Missing Google Reviews - FTC Complaints and Several New Updates


Linda Buquet

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<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/spammyplace.jpg" width="80" alt="Google Reviews" align="left" HSPACE=10/>Wanted to share several updates and important posts that revolve around the huge problem of missing, deleted or suppressed Google Places/Google+ Local reviews.

My friend and forum member, Miriam Ellis just did a great post over at SEOmoz yesterday. Here is a snippet, but head over and read the whole thing.


Lost Your Google Reviews? Take A Proactive Stance!

As I understand it, Jade W. is indicating that the majority of reviews being removed are for 'suspicious behavior' and she mentions types of solicitations of reviews and also 'waves' of reviews. Local SEOs and business owners who have been following the review issue for years will almost certainly recall that Google has not only solicited reviews in the past, but also authorized the use of review stations in December 2011.

It would appear that if you followed Google's lead on this and ran a contest to solicit reviews (thereby generating a wave of incoming reviews) or set up a review station in your shop to solicit reviews, you could be in danger of losing those reviews. Not trying to be a smart aleck here, but I honestly don't believe I will be alone in seeing a bit of irony in this scenario.

If Google has now decided that legitimate reviews don't come in waves, I hope they will read the comment in the same forum thread from Top Contributor Linda Buquet of Catalyst eMarketing. Here is an excerpt:
Wanted to point out an interesting comment about a post from Auto Dealer Monthly that is encouraging businesses to report Google to the FTC. This blog post was linked to in the comments of the SEOmoz story above.

Man Bites Dog? A Way to Fight the Deleted Google Reviews Dilemma

“I called FTC, (877) 382-4357, and also used FTC.gov and IC3.gov (Internet company complaints). I have not filed a complaint in writing yet because the person I spoke to on the phone took the complaint over the phone. My complaint number is 39764404. After I explained in five minutes what Google had done throughout the country to good businesses, she was very receptive and (she) also said this doesn't help the consumer because they are only seeing the bad reviews. ‘They should see both, only then a consumer can make an educated decision.’ She recommended that we should have every business that we know and dealership that we know file a complaint and that will speed up this process because this is unfair to business and to consumers.”
The consolidated review problem thread at the Google forum continues to grow, with no end in sight.

A few days ago I posted a few good clues that Jade from Google has provided about what these overly aggressive new review spam filters may be targeting.

In case you missed it, Mike did another great post on the problem and there are tons of relevant and heated comments that show the overall sentiment toward Google in regard to these problems.
Google on Reviews: Asking for them is OK, Soliciting them is BAD

Brian Pausch specializes in Auto Dealer marketing and as most of you know that industry has been one of the hardest hit by this recent aggressive wave of review takedowns. Brian has been working with Google and it sounds like he 'thinks' he's making some headway on the problem. From his most recent blog post.

Google+ Local Reviews Gone Missing - An Update

I wanted everyone in this community to know a few things about this matter and some advice going forward. I've been working with Google this week to provide examples of dealers who were doing everything "right" and yet they lost reviews.

These "vetted" examples have now been submitted again, after some discussions I had with dealers about their review processes and the list of issues I sent to Google two weeks ago.

It seems, that a portion of the dealers who informed me of their lost reviews, and that I submitted to Google two weeks ago, did not have a tight internal processes surrounding how reviews were collected.
Brian goes on to give some good advice.

So anyway I don't have any good news or magic bullets on this. All I can say right now is that I think that Google is more focused on the problem, due to that consolidated Google forum thread and all this negative exposure. All of these complaints ARE putting heat on Google and they ARE discussing internally. Whether we'll see any concrete improvement is anyone's guess.

Any other thoughts or good recent articles about the review problems?
(There have been a ton of others lately, but I tried to pick the best and most recent.)
 

JoyHawkins

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Yeah I definitely think certain industries are getting hit harder than others. I just posted a blog about it but I think the industries affected most are auto dealers, dentists, lawyers, internet marketing companies and insurance agents.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Hi Linda,

Brian Pausch mentions a Google Places/Google+ Local Escalation Form. Is that a new creation by Google? Have you ever used it?
 

JoyHawkins

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Hm...that's the first time I've even seen that form. I am seconding Colan's question.
 

Linda Buquet

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Yes I saw that and emailed everyone on the team about it asking if it's an official Google form, who it goes to, what can it be used for and why TCs weren't informed about it. I also told Google I like it better than the Troubleshooter because it has more open form fields where you can explain things.

