A Way to Fight Deleted Reviews on Google

If you didn't get a chance to read or hear about this on Friday, here is a great, legitimate way to fight back with Google's decision to remove dealers positive reviews, leaving behind only negative and damaging a dealers reputation.It was written by Greg Goebel, CEO of Auto Dealer Monthly magazine.

No different than numerous dealers, a client of mine, 25-year dealer Mohammad Ahmed―president of Northend Motors in Canton, Mass., in the Boston area―had numerbous positive reviews, all collected legitimately through very satisfied customers, stripped from his Google Places listing. Before this action, his dealership rated a score of 28 out of 30, which by Google standards is defined as “Extraordinary to Perfection.”

 

Removing his 145 legitimate positive reviews is one thing, but Google chose to leave six negative reviews and three negative scores without reviews―he has collected one positive review since. His dealership score has fallen to a 5, which is defined as “Poor to Fair” by Google.

 

According to articles posted by industry experts online, 70 percent of customers are using online reviews as part of their consideration as to where to buy. The results of Google’s actions have had a devastating effect on Northend Motors, even though they have hundreds of other reviews posted on CitySearch, Dealer Rater, InsiderPages and Yahoo.

 

Mohammad is not alone! Many other dealers all over the country have noticed the same thing.

 

How can you possibly fight a company like Google―which is so big and all-encompassing―where you have no real customer service contact and their own sales and engineering sides do not even communicate on their changed algorithm issues? E-mails sure aren’t going to do any good.

 

My brainstorm today was for Mohammad to do what so many consumers seem to do when they have a problem with their car … contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. It may have worked. If you, too, have had a problem, I suggest you take similar action immediately!

The following is directly from Mohammad: 

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.”

Mohammad also reached out to his attorney general. He was less successful there since Massachusetts only takes complaints from individuals—not businesses. However, they thanked him and gave him a feeling that even though they don’t take complaints from businesses, if they received enough calls they would take their own action. Each state has its own position, so don’t rely solely on Massachusetts’ stance.

If you are a dealer or dealership employee, this is where you come in. Have you checked your Google reviews? If you haven’t, you should. Nearly every client I have has found their positive reviews have disappeared. A prominent dealer and client of mine in central Kansas had hundreds of reviews and a score of 29 disappear, leaving but four negative reviews that averaged five-and-half-months old. They now have nine reviews (five new) and no score. Any doubt how that impacts a business?

I am not an attorney, but my opinion is what Google has done reeks of a deceptive trade practice (treble damages), and I think it could well cross the line of libel.

If you have the same problem, I urge you to call the FTC using the number Mohammad provided. He said you are welcome to reference his case number. I would also recommend you contact your state attorney general’s office.

Very few dealers, no matter their size, can have an immediate impact with a company the size of Google. The federal and state governments can. Google just paid a $22 million fine recently (I know, a drop in the bucket for them), and they will have to answer to the FTC.

It is their business, and they can cause changes like this at will, unless it materially misrepresents what your customers previously posted. Removing your positive reviews and leaving negative ones does just that. You may never get your positive reviews back, but just as the woman at the FTC said, leaving the old negative reviews just isn’t right. Hopefully, they will relent and repost the positive reviews; but if not, with enough of a voice against them, I would think they will quickly remove the old reviews as well.

Thanks for your ears today. Good selling, and for once, maybe the FTC can be viewed as a friend of the dealership as opposed to the bad guys. Go do your part!

Best regards,

GG

Greg Goebel, CEO

Auto Dealer Monthly, LLC

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Comment by Mark Dubis on August 21, 2012 at 9:24pm

We have lost sight that Google is not a public utility; it is beholden to its shareholders and will do what it deems in its best interest.  They have consistently shown they do not care about the success of local car sales personnel or auto dealers.  Dealers, consultants, trainers and “social media experts” that push Google products, AdWords, Google+, etc have to realize that all of their efforts can be wiped out with a few simple changes in the Google algorithm. 

They are the “Yellow Pages” of the Internet, and last I heard Yellow Page publishers aren’t giving away free full pages in their directories.  They can take down any content for any reason and there isn’t much anyone can do about it.  If you don’t have a fair chance to win the game then don’t play the game.  Leverage other alternatives and put your marketing dollars into your local markets.

Auto retailers that do not want to have their digital marketing programs disrupted need to seek out new dealer/customer friendly communities and distance yourself from any "expert" telling you to spend money and promote on Google.

Comment by Steve Duff on August 20, 2012 at 11:24am

Thanks for that post. We all work hard to build a good reputation, being extremely aware of the bad stereotype our industry has. When we do good, we expect that our efforts to present our customers statements to the public to that effect. For a company as large and powerful as Google to be able to arbitrarily decide that the public cannot have access to our happy customer reviews and then turn around and give an unbalanced view by only displaying the negative complaints (some of which may be from our competitors!), that is in my mind criminal and libelous. And to think we pay those bastards hard earned advertising dollars. Maybe if the FTC doesn't persuade them, we should all do something like what dealers did when they were upset with TruCar. That made them take notice and make changes. Perhaps if we all turned off all Adwords for a month or two they'd get the message?

Comment by Marsh Buice on August 20, 2012 at 10:50am

Yea, that's dead wrong...once again the car biz gets the villan tag...wow. I hope there is enough outcry that will cause them to modify this. Thanks brother.

Comment by Greg Goebel on August 20, 2012 at 10:45am

Marsh, happy to do so, and who knows? Allegedly they want to 'improve the customer experience' as I understand it.  As far as I am concerned it has done anything but that. It is their business and they can do what they like, but when it unfairly influences the hard earned reputations of everyone else's business, then something must be done.

Comment by Marsh Buice on August 20, 2012 at 10:15am

Greg, thanks for the share, I was not aware of this. What is Google's reason for purging the reviews?

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