Google+ Local is important for Google because SEO for small businesses, like restaurants, is a major industry. Google bought Zagat reviews to help it dominate the sector some time ago, but the rating system used by Zagat has not proved popular with all users. Users enjoy leaving reviews for businesses, but when it comes to trying to work out the marking system there have been some issues. Google has moved to address some of the perceived problem, but some of those involved in website optimisation feel that the change has not gone far enough. Consultants need to be aware of what has happened so that they can understand the direction of travel in relation to the scoring issue and plot their campaigns accordingly.
The Zagat scoring system explained
A bit of history shows why the Zagat scoring system has been problematic for Google. Zagat got users to grade businesses on a scale of 0 to 3 points. This was not as user friendly as the five star marking systems which can be seen all over the net. Five star systems are very familiar to users and allow a bigger range of opinions to be expressed than a 0 to 3 system. Entering 3 points as a maximum score may have seemed slightly odd to some users. Google probably would not have wanted to cause a fuss by scrapping the Zagat scoring system as soon as it acquired the reviews system because it might have irritated users with a loyalty to the old way of doing things.
Two Google changes
Google eventually did shake things up. Firstly, it prompted users to employ words and phrases to describe the quality of a business. These words and phrases, ‘poor’, ‘fair’, ‘good’, ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’ were refreshingly simple for users to understand. The options chosen by all the reviewers were then collated by Google into a total score which could be compared with scores for other businesses. Secondly, Google no longer put the reviewer’s scoring figure in numbers on their specific review. This arguably meant that readers of the review had a slightly greater incentive than before to actually read the review proper without being distracted from the text. Everybody marks to different standards and it is sometimes more revealing to focus on what people actually have to say about a business than to look at the marks they dish out.
The overall score still remains
The fact that the overall score was still calculated and shown might not have been a problem if it was not an awkward numbering system from 0 to 30. Some users who were not familiar with the review system may have preferred a scoring system that was more orthodox.
By showing they were prepared to make changes, Google has flagged up the possibility of making future modifications. Whether or not a more popular system is likely to be introduced any time soon is an open question, but some might think there is a demand for it and, if Google continues to listen, it might be tempted to make further moves in a more standardised direction.