Category Archives: Reviews

Facebook Reviews Should Be a Part of Every SMB Review Plan

If you had any doubts as to whether Facebook has a place in your review strategy, news this past week from Bill Bean that Facebook reviews were now showing in the Google “Reviews from Around the Web” should put them to rest.

I was curious how widespread this was and whether it was just a one off or if Google had started including links to Facebook reviews on a widespread basis. A number of folks noted to me that they had seen Facebook.com links on their reviews from around the web .
ReviewUsonFacebook
This search at Google (site:plus.google.com “verified local business” AND “facebook.com” AND “Reviews From Around the Web”) indicates that Google has indexed a large number of Facebook review pages and is including them on the business’ G+ Page for Local.

Facebook has snuck up on us in the local review space over the past 12 months to become a significant player. Facebook rolled out reviews across all of their business pages last November but earlier this year limited reviews to just pages that were for local businesses.

My research clearly indicates that Facebook has become a strong contender as a favorite amongst users as a place to leave local reviews.Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 8.37.24 AM Continue reading

Google Dropping Review Shadow Box in Serp and Going Directly to Plus?

Yesterday while doing training I noticed that Google was dropping the review shadow box from the main search results and taking users directly to the business Plus page.  Today others are noticing this as well. Nicolai Helling pointed the new behavior out on G+.

As Nicolai mentioned and I agree this change “seems to be preparatory to release a new way to insert the Google+ Local results into the main Google-SERPs” that I wrote about early in the week with the total absence of review links in the new mini pack results. 

Currently the review shadow box STILL shows for brand searches on both the link under the One Pack and in the Knowledge panel.  But on Pack results users are directed to the Plus About page. On the current Carousel a click takes the searcher to a brand search.

While it is possible that the 7-pack will survive the carousel transition to newly seen Mini Pack, all of this behavior would be consistent with changing all local results to the new mini pack as well.

Brand Search still directs to the Review Shadow Box
Brand Search & resultant knowledge panel still directs to the Review Shadow Box
click to view larger
click to view larger

 

Yelp Coming Under Fire For Review Take Downs From Its Reviewers

Yelp is caught in the middle of the shit storm surrounding the hotel that recently was outed for fining wedding parties if they left bad reviews. Thousands of reviews have been posted there and thousands removed.

Now though, many reviewers are targeting Yelp for their squelching of dissent and their ability to properly vet reviews. Yelp gave reviewers the power to publicly provide feedback and now they really want to publicly provide negative feedback about Yelp. Interesting turn of the screw.

l.jpgI spent a considerable amount of time researching their claim that it was a joke and posted my findings only to have yelp remove it along with 900+ other reviews. In my post, I provided a timeline from archive.org that clearly laid out when they posted the policy (december 2012) on their site, each (multiple times in 2013) revision to the page that contained the policy as well as the final revision (two edits  yesterday) where they removed the verbiage.

It clearly was not a joke and was absolutely intentional. Damn shame I didn’t copy the post as it would have been a helluva lot easier to post again. For shits and giggles, I’ll attach the email I received from yelp.

Censorship at its best… Douche’s

Dear Yelp,

For removing my review and sending a message I could not reply to I’ve decided to break up with you. I was $500 in hand ready to put our deposit down for our wedding at USH! Why?!?!?

I am so over your over-controlling, abusive ways. You never listen to me even when I try to add a post or sometimes help you update restaurant. You are so insensitive to the feelings of others.

Also I want you to know I met someone on this website. Urban spoon and I are going to try it out for a while to see how things go. Who knows if  lucky I’ll get a little on google places too?

Bye, it was fun while it lasted!

Your policies are outrageous. You should definitely think long and hard if this is how you want to treat your customers as very soon you will have none. 


For Yelp to remove the negative reviews shows that the whole idea of reviews is controlled. Good or Bad reviews are subject to removal? 

Then why write a review at all?

The removal of so many negative “reviews” – opinions from teh internetz more correctly – calls into question Yelp.com’s ability to actually field reviews good or bad in any fashion at all.  Surely the system would reject “reviews” unless the stay date was indicated – oh, I guess not.  Gee, I guess anyone could pad the profile of any business any way they like….hmmm…..

No wonder Yelp.com puts so much effort into arguing for their credibility.

Yelp removed my review yesterday, as far as i know, i can post my review free of limitations and express my opinion.

I disagree this place for charging $500 dollars if you post a bad review. And I will disagree if Yelp remove my post again.

 

Yelp Reviewers – They May be Weird But Andrew Shotland Appreciates their Humor

By now most everyone has heard about the Union Street Guest House, recently outed for threatening a $500 fine if anyone in your wedding party left a bad review.

The pile on has started. As of yesterday there were 161 reviews on their page there and most (146) were in response to the news article that was published yesterday. As the news hit social media the reviews came hot and heavy and there are now 872 reviews. The wait is on to see how long and how many of these reviews survive the various filters and manual removals that are likely to come.

Obviously trying to muzzle customers post sale is not a great strategy and unlike the battle at Big Earl’s is unlikely to find any support on the other side of the argument (just to show what a weird society we live in.. it should be the other way around).

