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How important are Google+ reviews when ranking a website?

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There are a few things that come into this question that's based around Google+ reviews (formerly Google places).

I have always been advised to get as many reviews as possible on my Google+ business page in order to improve rankings. The idea is that the more positive reviews you have, the higher you will be shown in the results. How important does Google consider these reviews when ranking local businesses?

The next part of this question is based on the likelihood of Google using these in the future. I have already noticed the change from places to Google+ and recently I have noticed that when I search the exact business name, the details on the right hand side (small map, photos, opening hours etc.) have seem to had been removed. Does this suggest a possible change?

The last part of this question is based around reviews as a bigger picture. Should I look to gain reviews with just Google, or would I be better off using several review sites (directory listings etc. all see to have reviews now).

I have always been faced with a difficult question. I have the opportunity to send my clients somewhere to leave a review, so where should I send them? There are so many sites now that offer reviews.

Answers

G+ reviews are useful, but I doubt they have a large impact on your ranking in global Google search.

They are however useful when people are searching for specific business places - the G+page with the most (positive) reviews is the first search result for nearby business.

I am diversifying my reviews across different providers. I have a single webpage with a gateway script that redirects the visitors based on specified criteria (if logged into Google the go to G+ review, else go to my own review on my website).

Hoarding reviews on a single provider is suicide in the long run - if they get pulled down you've lost it all.

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