Last week’s reports of hijackings of legitimate business listings in Maps highlighted wide spread abuse of both Google’s community edit AND the reviews feature. In addition to hijacking listings, the affiliate spammers have been rapidly adding bogus reviews. Most IYP sites have a rapid response to such activities and will quickly pull down a bogus review in response to a business owner. NOT GOOGLE!
This posting in the Groups highlights the issue (and provides plenty of fodder for the curmudgeon in me):
TOPIC: Abusive, false REVIEW
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Sat, Sep 20 2008 11:46 am
I am very disappointed by the GOOGLE MAPS Local Business Center.
Terrible customer service.
A week ago somebody (probably competition or very mean person) had been posted false , abusive “review” against me and my business on few internet sources. So, I did request to remove these “review”. Other sources (Insider Pager, Yahoo Local, City Search ) co-operated very good and “review” was quickly removed. The only problem I have with Google Maps.
I have used the flagging tool many times but Google isn’t responding at all. So what else I can do ?
Maybe If the review is false or exaggerated ours only recourse is to sue or remove ours business from Maps. Does any one know a real live person I can talk to at Google to resolve this problem?
Or somebody else now other way how resolve this problem ?
Google has two issues in this regard. Firstly, their scraping and updating of reviews has a very long and unpredictable update cycle. At best, if a review is removed from CitySearch it will be gone from Google in 6 to 8 weeks. But that is a best case scenario and that is not always the case.
Secondly, on Google generated reviews the only review removal request option is a community feature allowing a review to be flagged as inappropriate. There is no indication that Google even looks at this community input on a reliable basis. If they do, there is no feedback to the harmed business. There are no clear guidelines nor consistent action to indicate which reviews, if any, will be taken down.
Ok, Google, time to grow up!
You are rapidly achieving market dominance in the Local Listing space. As evidenced by last week hijackings and many other previous reports, the Local OneBoxes can have incredibly negative impact on a local business.
While it is great that Google is providing a “free” marketing resource it is turning out to be not so “free” at all and for some the costs are quite high. If you want to be a part of our local communities than act that way!
We know that you can have a positive influence on our communities in bringing new technologies to bear on old problems. Welcome to our home town. But don’t be soiling the bed in which you sleep!
As to technical solutions to the problem of tracking down and limiting the influence of the “bad apple” reviewers I am sure that Google has plenty of qualified coders to tackle the issue. But if they need a refresher course Ahmed Farooq wrote a great piece with a summary of his tactics at iBegin.
My suggestion: Turn the Local Business Center into a relationship management tool and show the business owner EVERY review that you have in your index whether scraped or Google entered. Show us which ones are in our Maps listing and let us respond directly to those folks that created the review in Google. If we flag an inappropriate review from within the LBC, guarantee some sort of review process and a timeframe. And provide a response, even if automated!