Google Places is now an integral part of the universal web results in Google in conjunction with the website results for location specific businesses such as hotels and restaurant. The Google Places is a map listing for location based businesses and those operating within a locality such as plumbers, hairdressers, locksmiths, petrol stations etc. The Places listing was designed for businesses to have a web presence but don't necessarily have a website or have a need for one. Particularly for hotels if there is a geo-modifier in the search query such as "london hotels" the first 7 results will have their location pin pointed on a map.
Google was pulling data particularly reviews for the Google Places listing from a variety of third parties particularly Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Whoseview.ie, Yelp.com. TripAdvisor pulled their reviews from being accessed by Google earlier this year, but now Google has taken the step of pulling all reviews from third parties from the site and only allowing reviews that have been left by Google account users on the listing, which means there has been a radical decrease in the number of reviews being visible on the web results and also in the actual Google Places listing page.
So whilst increasing reviews across a number of different platforms has been a strategy we have encouraged hotels to adopt, we would now advise that more emphasis be placed on suggesting to guests to leave reviews on the Google Places page. The "Write a Review" button is now a very prominent burgandy shade on businesses' Places page, encouraging direct user generated content into the listing, so reviews in Google Places will be intensly pushed by them but it also suggests that it will be a part of the Google algorithm (the over 200 ranking factors Google takes into account when generating search results) for location based searches. Similar to Trip Advisor it is possible to respond to reviews and flag as inappropriate for listings verfied by owners, so this will be yet another online medium hotels will need to monitor. Whilst third party sites have a link at the bottom it is evident that this is a temporary arrangement.
Overall in the past few months with the Google + social networking platform, the Google +1 button and now the reviews on Google Places, Google is attempting to apply a glue for the world to metaphorically stick to Google.
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