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Google Places - Reviews Are Critical

There is universal agreement.  Google says it.  Pundits who have studied the subject in depth confirm it.  The number one criteria for rating highly on Google Places is reviews.  Yelp and City Search have told me that this is true for them as well. 

There seems to be agreement with regard to Places that it doesn't matter how many stars you get or how the reviews read, it is number of reviews, plain and simple.  It is also obvious that reviews alone will not get you to move up ahead of others.  You can quickly confirm this by looking at a few examples and you will see companies with no or a few reviews ahead of others with more. 

Given this information, what should you do.  Get as many great reviews as you possibly can.  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Whether the review is done by a friend or a customer, ask them to make the reviews "real."  Unfettered flattery doesn't look real.  Tell a story about a recent visit and how you were treated.  Talk about a product you bought and how it performed.
2.  Do not put up 10 reviews in one day or even one week.  Google will see this as spam and may take you down.
3.  Look at your competitors.  If they all have 0-5 reviews, get 10 to 20.  If they have 10 to 20, get 50.  Don't merely do a bit better, massively outdo them.
4.  Google Places picks up reviews from other local search engines.  Some of your reviewers should put up a different review on SuperPages or CitySearch.  These will likely get picked up and counted on Google Places.
5.  Some local search engines such as Yelp discourage paying for reviews or allowing reviews from employees or suppliers.  Most have no such restriction.  Best practice is to get reviews from real customers without paying for them.
6.  With #6 in mind, Google does no checking on the source of reviews.  Have your brother, your mother and your best friend review you if you are too shy to ask your customers.

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