Minor Change to Review Presentation on the Places Page

Google has changed the date information attached to a review and switched from the actual date created to a rough estimate of when it was created. The actual date is still visible if you click through to the reviewer. The change seems to create a greater visual sense of whether reviews are coming in over time.

Now if they would just fix the problem of losing reviews. I find it amazing that Google is continuing to release new local products without fixing underlying issues like the problems they have keeping track of reviews and their lack of transparency in fighting review spam…

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Minor Change to Review Presentation on the Places Page by

13 thoughts on “Minor Change to Review Presentation on the Places Page”

  1. Hi Mike,

    I noticed this change…. right after I got over the shock of Google flushing yet more reviews. My frustration level is reaching Yelp-like proportions. Customers take time to create accounts and write thoughtful reviews, only to have them disappear a few days, weeks, or even months later. I think I actually had more Places reviews at this time last year. I don’t get it (angry face).

    Thank you for letting me rant!! 😉

  2. @Keith

    It is frustrating and is one of the huge pain points that they have created by not handling reviews with the care that the SMB thinks they deserve.

    I don’t get it either. Reviews have been a problem from day one (2007?) and they have only gotten worse now that more people are using them. Obviously it has to do with the way they handle the data and their priorities but I am with you… get your s#*t together already.

  3. I echo everything Keith & Mike just said. It’s a very odd change to make at this point in time, when there are SO many other things in local they should be prioritizing over this. It makes me wonder if it’s because Google either has no idea how to fix the problem, or just wants us to suffer a little more (as they watch us inside a snowglobe, laughing at us from the outside). Sigh.

  4. Mike, thanks for posting.

    I noticed this a couple weeks ago in the wee hours. It struck me as an odd, trivial change – especially in light of the larger problem of spam and disappearing reviews.you’ve said).

    One problem with this change is if you get reviews at a decent clip, people now have a *worse* sense of tell how quickly the reviews actually come in. If last week 5 customers wrote you a total of 5 reviews over the span of 7 days, to the visitor it just looks like ALL the reviews were written in one giant blast “a week ago.” It can look almost spammy, especially if you don’t look at the reviews on deeper pages.

    In one sense, yes, this creates a “greater visual sense” of how quickly the reviews come in – as you’ve said. But in another sense, especially for businesses that get a really good influx of reviews, it makes customers have to dig a little deeper if they want to get any sense of how quickly the reviews come in.

  5. Having recently suffered a dup, having had all the reviews associated with the long term former record lost for the time being, and having been receiving nonsensical response template emails from google via the “report a problem” options….I whole heartedly agree with what Mike wrote in the 2nd paragraph:

    “Now if they would just fix the problem of losing reviews. I find it amazing that Google is continuing to release new local products without fixing underlying issues like the problems they have keeping track of reviews and their lack of transparency in fighting review spam…

  6. Gotta add something about review problems in general. There is a new local restaurant near me that I love. I happen to go there a lot and am friendly with the chef/owner and staff. I’m trying to assist them a bit gratis…because they face some brutal local conditions.

    In any case the owner showed me some recent yelp reviews. I’m 99% sure they don’t ask anyone for reviews.

    2 reviews came in yesterday. One is visible the other is “filtered”. The restaurant name was inherited from the former operator about 10 months ago. Yelp is currently showing 72 reviews with over 100 filtered. The vast vast vast majority of the reviews being shown are related to the former owner and operation.

    Of the filtered ones…I looked at the last 15 all of them since Jan 1 this year..and of course they represent the current operation. and they were all good.

    Yelp is getting the review picture wrong for this smb. Its been contacted repeatedly. Nothing is changing.

    What is it with these web businesses??????

  7. i think this minor changes is minor algo moving to stop/moderate fake reviews. For now it says when and by whom but could be advanced to detail true and fake reviews

  8. @Phil
    I often have wondered if there is a “natural” rate for reviews per industry and whether that velocity was measured by Google. You are saying that you certainly think an alert customer notices.

    If it were me, I would be sure those reviewers had opportunities to spread those over numerous third party sites so that the density was not as thick at one site.

    1)Hopefully temporary
    2)A new owner should be able to get a clean slate from both Yelp AND Google.

    Google has had 5 years to deal with fake reviews and while they have made some progress the problem seems to run faster than they can write code.

  9. @Mike:

    Hopefully….but direct response is still often a black hole. Its not for our lack of trying to provide explicit description of situation. The responses we get from the “report a problem” process don’t inspire any confidence. We are either getting template responses or someone on the other end is unable to respond in comprehensible English.

    A new owner.. should get a clean slate…..but so far it isn’t occurring smoothly or easily.

    Just gotta keep trudging away…in the meantime the big providers of info on the web….just aren’t all that responsive…..at least in these cases.

    I know sometimes they are….and sometimes they aren’t.

  10. I’m kind of split on this. While I understand the woes of lost reviews, its a necessary evil. Clearly Google has to have some measures in place to fight review spam. I’d rather them err on the side of making it TOO difficult to have reviews stick rather than making it too easy so competitors can blast out fake review spam. I think it’s just something the business owners need be aware of and understand their review algo.

    Also, ‘recency’ or time of review is definitely relevant to the user. Users no doubt would want to know in what time frame the review went up. If it is a review that is 4 years old, the user might look differently at it than a recent one. I see this as a small but good move for user experience.

  11. Jacob

    I agree that spam abatement is a critical task but that is really not the core of the problem. Google has publicly noted at least three ways that they lose reviews. Some are short term and some are forever. Clearly these are not just an artifact of a review spam algo but fundamental flaws in the system architecture.

    And as far as spam goes, their algo seems tag lots of perfectly fine reviews in the process AND miss a lot of obvious spam.

  12. Definitely. Clearly its not perfect (lol @ Keith above with ” Yelp-like proportions”) but its a very touchy and difficult thing if you are Google… and I’m not giving them a pass as I’m usually the first one to spout off comments at some of their nonsensical policies and bugs 🙂 Our clients have lost their fair share of reviews, no doubt, ESPECIALLY on Yelp. Many, many lost in aggregate.

    But I do think some collateral damage with some reviews is going to be part of game, permanently. There’s no way around it as long as review spam is out there.

    My best advice for business owners trying to navigate through the given current conditions with Google is to

    1) factor in about 20% of reviews being lost, sometimes more.
    2) own your reviews. take back ups or screen shots. If you “lose reviews” possibly ask the reviewer if they mind if the review is posted on their website and post on your site with proper markup language. Find some way to keep the reviews as they are an asset that needs to be used.
    3) implement the hreview microformat. This has been working very well and it is a way to supplement and workaround the google system. See here: http://screencast.com/t/GvaN3N8d

    Unfortunately we are working in Google’s system and they make the rules so we just have to find the best way to work around them while they ‘clean things up’.

  13. Dave,
    That is a really good illustration you’ve given regarding a business changing hands. Here’s a novel suggestion – Google should have a radio button in the dashboard reading:

    Business is now under new management. Delete reviews prior to…

    And give a field to fill in the date.

    Unlikely to ever see this happen, but it certainly would help thousands of businesses every year.

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