Swift and decisive move by Google last night as it axed all third party reviews appearing against hotels on Google Maps and Google Places.
Now, when a user sees a hotel listed they will get all the existing content (photos, address, web link, prices) but the number of reviews has been stripped down to almost a handful.
Previously sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Igougo and many online travel agencies were seeing their reviews fed automatically into a hotel’s Google page.
Such activity has irked the likes of TripAdvisor for months, with CEO Steve Kaufer claiming the process and way reviews were displayed was “bad for consumers, for the industry, for hoteliers andÂ restaurateurs”.
Google has instantly killed such concerns by simply wiping out all those reviews. Director of product management Avni Shah says in a blog post:
“Based on careful thought about the future direction of Place pages, and feedback weâ€™ve heard over the past few months, review snippets from other web sources have now been removed from Place pages.”
So where are the reviews which still appear against hotel pages now coming from? Users with a Google profile, of course.
Google is still providing a link to review sites such as TripAdvisor, OTAs, etc, but the “reviews from around the web” area is buried at the foot of the page.
TripAdvisor, which has had its long-running battle with Google and must see the change as some kind of victory, says it has no comment to make.
Whether the sites which relied slightly more on the trafficÂ as a result of having their reviews on hotel pages are pleased with the changeÂ is unclear.
From Google’s perspective the move appears to illustrate its strategy to focus heavily on its member base, especially with the launch recently of Google+, its apparent move to capture some of the glory from social networking giant Facebook.
There is also speculation that the switch is more to appease those sharpening their knives in the US over alleged antitrust behaviour around taking third party website content for free but then giving Places pages higher placing in general search results.
Nevertheless, whether there are darker political overtones to the move or not, Google has, ironically, now found itself in the same spot as TripAdvisor – a platform for consumers to add their reviews without any significant verification.