Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews: Sometimes You Miss the Forrest for the Trees


dumbAmerican business is very focused on goals and measurements. This in particularly true is the sales world. Unfortunately when you treat reviews as the goal it can lead to bad outcomes. A review ask is one step in developing a long term relationship with a customer; it is not an end point. Making it a goal in and of itself can lead to bad outcomes.

Here is a question I received on Google Plus about review processes for a car dealer and my response (Full disclosure I am a principal in GetFiveStars.com an online review process management product which I think is pretty good but may bias my answers. )

Hi I represent a large auto dealership. This quarter we made it a priority to setup Google+ Local pages and start generating reviews. But unfortunately, Even though I have received over 100+ reviews I am seeing only 6 – 8 reviews on any page. This is causing the management to revert to other sites. Can you guys recommend if this issue is resolvable? As we have the quarter ending, we do not have enough reviews to show for all our work. Any recommendations from you will also be useful… 

My answer:
Well my first suggestion is to change
1)your expectations
2)your goals
3)and your methodology

My second suggestion… Continue reading

Reviews: If it is Good Enough to Do, It’s Good Enough to Do in Excess


footFile this under: Bosses come up with the worst ideas category or perhaps in the “it felt so good shooting myself in the left foot, let me do it in my right one as well” category.

This comment was recently posted on my GOOGLE: REVIEW CONTESTS VIOLATE GUIDELINES article from a Mrs G.

Mrs G. (1 comments)

So when is asking no longer asking. I work for a large company who is pushing the reviews so that they can get listed higher on the Google search engine. I mean wow, we are asking them when they come into the store, we are calling them and reminding them that we have not seen the review yet, we are going through our client lists and calling the ones we thing will give good reviews, now we are trying to get them to do the review on their phone before they leave the office. We even offer to use our phone if they did nor bring their and to help them sign up for a Gmail account if they do not have one. Are we going too far?

Dear Mrs G:

Remind me never to shop there.

Mike

 

Reputation Management Dilemma – The Review From Hell


This post recently showed up in the forums:

Link to your local Google+ page
Business name (as it is in your account): Bakersfield Funeral Home
Business location: 3121 19th Street, Bakersfield, CA 93301, USA
Business telephone: 661-871-8080
Business category: Funeral Home
Website: www.bakersfieldfuneral.com

An ex employee is trying to hurt the business after being fired for unprofessional misconduct. They made a fake google account and posted an abusive comment on our google listing and Google+ business page. Can you remove the comment and block his IP address from posting on our listing and Google+?

I followed the link to the local page and found this devastating (and only) review:

review-marijuana

He is in the funeral business so the obvious advice of asking your clients for additional reviews seems to be (wildly) inappropriate. “Gee I know that your loved one just died but if you were happy with the funeral would you mind leaving us a review?” or “Rate your funeral on a scale of one to ten, ten meaning you are willing to leave us a review.”  A clear non starter.

The only idea that struck me as reasonable was to encourage the businesses he does business with to add reviews from the G+ Pages per this David Mihm suggestion.

As Miriam Ellis noted to me in an email: Okay – that is truly terrible! Kind of made me wonder, if this is an ex-employee, if they actually made all of these details up or if any of it was true. 

Which is exactly the problem with this sort of review (assuming it is by an employee). It leaves the impression that it could possibly be true which really complicates the matter. Because of the way it was written it is very unlikely (although possible) that it would be removed by Google. If it is a fake employee review then the ex-employee really knew how to write it in a way that would be convincing.

Let’s assume that it is an employee. And that it is untrue.

What would you would suggest?

Is there a possible response that can be crafted to the review? What would it be?

Is this the rare time that legal action might be recommended?

Fake Reviews – Everyone is doing it, so it must be legal


I absolutely loved this thread at blackhatworld. The original poster asked:

Hi,

Does anybody know if it is illegal to sell fake online reviews?

I have heard about companies getting fined for posting / buying fake reviews, but can the seller actually get in trouble? If so then why does Fiverr allow you to post review gigs, I mean there is a whole section dedicated to them!

If it is illegal what I have in mind is putting in my T&C’s that all the reviews we post will be taken from other review sites for example:

If you have reviews on Amazon we will copy these and put them onto Review Centre.

Any advice would be appreciated!

A smattering of the answers that make it sound a bit more like dumbhatworld:

  • If you don’t say anything negative abut some one or some company it is probably legal. No one can punish you for good review even if it is fake
  • It’s not really illegal since there are so many people doing it..
  • Fake Review Not Problem But Need Different Different IP For Work
  • Slander is illegal so if you’re leaving negative feedback and lying in the process then yes it’s immoral and illegal. If, however, someone offers you a product in exchange for a review (much like what happens in the sales threads on here) then there’s nothing wrong with that, provided the review is honest and fair.

