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Google Places have long used reviews of local businesses from third party sites as a way of centralising all or as much information about that specific business.
That was until last week when they announced they would no longer post reviews or parts of reviews from other sites about a specific business on their own Google Places site. The move is a result of a U.S. antitrust investigation into its business practices according to the Financial Times.
Many sites that rely heavily on user generated reviews such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Citysearch have long complained about the use of their reviews in Google Places. Instead of visitors using their service, they could have used the information displayed in Google which was taken from one of these sites in the first place.
Since the change, Google have changed the way they use and display reviews. They now post separate links to these reviews and do not include them into their review count for each site.
The changes have come about as a result of an antitrust hearing, one of many that Google have come so accustomed to dealing with over the years [See: Google Readying itself for a Big Hit from US Regulators].
In fact Avni Shah, Google Places Product Manager, explained in her blog post that, “Based on careful thought about the future direction of Place pages, and feedback we’ve heard over the past few months, review snippets from other web sources have now been removed from Place pages.”
Whilst this is a particularly interesting move, especially as Google are reacting to recommendations set out by the U.S. government, it isn’t all bad news for Google Places. They have been using other site’s reviews up until now to give themselves a foothold in terms reviews in their own SERP’s. During this time, they have been able to build up a healthy portion of their own reviews, especially after merging Places with their Hotpot service [See: Google Hotpot: Local search gets personal].
It’s one small move in the right direction for some, notably those strong opponents to Google’s stealing of reviews, but does this herald a sign of things to come, and will Google stay committed to fair practice and healthy competition?