Google Maps for Android
Google Maps for Android has announced the completion of an update to version 5.10.0 which includes two new features: the ability to attach photos to Google Places reviews and the option to see Google Places that you have rated with a 4 or 5 star rating. Both of these additions are yet just another indicator that business reviews are becoming more and more important as users begin to lean towards businesses that have more positive reviews online. Google’s recent update, which allows user generated photos to be posted directly on a Google Places review, has given more accountability to a business’s reputation management strategy by opening up the flood gates to more user generated content.
But beware. The Google Maps application for Android does come with a bit of potential controversy.
By allowing users to upload photos to a venue’s Google Places page and into their review, the flood gates for “spammers and scammers” swing wide open. Photo uploading with a consumer’s review can also potentially be viewed as an open invite for unethical business practices, such as a local business or disgruntled former employee posting a photo of their business information on your business’s Google review. We can only hope that Google will have some sort of flagging system in place that allows a business to report certain photos that are deemed inappropriate (i.e. photos of other businesses, spam photos, etc). Google’s algorithm cannot decode what content is in an image; it can only see that the file is an image file and Google displays it just as an image should be displayed. Therefore, it will be important that each business actively checks their Google Places page and the reviews associated with it to ensure that your business is not being unfairly targeted by “haters” and “spammers”.
On the flip side, Google’s addition of displaying 4 and 5 star rated reviews for businesses that a consumer had previously reviewed is a great way to retain a loyal consumer base. Encouraging your customers to give you a high rating on Google is the equivalent of asking them to put a reminder in their phone about your business. After they have rated your business, that consumer would always see your venue in their Google Maps application when they were within a short distance of your business.
As Google moves further into allowing user generated content to be posted on their Google reviews, it will be interesting to see how their photo submission methods and their displaying of previously rated 4 and 5 star businesses truly affect future business performance. And with Google’s recent purchase of Zagat, it is likely that we will see Google Places continue to evolve into more of a focus on user generated content and social media integration features as social media and reviews written by other customers within that users own social network become more and more relevant within Google search results.