With the recent surge of complaints about “lost” reviews in the forums, Google acknowledging that there were a number of reasons that a review might be tagged as spam and that the car industry in particular was being scrutinized, I thought it might make sense to rerun this May article about coping with lost reviews. If you feel that you have suffered unfairly at the hands of Google’s review spam filter, please report your issue to Google in this post in the “help” forum.
Google continues having technical issues with losing reviews (here is my first report from August 2008 of them being lost – the issue goes back quite a ways.) particularly when the CID of a listing changes due to a merge. Also they seem to be tightening down what appears to be a relatively unsophisticated spam algo (first confirmed in November 2010) that is catching a number of good reviews with the bad.
Don Campbell, amongst many others over the past few days, asked me what to tell rightfully upset clients that lose reviews from their Google Places page.
Here is what I do when I have a client that has lost reviews:
1) Educate the client: I refer people to this Google authored article, Having technical issues with the reviews on your listing? In it Google outlines most of the issues as to why reviews go missing. The issues range from spam abatement to Google simply losing them in certain situations. Google notes that in most situations there is often little to be done even by The Google themselves until the issues are fixed and appropriate tools are developed on their end. (In fact it really make the most sense to educate your client BEFORE they lose reviews so that they know what to expect and when it does happen you are not the one that they take their frustration out on.)
2) Provide a dose of humor and reality: Since there is not much a client or SEO can do, I also provide them with the 6,6,6 rule for lost reviews to guide them as to what to expect in terms of recovery of the reviews. It might offer some small comfort.
What is the 6,6,6 review rule? (any client imagined thoughts about the devil suggested by my guideline are actively encouraged)
If reviews don’t come back to the Google Places page in 6 days, they might return in 6 weeks
If they don’t return in 6 weeks they might return in 6 months
If they don’t return in 6 months they have descended to Dante’s 6th Ring of Hell
3) Encourage themto stick with the plan: Regardless of what Google is doing (or more likely not doing) in regards to reviews this week, the best tactic is to keep on truckin’… continue to get more reviews ethically at both Google AND 3rd party sites. I know it is hard and discouraging when difficult to obtain reviews are lost but neither the client (nor we) can control what Google does. The client can, in the end, only control what they do. It is better to have some reviews rather than none. A steady stream of reviews at the review sites will guarantee that the business has a solid review base no matter what and no matter whether Google has lost ‘em again.
4) Advise the business to take control of their own destiny: (Contributed by Jacob Puhl) With the realization that some percentage of reviews will likely continue to disappear, the client should take it upon themselves to make copies of the reviews they do recieve at Google. If the reviews do disappear, repurpose those that disappeared as testimonials on the client web site. In the same vein, implement hReview/Schema.org formatted testimonials on your site to highlight these “lost” reviews so that there is the chance of getting the additional review stars in search. Be sure that the testimonial page has enough prominence that there is a chance that it will be used by Google as a review page.
Reviews are hard to come by and painful to lose but just because Google doesn’t have their act together doesn’t mean that your client shouldn’t either. The value of reviews in terms of increased credibility & conversions is too high for the SMB to just give up on the process when confronted with adversity.
If you already have a Google+ Business page (or create one) then you can now merge that Google+ Business page with your existing G+ Local page by following the new verification procedure.
The process is initiated from the Google+ Business page. Any manager of the page can initiate the process which will require postcard verification even if the email addresses match between the G+ Business page and your Dashboard. Apparently, in several months, a more automatic merge will be available to those businesses that have only a Google+Local Page/Dashboard.
Here are the steps to the process:
1. Login in as the manager for the Google+ Business page and make sure that all necessary fields are public. I just ran through this process for Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law in Orlando. Click on the unverified icon to the immediate right of your business name. A warning will show if you neglected to make any of the required fields available for public view. Fix the non public fields by changing the visibility of the specific fields noted. (Not sure what is happening with the message being blocked- Google has noted that message being blocked is a known bug that is being fixed):
If there is still any doubt that keyword detail will completely disappear at some point in the very near future my monthly analytics should dispel it. The analytics for my blog indicate that over 60% of the keywords are no longer provided.
While my blog has a more technical readership than many sites and the users have very high adoption rate of Chrome and Firefox, it is provides strong directional indication of what will happen on most sites in the coming months.
Joy hypothesized that the result is a function of rich snippet formatting of the address being on the website. That however does not appear to be the case as neither site seems to have rich snippet information. Actually the more I look at the example that Joy is showing of the before and after, what I think we are seeing is a new more obvious Plus Box display. These typically will use reliable web based address information but it need not be rich snippet in nature.
