By Robert Baxter [rbaxter@surgeonsadvisor.com]

Google has significantly changed its Google Places layout and stopped drawing upon reviews from third party sites and from showing snippets of those reviews on their Places page. This is an enormous change that is going to impact Google, review sites, and physicians who are getting reviewed on the Internet.

Before, when you would do a search you would often be shown local results — those were results that showed with pushpins and the map. Those results would show a star rating that aggregated reviews from many sites, including Google. You could click the place page and see excerpts of reviews from sites like Vitals, RealSelf, and CitySearch.

That has changed dramatically. As you can see below, Google is only showing star ratings from Google itself. As a result, many physicians have seen their overall ratings drop from 10, 25, 50, or more to just a few. In addition, getting to those third party rating sites is not so easy now.

The place page, as you can see, only shows the Google reviews and has small links to third party sites. Notice, too, the big SIGN IN TO RATE button.

There is a lot of speculation that these changes have something to do with the increased regulatory scrutiny Google is facing. Yelp, CitySearch, and TripAdvisor have complained about Google’s use of their reviews in the past, and they seem to have gotten what they wanted. But is this going to help them? And what about sites like Vitals, MakeMeHeal, and the like? Are they going to see reduced visits?

You can still get to those third party review sites — and they still play an enormous role, especially when searching for doctors by name. In addition, many of these sites have natural, organic traffic.

But no matter how you look at it, this is a big change, and one that surgeons must now adjust to and account for.