Google Places Removes 3rd Party Reviews... How Will Dealer Rating/Review Sites Respond?

Big news for dealerships: Google Places has removed its 3rd party reviews from the first page of Google Maps. In other words: they no longer aggregate ratings and reviews from other sites and display on the first page. Dealers may find that as of yesterday, the new rating on google may only be a "1" versus the 400 they had as aggregated from one or more of the rating sites. Aggregated ratings are still available on the web and discreetly located on the 2nd page of Google Maps, but this is a tough break for Dealerships who focus their reputation efforts on driving ratings and reviews only to certain dealer-specific sites. This form of reputation management was a big business model for several vendors who positioned their company as a reputation management solution.

This move from Google, confirms the MARKIT Group/WorldDealer approach to online reputation management.  Dealers should view their overall reputation as a  reputation "pie" which has pieces made up of the various rating and review sites and sources, both on and off the web. This approach allows a  holistic, comprehensive strategy which must be reviewed and addressed on an ongoing basis. Google will remain king of search, but attention must be given to where your lead traffic comes from - make sure your reputation individual and online brand score reflects a positive impression.

The images enclosed illustrate the point.  This Dealer example which used to have 104 ratings from DealerRater, now show one rating.  Google will only count actual Goolge user ratings on the first search.  Very interesting move.

How do you think this change on Google's part will affect rating sites overall? Will it change your current strategy?  How do you think DealerRater, Edmunds, cars.com, women-drivers.com feel about the new change?

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This is interesting.  Like your example I had a bunch of reviews that showed up on the actual google count that are no longer there.  I am interested to find what other people are doing about this information.
I would recommend they keep a solid finger on the pulse of reputation overall - don't be as concerned about the loss of aggregation and focus on making sure you have a balanced rating perception across all platforms - Google, Bing, Yahoo, get certified on womens-drivers etc.

Thanks for the post Nannette, there has been much buzz out there about Google’s recent industry wide change to the places page and star counts…this WSJ article explains the background information regarding the reason on their end for the change. Google Bows to Web Rivals This is true of every industry: hotel, restaurant, etc. They have also eliminated the “snippets” section from the places page. That is today’s status, I’m not sure when Google will make any more changes but they have already indicated there are more to come, none of us are sure where it will end up.

I do want to correct a common miscommunication of this change however, and even the title of your post….Google has NOT removed third party reviews. Third party reviews are still VERY dominantly displayed in the Places delivery in SERP’s as displayed here in a common search for Honda Dealers in Boston.

 
I don’t anticipate this change should cause smart businesses to alter much of what they have been doing other than occasionally monitoring Google reviews and redirect a few happy customers each month to fill out a review directly on Google when they need to.You have been smart to recommend this Nannette, and this is what we at DealerRater have advised as well with all review sites.  Most Dealers will pick one or two "anchor" sites...like DealerRater and Yelp or Citysearch for example, depending on your market.

 

 Perhaps if a dealership notices a gmail email address from one of their customers, that would be a good time to introduce Google as an option for reviewing their store. This will satisfy the “Star Gazers” who are looking for a snap shot star rating for their business. I will add that many Dealer's have noticed a very low response rate for customers filling out reviews on Google because of the need to create a GMail account in order to fill out reviews 1 Google reveiw posted for every 18 DealerRater review posted from one dealership...so sticking with GMail email addresses will probably net the best results.

On our end as the Category Killer in Automotive, DealerRater Review pages have and will continue to index very prominently in the organic search results for all the major search engines, front and center exposure for those consumers who want more comprehensive and credible content to help make their decision. Example here: Kelly Chevrolet Reviews

 

My personal thoughts are that this move (if permanent) by Google has devalued their places page in terms of the content a consumer will find helpful and credible, and this will in the end cause a reduction in traffic to these pages. Based on the lack of Fraud monitoring by Google, I think it will be no time before every business has 5 stars meaning that consumers will be drawn away from Google to more credible 3rd party sites for the differentiator and for credible reviews.

 

Thanks again for the post Nannette!

Angelica

 

Thanks for your post Nannette.  This was an expected move from Google for those of us connected in the Social Media world.

