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Jared Hamilton
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Brian Pasch

Brian Pasch CEO

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Want $100,000 In Free Online Advertising

We all know by now that at the end of July, Google changed how they calculate star counts on Google Places.  (see previous post)

Dealers that relied heavily on,, or saw their review counts drop drastically toward the end of July.

I have been encouraging dealers to post review on Google Places because it will increase referral traffic to their website and increase calls.  Some dealers are skeptical just how important Google Places is to their overall website traffic.  Others are skeptical if posting reviews directly on Google Places makes an impact.

I finally have some direct proof that focusing your attention on customer reviews has a major impact on consumers clicking through to your website from Google Places. The term Zero Moment of Truth refers to the digital "scorecard"  and "influences" consumers see prior to selecting a product or service online.   You can download my ZMOT white paper on this link: Automotive ZMOT

For dealers, Google Places reviews play a major part of the Automotive ZMOT experience. For the dealer in the case study below, Google Places shows over 40,000 times a month. Where can dealers get 40,000 impressions (opportunities) a month for free?

If you have been lackadaisical on adding reviews each month to Google Places, this is your wakeup call.  Take a look at the data below.

When Referral Traffic Dropped 86%

I am sharing the Google Places analytics summary data for a dealer in the period from June 1st  through September  16th in the graph below.  Notice that over this period of time, the number of impressions have stayed basically the same.

However, there was a big drop in "actions" when the dealer's star counts dropped from 275 to 3 when Google changed their algorithm.  Google removed the reviews from their star counts and look at what happened.


So let's dig deeper and look at traffic in June and then we will look at traffic in the last 30 days.  In June, the dealer had over 275 reviews in their star counts, primarily from  In August, their review "star" count dropped to 3.  Notice the BIG difference in referral traffic in the two graphs below:

June Traffic and Actions

Last 30 Days

The Big Drop Defined

In the month of June, this dealer had over 275 starred reviews and it resulted in 3,176 clicks through to their website. In the last 30 days, with 3 reviews this dealer had 429 clicks through to their website.

This is an 86% drop in referral traffic and the impressions stayed basically the same.   So if anyone is NOT taking their Google Places account seriously, here is the data.

To get 3,000 replacement visitors would cost you over $8,000 in pay-per-click a month or $100,000 a year in automotive advertising PPC.  Is the effort to get reviews posted by your customers worth it?  You decide.   

The more reviews you have on Google Places, the more FREE traffic you will generate to your website.  This makes a strong case to immediately implement an in-store review process using the Google Places app.  Once this dealer gets their review counts over 275 using Google Places App, their high referral traffic will return.  For a store of this size, this can be fixed in a short period of time.

When you have the highest number of reviews in your market, you can amplify the benefit by running Google Adwords Express. Google Adwords Express is not available in Canada as of today.

Reviews are a trusted resource by consumers.  They become your online brand.  Whatever you think your brand is does not matter.  What matters is what people see online BEFORE they contact you.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you have been holding off implementing on in-store Google Places review process, this data should light a fire under your ass.

Choose if you want to leverage Google Places to drive free traffic to your website or drive traffic to your competitors.

I hope to see many dealers at Internet Battle Plan 7 in Park Ridge New Jersey on October 5-7th and at the Driving Sales Executive Summit on October 9-11th.

If you need help, give us a call.



Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing

Text PCGedu to 75674 get information on our upcoming conferences

Ryan Leslie
Interesting post Brian. Quick clarification question for you and I admittedly may have missed it. The data presented is reflective of the referral traffic from the Places Page only correct? What did the overall site traffic look like for this dealer during this time period? Did their overall referral traffic drop by 3k or did this drop actually represent a shift to another referral source? I'm trying to understand the data in light of the ongoing FTC investigation of Google's Place pages. Yelp and TripAdvisor felt that their business model was threatened by the Place page for this exact reason, it stopped the search short of their content by using their content. I'm wondering if they are right and a place page with no content results in a consumer arriving at the third party site that was being aggregated.
Jim Bell
What I see in mine is that the impressions are about the same, but actions are way down also. Clicks for maps the same, driving directions up a little, but clicks to site way down. Very eyeopening. I even have the most google reviews in my area and went way down.
Brian Pasch
Ryan The drop is in referring clicks to the dealer's website from Google Places. I have not jumped into Google Analytics to see how Google Places traffic is documented in Analytics. I think a series of Google Places pages without any stars that stand out become less of a value to consumers. Imagine seeing a list of 10 Toyota dealers in California all with 5-15 reviews. Places doesn't make it easy for the consumer to narrow down the list. Now if that same example has one dealer that has 300 reviews and the rest of them having 5-15 reviews, the Places has value to the consumer in saving them time on who to call. I think the third party sites were silly to sue Google Places. Their direct referral traffic must have dropped off the cliff.
Brian Pasch
Ryan I tried to look at how Google Places data is shown in Google Analytics and it seems that you need to code the website URL in your places listing with a custom source code. Here is the URL builder and I will start using this to verify that it cleanly shows the contribution of Google Places in Analytics. I'll beak this out as a separate post to show how to do it specifically.
Ryan Leslie
It's the last part of your comment that I was trying to get confirmation on. Did the total referral traffic from this case study drop by the same amount as the Place page, or did that referral traffic come in from another source? If the aggregated reviews on the Place page were the only motivating factor for the referral click it would seem reasonable to expect that one of the aggregated 3rd parties picked up a bump when that data wasn't aggregated, right? Assuming of course that the consumer still seeks out the content to verify their purchase decision.

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