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Did We Make a Big Google Mistake?

For weeks I've found myself saying the same one-liner, "reviews are missing from your Google+ Local listing, we reported it to Google but there's not much else we can do."

I find myself cringing every time I have to utter those words. I send them the link on Google's response to missing reviews, which really doesn't say much, and then we all wait. After coaching a dealer to ask customers to post reviews for them on Google, how do you explain to them why Google would then delete nearly every single one of those positive reviews, only leaving the negative reviews behind? For two years I have motivated dealers to hop on the Google train, branding them online as "Top Rated Dealer on Google" - but they aren't the top rated dealer anymore.

Did we all make a big Google mistake?

I've looked outside the auto industry and I have been tracking the very same issues for other businesses. Mike Blumenthal of Blumenthals.com has even took it upon himself to collect all the issues pertaining to missing reviews so that they are reported on the Google forum in one post. He also posts his own formula on the missing reviews.

 

Since there is not much a client or SEO can do, I also provide them with the 6,6,6 rule for lost reviews to guide them as to what to expect in terms of recovery of the reviews. It might offer some small comfort.
 
What is the 6,6,6 review rule? (any client imagined thoughts about the devil suggested by my guideline are actively encouraged)
 
  • If reviews don’t come back to the Google Places page in 6 days, they might return in 6 weeks
  • If they don’t return in 6 weeks they might return in 6 months
  • If they don’t return in 6 months they have descended to Dante’s 6th Ring of Hell

Joking aside, what are the next steps for a dealer who has had their reviews missing from Google? And what about a dealer who has had all of their positive reviews go missing?

Google is a free tool, after all, we don't have to use it. In fact, when you create a Google login their terms of service that you probably blindly accepted made that very clear:

"OTHER THAN AS EXPRESSLY SET OUT IN THESE TERMS OR ADDITIONAL TERMS, NEITHER GOOGLE NOR ITS SUPPLIERS OR DISTRIBUTORS MAKE ANY SPECIFIC PROMISES ABOUT THE SERVICES. FOR EXAMPLE, WE DON’T MAKE ANY COMMITMENTS ABOUT THE CONTENT WITHIN THE SERVICES, THE SPECIFIC FUNCTION OF THE SERVICES, OR THEIR RELIABILITY, AVAILABILITY, OR ABILITY TO MEET YOUR NEEDS. WE PROVIDE THE SERVICES 'AS IS'." 

Did we make a mistake in molding a business' digital presence around something no one has control over? Do we start over, or do we keep fighting?

I'd love to know your thoughts on this.

 

 

Comments

Christine --
There is no question that Google is a huge source of frustration for dealers (and those of us who help them). There are frequent changes and what can seem like an arbitrariness that the rest of us are left to try to react. For the pro-active among us, this is an uncomfortable position to occupy! It's not just Google though. Yelp with it's filtering system and the "Yelp sort" are also challenging.

At the end of the day, it's Google's world and we all just live in it (at least from a search engine perspective), so it is a fact of life that we all have to deal with. As with all issues related to online reputation and review sites, it all starts with what happens at the dealership and the good news is that that actually can be controlled by dealers! If the process is solid, followed consistently and there is care paid to the experience customers have in every department in the dealership, that should extend into the online world and be reflected in the reviews written about the dealership.

Thanks for kicking off an important discussion.

Kristen Judd
@kwjudd

Aug 17, 2012

Thanks so much Kristen! You are so right - it is a Google world, we just live in it....as I check my Gmail through my Chrome browser :). I have suggested to dealers to try to encourage customers to mention the salespersons name in the review and the model they purchased...more details could make them stick? It's just a theory, an option.

Aug 17, 2012

For what it's worth, I have been working with Google on maps issues for about a year, and now on this very issue. After talking to a few other sources, I suspect that as Google places more importance on reviews they are beefing up their spam algorithms. I think that legitimate reviews were removed along the way. The process we use at our stores to gather reviews has been vetted by my contact at Google, but without getting into the nitty gritty, I believe that the process we use may have led to the reviews being mistakenly labelled spam.

My contact was aware of other issues at stores in different markets, but those stores had stopped following up so he assumed it had resolved itself. After sending over the information I had gathered, it was clear that the issue was not resolved, and it was escalated internally.

Aug 17, 2012

Thanks for the insight Mark. I hope that it is handled for your stores and Google sees that so my dealers are passionate about their Google reviews.

Aug 17, 2012

If we all agree that positive Google reviews are an asset and we know Google to date has offered zero help I suggest we fight the battle. Start over! One of our Google+ Local pages is now MIA so its not just a review issue.

Aug 19, 2012

Mark it would be helpful if you told us why you think your process was the reason your reviews are gone. What process did you use

Aug 19, 2012

I do not see how this is not a liability issue for Google. I would understand if all reviews disappeared but to leave just the negative aones amounts to slander in my opinion, whether intentional on Google's part or not. Whether we pay to have reviews in my opinion is not relevant, they are paid by advertisers who see their sites as relevant and reviews are a part of that. All of the reviews were done by our clients and never done at the dealership. We had 88 positive reviews and four negative and were left with just the four. Our web traffic dropped as a result. This hurt our business and Google should be held responsible in some way. There is legislation in some places where false reviews have punitive results, I do not see how arbitrary removal of reviews, without notification to the proprietor, is any different. It would be very easy for us to contact each client and have them verify that they wrote our reviews yet we were given no chance to verify.

Aug 24, 2012

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