I am curious if you are seeing these types of results on other searches? Is it a test? How widely visible is it? Let me know.
Update: Once I realized that this is likely to be a new type of Plus Box Display, I searched results that have in the past returned the Plus Box and saw this new type of result: (more…)
Since the rollout of Google+ Local the complaints about missing reviews have risen dramatically in the forums. The issues that Google have had right along with losing reviews remain much the same and reviews can go missing for many of the same reasons:
- Marked as spam
- They are misplaced by Google briefly or for longer periods
- Users mark their review as private in the transition to PLus
- A listing has dupes and the review gets associated with the other listing
- A rating will show in the review count but not in the review corpus
But apparently something has changed. In conversations in the private forum Google noted the following high level points regarding spam that we could share and that may make life easier for some of you:
- car dealership reviews are usually, but not always, spammy
- Google will only allow one review per person per business
- Copy pasting the same review for multiple locations is also not allowed (Google will delete both instances of the review)
- Putting URLs in reviews will result in the review being marked as spam
Executive summary: A bug fix again, a new bug and a new, old bug reappears. 2 Steps backwards and 1 step forward for the second time. Progress is hard to come by.
1- 00:24 A Bug fix- The analytics are once again visible in the dashboard. The is a new fix of the same problem as several months ago. Or is it an old fix for a different problem… I am getting confused
2- 00:52 A New bug- Editing a single listing in the location manager (bulk listings) can lead to weird behaviors on the Google+ page.
3- 1:10 A new old bug- Some businesses are once again are intermittantly unable to leave review responses. This feature sometimes never works especially when a listing has been claimed more than once but now it is even more random than ever
Google For Business Community Manager Jade W has just posted this sticky note in the forum:
The troubleshooter under “My listing has incorrect information” for Google+ Local support (http://goo.gl/6RYFm) is currently unavailable. It’ll be back in about a week.
In the meantime, the support team’s working hard to go through the previously submitted requests. We’re also working on revamping and improving some of the troubleshooting processes we’ve got in place.
Don’t worry — the rest of the troubleshooter and the main channel for reporting incorrect information are still available. Here’s the deal:
1.) Listing is live but has data issues/incorrect information? Go through Report a problem on Google Maps or Edit business details on Google+ Local. Requesting data changes through these channels is not automatic — they are all reviewed — so don’t expect to see an immediate fix.
2.) “Do not support this location” issue? These listings will have a chance to be reviewed and reinstated, working on getting a better process in place. For now, review the quality guidelines and make sure the listing complies. Give it a poke and wait a few days. Keep an eye out here for when the support team is available again.
3.) Verification issue? Go through the troubleshooter as always — that part is still available (http://goo.gl/6RYFm).
I’ll update this post with more information as needed.
Clearly, Google is struggling with handling the problems created by the move to Google+Local and the self inflicted problems caused by the “We Currently Do Not Support” take downs. For those of you that were improperly taken down the comments above hold out some hope but nothing very soon. For those of you that have been merged or have the wrong reviews, you will have to wait until Google catches up.
Which can be shortened to: Google Maps URL: https://maps.google.com/maps?cid=9198701853947205333
3- You can then take the CID from that URL and insert it into the following Mapmaker url: “http://www.google.com/mapmaker?gw=90&cid=”
to create the MapMaker URL for the listing:
Google MapMaker URL: http://www.google.com/mapmaker?gw=90&cid=9198701853947205333
With this information you can communicate clearly to Google Places for Business support and as Dan noted “If you have that info, then almost any POI [in MapMaker] is recoverable and editable, no matter what it’s status”.
When Google wants to verify information about a business and when unable to verify it in a fully automated way, they have someone call that business. The calls can result in suspensions and removals from the index (“We do not support this location”).
The call may be precipitated by a change you made to the listing that could not be automatically verified, it could be precipitated by someone marking you as closed, Google could just be looking for service area businesses that has not properly hidden their address or businesses using fake locations and call forwarding.
Regardless the someone making the call for Google is from India and the calls are always very weird. The Indians don’t always understand what is said and for sure, don’t understand the pace of our lives. The calls are somewhat jarring and out of context, the caller only identifies themselves as from Google if asked directly and they are inevitably viewed with suspicion by the local business.
In this particular case, Precision Door Memphis, is a totally legit business with a long time track record at a location where they accept client visits. Google called from 650-253-2000 and shows up as GOOGLE INC in the caller id but the receptionist did not have that information available to her at the time of the call.
Unfortunately for the business, Google sounded much too much like the daily spam local SEO marketing calls and the receptionist hung up on the first caller. The listing disappeared that night and showed the now infamous “We do not support this location” message. To Google’s credit they called back again to be sure and again, sounding like spammers, the receptionist hung up on them.
