Google announced earlier this year that the GOLD STARS for Local Search would be returning, now powered by Google Plus. Well here is a sneak peek:
(Thank you Mike of Carpet Cleaning Chico for sharing this image.)
This is in Beta right now and few users can see these. Further, the final roll out may look a little different. But overall, the Gold Stars are there in living color. And I like the added score in front of the stars to clarify the actual average. It’s a nice touch. But still, more importantly, the stars. The stars are coming back!
Gold Star History
It was one year ago that Google removed the review stars from the local search pack. They instead went with a Zagat rating. A red box number from 1 to 30. This number was virtually worthless to users. Most didn’t understand it. 5 simple gold stars was easy to see, to read, to understand. And the disappearance of those stars made a difference. A HUGE difference. Taking away those stars cost Bulwark Exterminating big money. July of 2012 was my first down month in 6 years. Oddly, all other vital signs to my website look the same. Same traffic, same time on site, same bounce rate. But sales were down. After fixing this problem with a little schema markup, and then becoming the only organic with stars we had record breaking months. In fact, September of 2012 was our best pest control month ever, which is notable considering September is the tail end of our busy season.
Are Gold Stars REALLY that Impactful?
Further evidence of the importance of the 5 gold stars is found in Adwords Express (formerly Google Boost) and PPC Seller Ratings. Both of these add stars to google’s paid ads. Neither of these were removed over the past year. Since the Adwords team is in the game to make money, I doubt that leaving those gold stars in PPC ads was an accident. In fact, I know several local companies that opted to use Adwords Express for the sole purpose of restoring the “Gold Review Stars”. The results of for those that went that route varied. The lack of control in Adwords express deterred me from going that route. I’m not a fan of paying $10 a click for keywords I don’t get a say in. (You can find my full Pros and Pests to Adwords Express on Avalaunch’s blog) And Google doesn’t offer the review star ad extension for local businesses outside of adwords express. But others have reported that they like adwords express. So with all marketing, test it.