What impact will Apple Reviews have on local businesses?
For many years Google Maps has been the leader in helping people search for local business, find directions, review products and services directly from the app and do much more. Local business owners who realize the value of local SEO have been paying attention, making sure they have a solid GMB profile and optimizing for the local pack. I must say that Google has made it easier for businesses by giving them a really good and easy to manage platform, Google My Business.
Now Apple wants to claim its share in the local search, and one way to get in is through an improved Apple Maps app. Since 2012 Apple has been quietly working to improve their Maps app and the number of users who rely on the app is been steadily going up. For years Apple Maps has relied on third party review sources like Yelp and Trip Advisor, to enable users to leave reviews. This has presented a few challenges:
- Relying on the third party review sites they could put their own reputation on the line
- Users have to download third party apps like Yelp or Trip Advisor, to leave reviews or upload photos for a local business, which is not the best user experience.
Coming Fall 2020 with the release of the iOS 14 Apple appears to be entering the review space. As it was reported by 9to5Mac on August 26, the new update of the iOS14 being released in the Fall will include the ability to leave reviews, add photos and rate products and services, directly from Apple Maps.
How will Apple Reviews work?
The article from 9to5Mac points out that when a Apple Maps user visits a location or point of interest a few times, they will have the opportunity to leave a review and rate their experience. This is all possible due to Apple’s on-device machine learning. In other words they will be using users Apple ID to verify that the review is legitimate, with the goal to minimize review fraud.
The rating system will allow users to rate the business in different categories. Let’s say you visited your local pet store. You experienced poor customer service but the products you purchased at the store were the best quality. With the new rating system, you will be able to rate the service and product independently. This feature would offer great insights to businesses on what aspects they need to improve.
While this is still in its early stages, it will be very interesting to see how all this will play out especially for Yelp and other third party review sites.
How can Apple reviews help businesses from the SEO standpoint?
Apple has done a great job respecting the privacy of its users over the years and building an unintrusive platform that their customer trust.
I would think that customer reviews and ratings in Apple Maps will play an important role in building brand trust for local businesses. Time will tell how much local businesses will care about optimizing their listings, but I tend to think that perhaps a business has to register their location with Apple.
My feeling is that it will be driven by customers who will be using the system to rate and review local businesses, forcing business owners to update their business information. It is also unclear at this time what tools Apple will develop for business owners to make it easier for them to update their profile. Maps Connect current interface is behind comparing to GMB, so we will keep an eye on what Apple does with their Maps platform.
Apple’s move into the review space it is something worth keeping an eye on especially because of the loyal customer base the company has. It remains to be seen how well the new review and rating system will be adopted by users and what will the reaction from the local business community be! I believe that reviews and ratings on Apple Maps will be a strong trust signal for local SEO.