That being said before the reviews were removed from Yelp I wanted to bring some of the more colorful ones to your attention:

Adolf H.
Hudson, NY
0 friends
1 review

5.0 star rating 8/5/2014
Mein stay here vas actually very nice. I kame here vis a open mind it vas actually really quite nice. Ze owners ver lovely. I love to meet people who sink ze same as I do. Zey agreed with me on all my ideas! Overall it vas a nice stay and I loved ze decorations; ze red and black vurked so well, I sink I might use it for a project I have planned!

I just vish I’d not brought mein Gestapo buddies. Zey were up all night partying and marching vis ze owners all night! It vas a crazy time, ja!

Noj S.
La Mesa, CA
0 friends
1 review

1.0 star rating 8/5/2014
I reserved my suite online. When I arrived around 9pm, I was informed that the two room suite I had prepaid for was no longer available because they had assumed I wasn’t coming, and they were going to place me in a “deluxe” room with one queen bed. With my family of 7, I asked about either a second room or a refund so I could stay elsewhere. They refused stating that because I had paid Expedia, that any refund would have to be between me and them. Also, they didn’t have any other rooms available.

Not having much choice, I decided to just stay the night and try to talk some sense into the day manager. On the check-in form, I had to initial that they would charge an additional $500 if I gave them a negative review. I shrugged since I don’t usually review places anyways.

The staff was nice enough to provide extra blankets and pillows so that the kids could “camp” out on the floor. Hell, it’s a fun experience, right?
My daughter (3) woke up around 1am complaining of itching. We told her to go back to bed. Little did we know that she was getting bit by insects which we now know to be bedbugs. BEDBUGS? Seriously? Is this 1800s London?

I took plenty of photos and moved my family out the next morning. Thankfully with my receipt and photos, Citi allowed me to charge back my stay to Expedia, which charged it back to Unioin Street Guest House.
And, since my experience really happened, BRING IT ON! FIRST AMENDMENT BITCHES!

Joe D.
Bayside, NY
0 friends
25 reviews

2.0 star rating 8/5/2014
I got married here in 2013 but I didn’t read the fine print carefully. Apparently the Hotel Manager had the right of “Prima Nocta” and was legally allowed to sleep with the bride on the first night. Needless to say this lead to serious issues with the marriage. I’m fairly sure he impregnated my wife- the DNA test says the baby isn’t mine.

On the other hand they did leave a chocolate on the pillow, so it wasn’t all bad- they deserve an extra star for that.

Mal V.
Malvern, PA
2 friends
18 reviews

5.0 star rating 8/5/2014
PLEASE NOTE! You must rate Union Street Guest House SIX stars in order to avoid the $500 fine. How is that possible Yelp’s rating only goes up to 5 stars, you ask?

Tough titty said the kitty. Now pay up.

And a few more for good luck:

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A Plug-in for Adding Google Reviews to Your WordPress Blog

Update: I just heard from David Deering about the plug-in’s use of Schema. Firstly the schema is not done correctly. More importantly however (which I suspected but didn’t investigate as I thought the schema was reserved for the paid version… mea culpa) marking up reviews and ratings that were created on another site actually goes against Google’s guidelines for rich snippets (ed note: I am looking for that guideline).  It would be a much better plugin if it didn’t create schema markups, although the data sent through the API could still be considered duplicate/scraped content, since it does end up in the page’s HTML code.  But I don’t think/hope that Google is too strict about that, although they’ve never really come out with something definite on that subject.

Here is the relevant guideline from Google: Be of original content that you and your users have generated and is fully contained on your page.

Many have asked for a way to post their Google reviews on their site. This plug-in seems to solve many of the problems associated with doing that and seems to provide a useful solution.

Google Places Reviews, installed at the right, allows a WordPress site to relatively easily embed up to the 3 most recent Google reviews in a sidebar as a widget or if you purchase the pro version, up to 5 reviews on any page using short codes. With the pro version you can filter by star rating as well.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 6.12.27 PMFrom their WordPress page:

Plugin Features

  • Google Business Reviews – Display up to 3 business reviews per location.
  • Detailed Business Information – Show the business name, website, Google+ page and more.
  • Versatile Widget Themes – Choose from a selection of stunning widget themes that fit light and dark color schemes that make integration with your website design effortless.
  • Google Places Autocomplete – Easily lookup businesses in your area through the widget interface using the power of Google search.
  • Actively Supported and Developed – We are a team of expert developers based in San Diego, California and we stand by our work. Got a problem? Hit us up.

Google Places Reviews Pro Version Features

Google Places Reviews Pro is a significant upgrade to Google Places Reviews that adds many features to the core plugin:

  • More Reviews – Display up to 5 reviews using the Google Places API
  • Powerful Shortcode – Display reviews in your post and page content
  • Schema.org Tags for SEO – Help search engines find the information quickly and display reviews of a company’s product and services on search engine results pages
  • Review concatenation – Some reviews returned by Google may be very long which could result in a very long widget. The Pro version includes a customizable feature for collapsing and expanding long reviews with “Read more” and “Close” links.
  • Fast loading – Optimized widget caching included within the plugin ensure you save on load time and API calls

Setup requires that you obtain a Google API Free for up to 1000 uses per day) and configure the widget.  Set up was relatively straight forward and took about 10 minutes once I understood exactly what needed to be done.

