Google Maps Review Policy in need of Review Rant!

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
From: salon_1

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!

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps Review Policy in need of Review Rant! by

13 thoughts on “Google Maps Review Policy in need of Review Rant!”

  1. Mike –

    I couldn’t agree more – and there’s an additional issue with the way users reviews can help or hinder small businesses:

    When a user queries a company name in the main G search, a One Box often appears if it’s a local business. This florist will be happy, but this one surely won’t. (Both actually have good local reputations in their communities.) Imagine a regular customer searching for your site or phone number and being dissuaded to make a purchase by the data displayed.

    Juxtapose how small local businesses are shown vs national companies (all major advertisers, BTW.) If searchers are supposed to be helped with user reviews, then why not display this, this and this when consumers query those companies by name, too?

    Cathy

  2. Cathy

    So even though Google clearly has review information in its indexes, it is not transparently making that information available to view in Maps?

    Mike

  3. Sometimes the best thing to do is just concentrate on providing top notch customer service and encouraging customers to leave a good review for you online.

    There will always be that one very vocal person that had a bad experience with any business.

  4. Hi Paul

    In normal circumstances I would say that you are spot on. Great customer service and great products go a long way to making happy customers who will in the end far out weigh the voice of a naysayer.

    However what we are seeing in Google Maps in competitive businesses are one or two people leaving massive amounts of review spam either good or bad to both promote their business or knock down a competitor. All the hard work in the world and all of the good customer relations in the world won’t stop the desecration of a business by a motivated and unethical competitor. It is so easy and so anonymous on Google that it is turning reviews into a meaningless form. Only Google can fix that.

    Mike

  5. While Paul has a great idea, I think that SEO Igloo’s Miram has presented some insight that shows too many positive reviews, especially from a kiosk located at that business could be construed as spam as well, so how do you win? I stated on a previous posting from Mike that maybe it’s time that Google had some oversight, regulation, etc. If I remember right, in the old days, when you were a business, with a business phone number, you got a FREE listing in the YellowPages, and paid for more real estate. Sadly with Google, their inclusion is sporadic, making it unfair/uneven for SMB’s and larger, in return, the consumer is short changed by Google in their sporadic business practices. I agree it’s time for Google to grow up and stop acting like the rich kid on the block that can do what ever he feels, since money talks.

    Keep up the great coverage Mike, maybe slowly Google will start policing itself. Maybe part of the MicroSoft argument is just what you are reporting, the monopoly of Google is slowly happening, like a frog in a pot of water, slowly getting to a boil, and yet the frog is totally un-aware of the coming doom.

  6. @David

    I think over the long haul, you win by doing your job ethically and as Paul points out, earning your reviews every step of the way.

    Miriam’s article was specifically about Yelp removing reviews, not other review sources.

    The sooner every small business embraces reviews with a positive strategy the better. Sooner or later the issues will be straightened out (or reviews will be dropped altogether) and if you have a head start it will be hard for your competitors to catch up.

    There are two solid ways to guarantee to get on-going reviews- a kiosk at your place of business or a flyer/handout directing your user to a site like Michael Jensen’s LeaveFeedback.org.

    If some of those reviews get left out or removed from one place or another over time becomes irrelevant if you just keep at it.

    We can ask for fairness from Google, but in a capitalist society where interests are solely aligned with profit, we can not expect it. In that environment you need to do the best you can and hope for the best.

    Mike

  7. Mike, I do remember the Yelp issue, but doesn’t Google also scrape/use Yelp reviews or at the least other local engines grab them, thereby Google places value, even Yahoo, which if that is the case, then those reviews will have an effect. The attitude from Yelp could very well become Google’s in the future.

    Asking patrons to comment is good, but again with the large array of computations used by Google to create results, the placement of a business really needs some type of confirmation, and not the potential hijacking as recently posted.

    Again asking Google seems to be a waste of time (exaggeration of course, but close) so with that if they want to claim dominance in a certain market, that actually effects a businesses outcome, then again regulation may have to happen. Hoping for good things is nice, but sometimes a swift kick in the butt does wonders.

    I know I sound anti-Google, but really I think the opacity they create when it comes to answering legitimate questions and problems leaves an awful lot to be desired. Since they offer this “service for free” I guess they get a bye, but even the AdWords segment is left in the dark a majority of the time.

  8. @David

    At this point Google’s relationship with Yelp is weird in that I don’t think that you see Yelp reviews in the review tab in Maps. Be that as it may, if you are in the restuarant business then you need a dual strategy of Yelp + Google.

    I would approach Yelp with the leavefeedback.org approach and Google with either the kiosk or leavefeedback.org depending on the situation.

    Google really doesn’t rely on reviews too much for ranking (it does play some role) but the Stars seem to have a strong impact on click through.

    I strongly agree with you that Google is opaque & frustrating entity to deal with. I, as you know, criticize their policies on a regular basis and do believe that if they don’t self police, a government (most likely in Europe) will start regulating them. So be it.

    Any argument that Google makes about it being a “free” service or not yet being monetized is disingenuous. Google needs traffic to make money, Maps creates traffic ergo Google is making money.

    It is but one more excuse for their low level of customer service. They don’t get a bye from me as what they are doing is testing the limits of businesses and consumers in this earlier period to understand how much they can get away with later.

    Mike

  9. I have also been victimized by a slanderous remark and the third party review has been removed but Google still shows it. i have requested it to be removed 4 times and to no avail its still there. There customer service really sucks.

  10. I had a whack job post a negative review on my business. I too ran into a brick wall with Google. I deleted my google map account then reactivated it. The post went away for awhile then popped back up. My only recourse it to add more reviews to bury his stupid comment. Which is silly and a frustrating way to handle this problem.

    I finally got a real person at Google by calling about ADWORDS and asking why should I spend money with them to negatively promote my business. The reps responses were funny, he knew the map review policy sucked but didn’t have a manager in the Google organization to direct me to. The company is run by a bunch of kids and in the long run this lack of customer service will hurt them.

    The only recourse we have it to not advertise on Google but to get the message across you have to tell them why your not supporting them. In the end the almighty dollar wins out once the find out it’s costing ad revenues the map review policy will change.

    I wonder what will happen when this results in a death. Someone one day will loose it and kill the person that trashes their small business using google map reviews. Here are some key words for the search engines to find. “Google map review death” Now you can’t say no one thought about it being a life and death issue with an unbalanced person.

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