Could Your Friend's Reviews Influence Your SERPs?


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https://www.google.com/patents/US7827176

The way I?m interpreting is that your ?friends? or people you follow online can influence your search results by their reviews or endorsements. IF Google is using this today (with all patents, it?s tough to know what?s being used today), it creates a whole new importance for social media and reviews. I?m thinking if your local search results can be personalized/influence by others in social networks (I?m assuming Google is referring to G+, since it references extracting info from a database), then Google reviews could be one of the most important local factors.

With this mindset, you would need to really push review gathering/monitoring for local clients. If you get even one person to review, you could influence everyone they're connected with.

There is also a section to account for a degree of separation between contacts. This could even spill over to related associations or groups users are involved in. If user 1 makes a review, user 2 is a close friend and will see a result set with the review. We also have user 3, who is friends with user 2 but doesn't know user 1. Depending on the connection level (closer friends or business associates benefit higher), they will see the adjusted search result from the review too.

The biggest reason why this patent got me thinking is because I always looked at reviews as an A to B benefit. In reality it could be an A to C depending on how the business is connected. It's not just about getting reviews or endorsements, it's about the profile being active in communities, sharing content (relevant content), and getting others to promote. It's not just about getting people to review/promote the business, it's about what groups they're in and how the message can spread to the group.

There's a lot to think about with this patent. It's not necessarily changing a lot of strategies in place, but opens up a different way of seeing the impact.

Also... who knows... maybe some promotion or review for your business could reach Kevin Bacon. 6 degrees of separation could lead to him becoming your next customer :p
 

Linda Buquet

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Good catch Eric. Thanks for sharing.

Love the Bacon line! :D

What do you guys think about this one?
 

Margaret Ornsby

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I can see it from the geeky perspective of a way to predict behaviours, preferences, etc.

But from a practical point of view it gives me the willies. Not because of the profiling, rather because of the huge amount of review spam and fake G accounts.

And yes, the Kevin Bacon thought - good one!
 

Tim Sweeney

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About two years ago I remember an experiment that was conducted. It went something such as this:


1. I published a piece of content on G+, for example a post related to a hike I did.

Rockrift Firetower Hike


2. Someone I am connected to, (we've circled one another on G+), on G+ searches Google (standard Google search) for that piece of content via generic search terms while signed into Google.


For example, firetower hike. After a few days that piece of content appears on page one IF they are signed into Google. If in incognito mode the content is NOT on page one.


While this isn't directly related to reviews, I do see it lending weight to Google knowing who you know through some means and thus connecting the two parties.


Also, at one time I thought it was mentioned that having employees leaving reviews would trip the spam filter. Another case in which Google might have connected the dots that employee X works at company Y. (This isnt even taking into account location data.)


In summary, if we consider all the data that has been collected, I would not be surprised if Google has a relationship graph that understands who we know and how we might be connected even if it's an indirect relationship. Then again, this doesnt explain the fake reviews and reviews by pissed off employees that I see out there.

It is thought provoking....
 
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I can see it from the geeky perspective of a way to predict behaviours, preferences, etc.

But from a practical point of view it gives me the willies. Not because of the profiling, rather because of the huge amount of review spam and fake G accounts.

And yes, the Kevin Bacon thought - good one!
Wouldn't this be evidence to explain to a client that fake reviews aren't the way to go? From a cost/benefit perspective they're paying hundreds of dollars for fake reviews to potentially attract more customers, but it's more of a hope of new customers. There's also a high probability those accounts will be deleted at some point, which would be a waste of marketing dollars. However, if I could show you a strategy for a similar price where we could not only influence the ranking of the page overall (with raw # of good reviews) but also influence ranking for friends of friends of the reviewer... wouldn't that be the larger audience you'd want to be visible for?

My thought process is using this angle to explain you could see a 3:1 benefit by getting reviews from real people instead of using fake accounts with no connections.
 
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About two years ago I remember an experiment that was conducted. It went something such as this:


1. I published a piece of content on G+, for example a post related to a hike I did.

Rockrift Firetower Hike


2. Someone I am connected to, (we've circled one another on G+), on G+ searches Google (standard Google search) for that piece of content via generic search terms while signed into Google.


For example, firetower hike. After a few days that piece of content appears on page one IF they are signed into Google. If in incognito mode the content is NOT on page one.


While this isn't directly related to reviews, I do see it lending weight to Google knowing who you know through some means and thus connecting the two parties.


Also, at one time I thought it was mentioned that having employees leaving reviews would trip the spam filter. Another case in which Google might have connected the dots that employee X works at company Y. (This isnt even taking into account location data.)


In summary, if we consider all the data that has been collected, I would not be surprised if Google has a relationship graph that understands who we know and how we might be connected even if it's an indirect relationship. Then again, this doesnt explain the fake reviews and reviews by pissed off employees that I see out there.

It is thought provoking....
I don't think the patent was directly referring to Google business reviews, it referenced "endorsements" or "ads" in the text. I used reviews as a scenario to explain how it worked. I think your study is more in line with the patent. You endorsed an article with a link on social media, and someone you're connected to did a search closely related to that "endorsement" from you. I think that's a great case study of seeing this in Google's production/live environment!
 

Tony Wang

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This would make sense to me, except for the fact that no one I know uses Google+ except for internet marketers. Now Facebook, on the other hand, could really go to town with this idea if/when they ramp up their local business efforts. Wouldn't be surprised if it's already in the works.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Could operate sans Google+ and just across gmail connections. People you email with frequently, if they're logged in while searching could see a connection. Now, you may have some issues with gmail saying "we don't do that" etc. but who really knows.

I don't really know if I believe this is happening right now but it's worth thinking about. And hey, if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and generating reviews anyway, it's a nice "potential" cherry on top!
 
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I remember years ago when they first started letting advertisers target gmail adwords display ads based on keywords people were using in their emails... since then, I've just figured nothing's sacred. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if gmail connections and use patterns influenced Google's algorithms for customized search results somehow, who knows? If so, it might make it worthwhile to identify your most well connected customers and make sure they're the ones leaving you a review on Google, even if you're trying to focus on Yelp/Facebook/whatever other review site. Stuff to look for going into 2017 I guess.
 

Margaret Ornsby

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True, James, good point.

Yes for sure, G crawls your emails.

We found out accidentally when we put a link to a dev site in an email. We didn't particularly want G to know about it but G crawled it anyway. In G's inimitable fashion, "they" decided the site was an attempt at phishing or malware or some such. Was nothing of the kind, simply part of an ecommerce site dev. So much unnecessary grief to get it sorted.

Since then if we have something similar, we break the link up so the bots don't go on a journey they're not supposed to take.

And yes, email seems like a more reliable source of customers than does G+, so that idea def has legs.
 

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