, trust other consumers more than companies — consumers are 12 times more likely to trust peer reviews than company descriptions.
Review sites are basically word of mouth marketing accelerated. Negative reviews can be detrimental, but positive reviews can produce an average of 18% uplift in sales, according to Modern Restaurant Management. With such a large captive audience using Google Maps, putting such reviews in front of consumers by default means restaurants will have to monitor these sites even more closely, respond when necessary and rectify any issues immediately.