My assessment? Since it uses the Google api I assume (but am not positive) that it avoids duplicate content issues. It is free for showing three reviews and only $20 if you want the pro version to allow more reviews and filtering options.

Set up was relatively painless and the free version seems to work well. I find the idea that the pro version would support schema for this use somewhat strange and I doubt that Google would see the content as part of the page but it might. Someone needs to test and let me know.

Update: David pointed out to me that the basic version in fact does use schema both improperly and in violation of Google guidelines. Until that is fixed this is not a plug in that I would recommend.

All in all what appears to be a slick solution to a question that is often raised.

Here is the screen shot for the widget configuration: Continue reading

Google My Business – Let’s Not Stop Here – My Wish List for Upgrades

Google’s recent My Business rollout puts a very strong product in the hands of the SMB – mobile social posting to business pages, additional social analytics, easy to update local information. It finally solves most of the issues that have haunted Local since 2011. If it isn’t obvious I think it is a well done, forward facing product with legs. And one that, unbeknownst to many, was one of modern computing’s most amazing technical pivots (but that is a tale for another day).

01- Welcome ScreenObviously Google is allocating significant resources to My Business. Given a taste of what it can be I now want more (ah the curse of rising expectations). There are still a few things that need to be fixed and some features that I would love to see added sooner rather than later.

Here is my wish list:

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Reviews, Politics and Big Earl’s

OK Big Earl and his staff are cretins. That can be agreed.

They have managed, by virtue of being outspoken, bigoted and unthinking, to have put themselves in the middle of a media maelstrom and a subsequent flame war in the world of reviews.

The story, first reported by KLTV on May 27th, noted that a gay couple had fallen prey to the posted anti gay policy of the restaurant:

That waitress who used a derogatory term is Earl’s daughter.

“She’s a young lady, didn’t know what else to say, and they just kept on and she finally said we just don’t like fags,” he[r father] explained.

The story went viral, hitting most online news services earlier this month. While the reporting has died down, the review war seems to be just starting up. And yesterday it was reported that Yelp had publicly declared that these types of reviews were going to be taken down.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 4.12.39 PMI was curious to see how much activity there was on the review sites about this and given Yelp’s response, to get a sense of whether the other sites themselves had responded to the issue in any way.

I looked at how many old reviews existed before the incident and how many new reviews were placed after the incident and whether they were supportive or not of Big Earl.

Total Visible 5 star New 1 Star New Removed Old Reviews
Superpages 11 8 3 0
Google 6/4 102 19 82 1
Google 6/6 3 0 3 99 0
Tripadvisor 10 0 9 1
YP.com 11 0 7 2
Yelp 3 0 2 930 1
Facebook 193 60 133 0

 

The stats are interesting and say a lot about the review world that we currently live in. People obviously have no qualms about expressing their opinions about a political issue via reviews.  And as you can see on their Facebook page, have no qualms calling each other names in a public forum.

Clearly due to Yelp’s demographics, they are first place where a protest review of this sort might go and it’s apparently on the order of 5X more likely a spot than Facebook and 10X more likely than Google. Tripadvisor, YP.com and Superpages are also rans in this race.

Also it is interesting that of the 930 reviews removed by Yelp I only saw one favoring Big Earl (to be honest I got tired of looking after checking several hundreds of them).  This would jive with my research indicating that Yelpers are younger and more urban and obviously in strong support of gay rights.

Facebook, while not having anywhere near the volume of reviews of Yelp, certainly had many more review comments and of the three sites they had the most supporters on a % basis of Big Earl. It is also intriguing that there were more reviews there than at Google. It could very well be that when no one was looking Facebook has built out a decent sized review corpus. Uncurated for sure and perhaps less than stellar quality but big none the less.  ( Note: I am unable to load the page this am so perhaps it has been taken down?)

Google users seem to skew closer to Yelp than Facebook in political view. Although because of the lack of transparency of their filter we don’t really know if any reviews have yet been pulled downs.

Update 6/6 1:45 PM: Dave spotted the fact that Google has removed most of the reviews as of noon today. Interesting that they left 3 new reviews and removed the one review from a year ago. The 3 reviews they left are all somewhat suspect.

It would appear, although it isn’t certain in Google’s case, that most of the review sites have not removed these reviews.

It certainly raises some interesting questions:

Should review sites be used as a political forum?

Should these obviously political reviews be left to stand regardless of the fact that they never visited the business?

Does it make sense, as a political act, to use reviews as a forum?

What should the review sites do in response to a situations like this?

I certainly have my own opinions on these issues but I would love to hear yours. So before you read on, take  a moment and think about what you think makes sense in the review world for readers, for the sites themselves and for any political/social movement that might think about using reviews in this way…..

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