The answers went from dumb to dumber at least until one  poster finally posted a reasoned response based on some real (very painful) experience that I have covered previously:

I owned Glowing Reviews, which was sued by Edmunds last year for posting “fake reviews”, so I can answer with first hand info. (Just google ‘glowing reviews edmunds’)

Each country will have different laws, so I’ll answer with the US version. You need to read the FTC guidelines for testimonials(reviews) in advertising:
http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/fil…mentguides.pdf

After consulting with attorneys, they believed that as long as a review could be tracked back to an individual it was ok. So, for example, if you collected reviews via comment card, phone call, and email and had a way to get back in touch with the customer, it would be ok to post.

At the same time, each site that allows you to post reviews (such as Amazon in your case or Edmunds in mine) has TOS that you’re supposed to follow. At every site you’ll find they require that the person posting the review is the actual person who experienced the service. So if you post on behalf of someone else, you’ll be violating the TOS.

I expected if any site ever got angry about me posting REAL reviews under my accounts, I’d get a C&D letter. I was wrong and got sued.

Someone else in this thread mentioned that it’s ok because everyone else does it. Well, good luck with that strategy. Lots of people do this, but do you always want to live wondering when you get the call from Wall Street Journal letting you know you were sued and what your comment is?

I can give more examples of legal issues causing headaches (twitter bots a couple of years ago, Yelp suing fake review posters, etc), but suffice it to say it’s probably better to find a better way to get your reviews up.

One more thing… If you incent the reviews in any way (Ie – leave a review on Amazon and you’ll get 25% off your next order), according to the FTC PDF I linked, they need to say that they are a paid endorser in their review. I’d expect to get sued less often by the FTC for “forgetting this” or doing it on a small scale, but if they decide to make an example of someone look out…

The bottom line? Fake reviews are illegal plain and simple. The rewards of fake reviews are positive. The risks on the other hand, while infrequent, are very high.

Reviews, SMBs & Google – Still Not Clear on the Concept


the_texas_chainsaw_massacre_imageThis story is so rich in the evolving complexity of reviews; the absurdly angry SMB, the frustrated poster and so rich a tale of service gone awry. A story of how decent service can become indecent service by the sort of reflexive behavior that is so common in the service industry. To say nothing of Google still not getting their review algo right and how that impacts their image in the market place.

This comment was just posted on an old post about Google removing reviews and I wanted to highlight it. I have not verified the story but it rang true.

I’ve noticed my review was removed, and I’d really like to know why.
Continue reading

Google Reviews – New Quirks


Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 8.41.35 PMLast week, with the rollout of the Places Review Monitoring system, we started to see some quirks in review count difference between the monitoring dashboard and the + Page.

Subsequently business owners, like Barbara Oliver, reported review count declines on their + Page and in the main search results. Barbara’s reviews went from 65 to 58 and then back up to 62 and today returned to 64. It has happened so frequently it has stopped being newsworthy.

However a new anomaly has been reported both in the forums and on G+ where the rating averages have dropped despite having nearly all 5 stars reviews and are different between the monitoring system and the + Page. Barbara’s rating dropped from 4.9 to 4.6.

Google does sometimes (arbitrarily?) knick your review rating so that the math doesn’t always add up but these reports do seem different.

We calculate an overall rating based on user ratings and a variety of other signals to ensure that the overall score best reflects the quality of the establishment. 

It’s often difficult to know whether these changes are just temporary bugs or reflect some new normal. Given the recent rollout of the monitoring system, my money is on the former but the spread is small.

 

Google Intros the Mother of All SMB Review Monitoring Systems


Google has announced on the Google and Your Business blog today that they have rolled out what appears to be the mother of all review monitoring systems today.

The system, a new module for the updated Places for Business Dashboard, not only shows Google based reviews to dashboard owners and managers, it shows every review that Google has found from the thousands of review sites that it indexes. In addition Google is providing review analytic reports for both the volume and rating stats of reviews from Google and across the web.

Google has also integrated the owner review response option directly into the dashboard and will now be showing those responses in the review panel on the front page of serps

Other Items of Interest

  • The rollout is global and will be available by days end to all new Dashboard users
  • The reviews from around the web are presented in snippet form
  • Yelp reviews are not included in the reviews from around the web view
  • Reviews can be seen and responded to by both account owners AND managers
  • The ability to respond in dashboard is limited to businesses with a fully social Plus page.