Jade replied she'd never seen it before. Mike said Google has a special department that works with Auto Dealers so he thinks that's where it came from.

Then Jade just got back to me with a little more info.

Bottom line I don't think that form was supposed to be shared publicly and don't think you should use it.
It's for a specific use.
 
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Super thread here, Linda. Thanks so much for linking to my SEOmoz piece.

You know, I can just imagine how irked the car dealership in the Man Bites Dog owner is at Google right now. To take away his positive reviews and leave his negative ones presents an incomplete and unfair picture of his business. What heartburn!!!

So glad so many people are blogging and posting about this issue of lost reviews. It really matters.
 

Linda Buquet

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Here's another interesting news story about a car dealer that lost hundreds of reviews. Google said they were all gone, would never come back - BUT some did which is interesting! And even more interesting is the reply he got after filing a BBB complaint.

This Business Is Furious With Google For Deleting Hundreds Of Reviews

?The reappearance of some of our reviews is one of the most confusing aspects of this whole situation,? Wirtz says. ?We were assured in two separate correspondences from Google that, if a review disappears, it would not return. At no point could any of the information from Google be described as helpful.?

Wirtz shares a response he says they got from Google in response to a Better Business Bureau complaint Suzuki of Wichita filed against the company:

?Thank you for reaching out. I?m very sorry to hear you?re having problems with reviews on your Google+ local page. It?s feedback that we?ve heard / have been hearing in the last few weeks and months. And trust me, we are taking the feedback to heart and working on improvements regarding the way we collect reviews. At this point, it is impossible for us to locate the reviews your business has unfortunately lost. We realize this may seem unfair, but our engineers are working on features to make the stability of reviews more (for lack of a better word) stable. Aaron, we, as Googlers and consumers, understand how important reviews are to a business and trust me when I say we?re working hard on making this a better experience for everyone. Thanks for your understanding.?
 

JoyHawkins

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I think something in the filter changed in the last few days. I saw some more reviews disappear for some businesses and others had some come back.
 

Linda Buquet

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Right now I'm picturing a bunch of Einstein looking geeky guys in a room full of computers, tweaking the dials trying to find the right combination to kill spam without killing honest reviews.

They need to keep tweaking til they get it right!

I've always been so anti-spam, but right now I'd rather deal with a little more spam than to have all these honest reviews going down the tubes.
 

Linda Buquet

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Regarding the car dealer above that had TONs of reviews pulled. Turns out there was a VERY good reason!

David Kyle Tweeted to me:
@CatalystLocal that's the most ridiculous thing i've ever read. transcribing "hand written" reviews to sock puppet accounts is not legit.

I asked him where he saw that because I didn't read it.

David Kyle replied:
Watch the YouTube video on the post, he breaks them out and admits it.

So that teaches me a less for not taking time to watch videos before I report on a story. But then again I don't have TIME to watch videos. :eek:

But anyway NO WONDER all those reviews were pulled! Thanks for catching David.
 

Colan Nielsen

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WOW, I was watching that video with no sound yesterday, and I was thinking "is he really showing the camera what I think he is showing the camera, this can't be good"

---------- Post Merged at 03:42 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 03:31 PM ----------

Where in the video does he admit to "transcribing "hand written" reviews to sock puppet accounts "?

 

Linda Buquet

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Someone just posted a reply on my latest G+ post saying a Google rep told him G reviews are under review and take 8 weeks to post? Wonder if there is any truth to this? It would explain reviews showing in reviewers account but not on the G+ Local page.

John Oliver Coffey from NetMidas wrote:
https://plus.google.com/101037504613481726969/posts/7f7vZx9bUuA?hl=en

"Hi +Linda Buquet - just got off the phone with a google rep...new reviews taking up to 8 weeks to be reviewed, approved and released. Might be worth sharing with your followers before they pull out all their hair wondering what's happening."

I asked Google. Will see if I get an answer I can share.
 

Linda Buquet

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I did ask Google and they did reply this info is incorrect.

More info on my G+ thread including a reply from Joel Headley at Google.
https://plus.google.com/101037504613481726969/posts/7f7vZx9bUuA?hl=en

Joel said: the Google rep probably isn't an expert on local reviews and mixed up some information. Any latency from reviews appearing on a page would only last days at most. And usually they appear, disappear, and reappear. This is unrelated to spam filters that have a single review removed. If they've been removed, it is unlikely they'll 'just come back' in any time frame.
 

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