Here are the actual recordings of the calls.
The first call:
And four days later another call:
Your thoughts? Have you gotten these calls? How did your organization respond? What should Google do differently when human verifying the calls?
A note of caution. On each recording the initial sound (shown as two, wide vertical segments) of the ringing is very loud and the subsequent conversations are quite soft. So block your ears for the beginning and crank it up after that section to hear the details
Pending Google’s recovering listings that had been erroneously removed from the Local index, Google advised businesses that they could try to recover the listing themselves via MapMaker.
Jeff Maltz asked the question as to the specifics of how this was to done. I thought the question deserved a thorough and technical answer so that others in the same place could enter MapMaker partially armed. Not being fully versed in the arcane world of MapMaker, I asked Dan Austin, a long time MapMaker user and expert to explain the process in detail.
I’m curious if anyone out there has actually been successful at getting a listing that was removed from Places, but still showing up on Maps, back on Places per Google’s note
“If you’re confident that your business fits within our guidelines, then search for your business at mapmaker.google.com and see if it has been marked as removed. If you’re able to find it, attempt to undo the removal and reinstate your listing on Maps. It may take a couple of days for your reinstatement to be processed.”
How do you undo a removal from Places? What are the exact steps i should take here? My listing is still showing up in Maps just not Places.
Thanks for your help in advance!
Dan Austin’s answer:
The trouble is in finding it [a record that has been removed from the Places index] in MM. Most business owners never bothered to save their Place page URL, but if you can recover that, about 50% of the time you can recover the original MapMaker URL. The other half of the problem is some POIs are not recoverable from MM, no matter what you do. That is the “widespread technical” issue that Google is talking about.
I’m also confused by his terminology. Visible on Maps but not Places? I assume he mean Map Maker:
1. Go to the Place page. If it shows the message We don’t support this location, that isn’t an issue.
2. Recover the CID number from the Place page, which should look like this:
http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=705997672099256085 (The Place page is visible if you click on Edit business details or Edit details on the Google+ Page. It also recoverable by clicking on the Map pin to the right of listing.)
3. Plug the CID number (which is only a number—no letters: 705997672099256085) into this formula:
4. Cut/paste the URL into the address bar of your browser. Open that location.
5. If it comes up with an error message, then the POI is most likely irretrievably lost. Go to step 16.
6. If it shows as Removed or Closed in details view, click on Edit.
7. If it doesn’t show as Removed or Closed, open it for editing to check the status.
8. If there are checkboxes for Remove or Closed, uncheck them.
9. If there are no checkboxes, then look for any recent edits that say Place removed or Place closed in history. Undo that edit, choose reason as Correcting poor data. If there are no recent edits with that status, then it’s likely unrecoverable. You can try to undo the most recent edits that have no status message, but this may or may not work, since you don’t know what you’re undoing.
10. If you’re able to uncheck the boxes or undo the edit, save the edit. Any error messages means it’s likely unrecoverable.
11. Copy/paste the MM URL from your pending edits, and go this forum:
12. As the title, post the location (NY, NY)
13. Explain what you’re trying to do.
14. Wait for approval from either Google Map Maker Reviewers (GR) or an Regional Expert Reviewer (RER). Post again if you don’t get a satisfactory response within 48 hours.
15. Place page should reappear within 24 hours (often instantly). If it doesn’t appear, then there’s other issues that can’t be resolved in MM, and you’ll need to use Places support.
16. Search for the POI in MM (http://www.google.com/mapmaker), using the search box. Is it a dupe that you’re editing, rather than the original?
Here’s how to check if it’s a dupe, or if it’s the original:
16a. Open the POI in a separate tab. Right click on URL, open in separate tab.
16b. Edit. Click history. Does the history match with the changes you’ve made? Does it have a history? If no on either question, then it’s likely a dupe, and your original Place page is unrecoverable.
16c. To check further, right click, Find cid. Does the CID match the original Place page URL? If you don’t have the original Place page URL, plug the copy/pasted CID number (example: 705997672099256085) into the following URL formula: http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=
so it reads http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=705997672099256085
16d. Open this URL. If it’s a We do not support this location or a page that doesn’t match your original listing, then it’s not your claimed listing.
Best practices for managing Place pages.
Record the following URLs:
3. Map Maker
Example for Good Food Store:
1. Google+: https://plus.google.com/107937670594974239538/
2. Places: https://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=705997672099256085
3. MM: http://www.google.com/mapmaker?gw=39&fid=0x535dcddf42144869:0x84ed04d79b4b8549
If you have that info, then almost any POI is recoverable and editable, no matter what it’s status.