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Google lets any publisher apply to have “Critic Reviews” of local businesses

Google lets any publisher apply to have “Critic Reviews” of local businesses

Want to have your “critic review” of a local business perhaps appear in relation to it within Google search? Today, Google’s announced that any publisher can apply to participate.

Last year, Google launched the “Critic Reviews” feature for movies, TV shows and books. Last week, Google announced it was now available for local businesses, such as restaurants.

How the “Critic Reviews” feature looks

For example, a search for the San Francisco restaurant Gary Danko brings up a “Critic reviews” section within the Knowledge Graph panel for the restaurant on desktop:


On mobile devices — which is how most people search on Google these days — the section gets much more prominent placement


That “review” is simply a compilation of user comments that Zagat has assembled. So how is that really a publisher review? Google told me:

A Zagat editor curates a Zagat review. And while the quotations are from users, a Zagat editor synthesizes these user reviews with an editorial tone of voice which represents the spirit and ambiance of a given place.

How to be listed in Critic Reviews

What wasn’t clear in those email discussions I had with Google is that apparently, it was allowing any publisher to apply for inclusion — even Yelp and TripAdvisor, if they wanted. Part of this might have been due to confusion in a discussion of a related “On These Lists” feature that also went live.

Google told me instructions on how to apply were posted in a section for developers on August 5, the same day the new Critic Reviews feature went live. So even before the complaints — and not in response to them, Google stressed to me — other publishers could apply. It’s just that no one likely knew this until the blog post that Google made today.

To recap, any publisher that wants to be eligible to appear in the Critics Reviews section can request inclusion, assuming they’ve done the proper markup. Notably, there’s no requirement to have some type of editorial voice or publisher-employed critic requirement, that I can see.

The markup instructions are here. It effectively means that behind the scenes, publishers tag their pages in a way to indicate to Google that they have a review of a local business.

Assuming the markup is in place, publishers then must apply to be included. If accepted, then their reviews will be eligible to appear, assuming the Google algorithm finds them relevant.

For local search, Yelp & TripAdvisor ought to be included

The good news for Yelp and TripAdvisor is if they go through the process above, they — like any other publisher — have a shot at showing up in the new section.

The bad news is that neither company was invited to participate from the start. Given both have been critical against Google with past and on-going anti-trust actions, I can understand why Google might not want to involve them. But the bottom line is that they have excellent local information, and as a search engine, Google’s job is to show such information to its users.

I’ll be returning to this more in a future article. But rather than this “Critic Review” section, I’d far rather see a section called “Local reviews” that gave prominent placement to Yelp and TripAdvisor along with Google Maps, so that you could click and go directly to the review sites. I think that information would be far more helpful to the local searcher trying to understand if a business is good.

That’s also part of what Yelp would like to see, from an interview I had with them earlier this week. I can’t say for TripAdvisor, because it never responded to my email. And again, I’ll explore this issue more in a future article.

NOTE: This article was revised to note that Google said the application process opened at the same time the new feature launched and requested to drop the “After complaints” part from the headline.