The Case of the Missing Google Reviews (cont’d)

Tim Coleman from has written an interesting speculative piece: Is Google Filtering Reviews or Reviewers? in response to my piece last week noting the loss of CitySearch reviews from Google Maps. Tim did some interesting research on the volume of each reviewer’s reviews and theorized that Google might be attempting to filter out “spammy” reviews on this basis. There was also some interesting discussion from David Mihm, Matt McGee & Miriam Ellis and others about this and other theories (Matt asked whether it might be age based) to explain the decline in reviews.

What is known is that CitySearch reviews seem to have disappeared but it also seems that some of Google’s own reviews (see here) have as well.

My comments summarized the questions outstanding on the dissapearance of reviews:

Certainly it makes sense if Google could actually develop a way of indentifying more trust worthy reviews and your idea might actually work…

I will play the devil’s advocate. If Google were doing that (ie keeping reviews from more active reviewers) then we could assume that some CitySearch reviews would still be in their index. I haven’t poked around to look but that should be something we can ferret out.

I also like Matt’s idea of time as a criteria. Certainly reviews become stale and worth less over time as businesses change. The bugaboo with that theory is that Google removed some their own reviews as well which are all very recent. But it would be interesting to look and see if the review dates are more recent than they were. To quote from an old Buffalo Springfield song: “Something is happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear”…

I would encourage others with ideas to join the discussion at ConvertOffline and help figure this out.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
The Case of the Missing Google Reviews (cont'd) by

10 thoughts on “The Case of the Missing Google Reviews (cont’d)”

  1. Mike, I think this is a fascinating thread & thank you for contributing your considerable expertise to the discussion. It seems to me that too little attention has been paid to the G Local algo in the SEO community as a whole, despite its incredible importance since the advent of Universal search, and I am pleased that there is finally some discussion brewing around it.

  2. Hi David

    I think that you will find (much like Mapspam) that as more money is to be made with local and there is more demand for services the SEO community will (or at least parts of it) pursue more knowledge in this area.

    On a related note, I have been writing about Google & Yahoo local algo’s for slightly over a year with no reason other than curiosity. I did so with the intent of increasing my knowledge and developing professional relationships with others who wanted to know and learn more and not as a business opportunity. That being said within the last month two significant consulting opportunities have arisen for me in this field.

    So it appears that money is flowing into the area and SEO folks are joining the fray.


  3. Mike –
    I’m glad you mentioned Tim’s post here. On a related, but slightly different subject, have you written specifically about Google reviews? I’d like to read more about them, whether from a tutorial or more abstract viewpoint. Or, perhaps you might know of someone who has written comprehensively about them? Yesterday was the first time I’d heard of Tim and I get excited whenever I see someone else covering local issues.

    I love Local SEO…it’s so new and neat and can mean so much at the small business level. I’m really thrilled to hear you are finding business opportunities to use your skill at this, Mike. That’s super news!

  4. Miriam-

    What specific questions do you have about reviews? What would you like to know/learn?

    Thanks on the consulting but work is always a double edged sword and I only mention it as anecdotal evidence of the growing perceived importance of Local and knowledge about it.

    For me, and in my struggle to write, I find that it is important to keep my eye on doing things that I am passionate about. Sometimes work (for me) can change that so I need to keep things in perspective. That being said I am always interested in more :).


  5. Hi Mike,
    I’d like to learn more about eliciting Google reviews from users, I think. Though so many people have Google accounts, others don’t, and inspiring people not only to create a Google account and also write a review for a business seems like a tall order.

    My gut feeling would be that Google is going to give the most credit to their own system (just as you are saying), so this seems a very important thing to become educated about. The first step I can think of is simply to write some reviews of local businesses, just to become familiar with the system as I’ve yet to actually leave a Google review for a business. But after that, I’d like to learn more. I wonder if there are any statistics about how many people are actually going to maps and leaving these review. I’d like to see data on that.

    Sorry if I’m being too broad, Mike. I’m just eager to learn more about this subject in general!

  6. Mike, it’s me again.
    So, I’ve gone and written a couple of Google Reviews since my last comment. If you have a minute, could you take a look at a maps search for me and see if you see one of my reviews? On the first one I did, it seemed to be instantly reflected in the review count. On the second, it didn’t.

    If you do a Maps search for ‘fabric store santa rosa ca’ do you see a VERY long review for JoAnn’s Fabric (showing up in the C position for me), signed by info? It’s a 2 star review and is about 4 or 5 paragraphs long. Is this showing up for you? I’m curious about the discrepancy of the one review showing up and the other one not. Only if you have the time, Mike. Thanks!

  7. Well my theory is that the seeds of the answer exist in the question. That seems to be true for you!

    The review is showing up for me and I just marked it as helpful. Was this the first or the second review that you did?


  8. Miriam –

    I see both of your reviews this morning, sort of.

    The one for the pizzeria appeared in the review summary tab, then disppeared on refresh, then reappeared. Data center issue, perhaps?

    BTW, they’re both very thorough and well written. 🙂


  9. Thanks to both Mike & Cathy for looking at those! Thanks for the kind remarks and ‘helpful’, too.

    Mike, the fabric store was the second place I reviewed. I did the pizza place first. That’s funny that they were sort of popping in and out of existence.

    I need to think of some local businesses I have NICE things to say about…I don’t want my reviewer profile to look grouchy, but sometimes I remember bad experiences more readily than good ones. I’d even go so far as to say I’d be quicker to write a review that serves as a warning to others if I’ve had a bad experience, than to take the time to write a review of praise, unless I was really, really impressed with a business. The three reviews of hotels I’ve done on tripadvisor in the past have been due to horrific experiences.

    On the other hand, if a business I liked went out of their way to ask me to write a review of them, I’d be likely to do that. The psychology of all of this is pretty fascinating, isn’t it?

    Thanks, both!

  10. Hi Miriam

    Your comments validate the power of Cathy’s approach to reviews in the florist business…

    She actively solicits them in her emails with each order confirmation and again on her website. I think every business in the local space needs to set up a relatively automatic system for client reviews so that the business can leverage the review system in a positive proactive way. The only businesses that should fear reviews as Cathy pointed out are those that have bad service.

    The statistics indicate that people (on average) are just as likely to write a positive review as a negative review so I guess your personal propensity is balanced out in this yin yang world 🙂

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