What’s missing

  • The functionality has not been added to the mobile version of the Places Dashboard for Android
  • There is no ability for a business owner to flag a review as inappropriate from within the dashboard. He/she must still visit the About page for the business to flag reviews.
  • There is currently no active feedback alerting the SMB to new reviews
  • There is no ability to limit whether a manager has access to provide responses or not.
  • No enterprise abilities to rollup reports across locations

Help Files - the updated Google Places Help Files covering this product:

What’s Important About this Announcement

For the first time since the dashboard was created Google is providing small business owners and their managers a reason to return to the dashboard periodically. The ability to monitor reviews from both Google and around the web, easily respond to the those reviews and quickly access those on other sites are all features that leverages Google’s strengths and provides a basis for Google engaging with more SMBs on a regular basis. Products of similar ilk have cost SMBs from $30 to $200 a month.

The rollout, one in a string of several recent upgrades to the new dashboard, indicates that not only is Google able and committed to adding new functionality to the dashboard on an ongoing basis, it signals that they are prepared to provide significant ongoing value in doing so.

The Places Dashboard has long been a once and done experience for SMBs. The analytics were the only reason for regular visits.  These analytics have been less than inspiring and often didn’t function leaving SMBs baffled and frustrated. Once a listing had been claimed and photos added there was little reason for a business to revisit the dashboard. The addition of social functionality, now provided automatically with every new claim, doesn’t occur from within the dashboard and while it might increase engagement for some SMBs it is not appropriate for all. Reviews are important to a much broader swath of the market.

Here are screenshots of the features: Continue reading

Google Rolling out New + Page Layout – Reviews Lost in the Process


It seems that the new layout first reported on October 23rd is now rolling out world wide. As noted at the time

The big difference is that the page now can be displayed in either a single, two or three column layouts depending on browser window width as opposed to the current fixed two column display. Reviews will now follow the same columnar structure as the rest of the page and will not be limited to a current one column display. While this view is not yet visible in mobile, one assumes that if the view were to become universal it would likely push to mobile as well.

The page adds three iconic based calls to action near the top; review, directions & photos. The review summary has been moved up the page and photos have been moved down the page. Geo information including street address, category, hours, description and map are now consolidated into a single card near the top titled “Contact Information. “Similar Places” from around the web no longer show and “reviews from around the web” have been moved up the page to be nearer the top.

barbara-oliver-jewelry-reviewsHowever it also appears that Google, in making the change, has lost, at least temporarily, a number of reviews. The forums as well as some of my clients noted a severe decline in review counts or wildly inaccurate review counts. Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry in Buffalo dropped from 65 to 38 reviews. Her local competitor lost roughly 30 as well. I assume that most of these lost reviews will return once the upgrade settles in.

New Layout: Continue reading

Google: Reviews, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.


If one stops and counts how many times the word review or the star ratings show on the front page of Google one can only conclude that Google not only thinks they are important but that they are of tantamount importance in local searches.

These screen shots of local searches show the screen real estate above the fold on a 1366 by 768 pixel screen. On larger screens the number of mentions of reviews and ratings would be even greater.
Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 11.15.55 AM

 

On the Local Carousel search, the word review was used 15 times and the rich snippet rating stars showed 7 times. Additionally 8 of the links take readers to more reviews. Given that this is some of the most valuable internet real estate in the world, one has to assume that Google tests these results aggressively and has given a fair bit of thought to this. If not a “tell“, certainly a very clear expression of Google’s thinking.

The count is less on a branded search or a 7-pack but still amazingly high.  Continue reading

Google Becoming Slightly More Transparent About Nuking Reviews


Update 9/28: I had myself taken off as a manager of Barbara’s page and my review instantly lost the notice and showed back up on the listing.

Historically at Google Local, if a review triggered the spam filter, the reviewer would still see the review associated with the business if they were logged in and other users would not. The reviewer would have no clue as to why the review wasn’t showing.

This “technique” for handling “spammy” reviews led to many, many posts in the forums inquiring about why a given review wasn’t showing. Google has now implemented at least a modicum of communication in this regard and is tagging flagged reviews with an alert.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.51.31 AM

Is this enough communication and enough transparency? I would suggest that while it is better than before it still misses the mark.

1) Google has chosen to make the announcement in a users review section which I assume is infrequently visited

2)The complaints are still coming into the forum with regularity

3)The explanation given provides little in the way of helping the user understand what is going on if they do happen to see the notice.

My review of Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry was flagged because I am a manager of her G+ Page. Perhaps a legitimate reason to not show the review but if I were to read the help file that would not be at all clear.

Filtering reviews is a difficult dance between users and a complicated algo that is at best imperfect at identifying spam. Google has always erred on the side of opacity to prevent spammers from learning too much about their techniques.

The problem with that approach is that spammers figure it out anyways and regular users and businesses are inevitably punished. This occurs without any understanding of how or why on their part. Yelp, while imperfect in many things, handles their spam classification in a much more transparent way that while not ideal at least does a better job of communicating to the reviewer that their review will not be displayed. I believe that Google could learn from that example and with some careful thought do even better at solving this problem.