Google has announced that businesses with Google Place pages can now respond to reviews about their business if they have a verified account. This is actually good for businesses and can serve as a reputation management tool of the highest order.
Already, if you are listed in Google Places with a link back to your website then you have a much better chance of achieving high rankings for your keywords than if you don’t have a Google Places page. The reviews will further make optimization for your keywords and company brand an important part of doing business online, especially for local businesses.
I share Frank Reed’s concern about responses to reviews on third-party sites:
From what I can gather this response mechanism is for reviews that are done in Google Maps only (I am willing to be wrong here if someone from Google would like to let me know). This would limit the ability for the business owner to truly manage his / her online reputation completely but it is a very good step in the right direction to make the Google Place Page an even more important part of every local business’s online presence.
On the other hand, the reviews are not there necessarily for the benefit of reputation management. Business reviews serve multiple purposes, but generally they are to help consumers get an idea of what to expect from doing business with a company based on what other consumers are saying. Allowing a business to respond to reviews simply gives potential customers more to go on in making a decision.
For instance, a business’s response to a review can tell a consumer whether the business takes feedback from customers seriously. It can also allow the business to provide more information to a particular case so that potential consumers can determine the true value of the complaint (after all, not all negative reviews have equal merit).
So while I share the concern for opportunities in reputation management that Frank Reed mentions, I’m also aware that businesses have that opportunity even without the ability to respond to reviews on third-party sites. Maybe not as much, but it’s there. Still, this is a good move by Google Places.