Angelica: All due respect but your information here smacks of marketing DealerRater (and that's cool, although it would have been nice to see that you work for them in your signature).  I'm very familiar with how the DealerRater review process works and while it worked for awhile, I see Google's move as a game-changer (and a welcome one at that).  From a purely Social aspect, ALL dealership reviews are what the consumer wants (not just the good ones). I disagree with your opinion that consumers will be drawn away from Google to "more credible" 3rd party sites.  That is simply preposterous. Google is not going anywhere and for a long time 3rd party sites have had their run of the place.  Google is just upping their game here in an effort to attract more users. 

My advice to dealers is to embrace these changes, work your process internally to foster reviews and take a look at Google Places as another great way to market your store.

Respectfully,

Kathi Kruse
Automotive Social Media Coaching & Training
www.krusecontrolinc.com

Thanks for your response to my post Kathi, my apologies to the Dealer Elite community, I didn't believe I needed to post that i work for DealerRater in my Signature in following suit with the other posters in the chain who did not include thier credentials in their signature.  I'm pretty sure my credentials appear my profile so that it was not necessary to reinforce that fact.  Beyond the lack of signature, I do not think my statements disguised that fact in any way. 

 

I'm not postering for DealerRater in the least however. In my 25 years in the automotive business including 15 in retail, I am simply trying to point out that there is much alarmist reaction out there and the facts should be carefully relayed. It is my experience and knowledge of the industry that I am attempting to share here in this forum,  not a sales pitch at all.   In fact I believe I am very clear in my post in recommending you must pay attention to multiple review sites in order to create a comprehensive collection of positive feedback for your business.

 

And while I always encourage and welcome healthy debate as is the beauty of these forums, I stand by my statement that the value of the Reviews in the Places page has been diminished to a consumer especially when you factor in that Google does not police it's review content and it is wracked with fraud.   Anyone who has a knowledge of how easy Goolge reviews are to manipulate is no stranger to that fact. 

 

Whether you consider my opinion on the matter "preposterous" is clearly your option, and I thank you for sharing your opinion of my statements.   Time will tell how this move that Google was forced to make will impact their business, but this seems something they were forced to do before having the mechanisms in place to provide credible content of their own to consumers.   

 

In the end my advice remains the same which you echoed and that is that Google is one of many sources for consumers to read and write reviews,  that it is important to pay attention to your online reviews,  weight that attention as necessary, and generate postitive content for your dealership in a way that will allow you to leverage that content to the benefit of the bottom line of the dealership.

 

Angelica Jeffreys

For the Record--DealerRater  :-)

Thank you Angelica. I too have many (30) years in retail automotive.  I've worked every job in a dealership, managed dealerships all my life, been an executive manager of small and large groups throughout the years.  I am passionate about getting ALL the information out there so that dealers and their staff can make the right choices with their spending.  You are correct, time will tell how things will move forward.  Sure there are those that pay to have reviews manipulated and my feeling is that they are now being seen for what they are.  If a store has strong processes in place to manage and monitor ALL of the REAL customer reviews then nothing can trump that.  As always, human nature is to try and game the system--try to do it the "easy way".  But in the end, today's transparency and authenticity drive the truth further into the equation.  Scare tactics work well but a store with a well-managed process in place for their staff (from the lot gentlemen to the GM) doesn't get scared because they know their foundational process works long-term.  Any other solution will keep you up at night.

Kathi Kruse
Automotive Social Media Coaching & Training
www.krusecontrolinc.com

Great points Kathi, glad to see we agree in that regard.

I lost you at "scare tactics" though..., who's employing scare tactics?

Angelica, I'm sure you've been around retail long enough to know there are lots of things said to dealers and their staff to compel them to buy.  Especially in the digital marketing and online rep arena since it's a new medium. I'm told about it all the time from my friends (dealers, GM's, managers, etc). Preying on the client's lack of knowledge about how things work doesn't make for a good long-term sales relationship.

Kathi Kruse
Automotive Social Media Coaching & Training
www.krusecontrolinc.com

Still the majority of franchised dealers to not tactfully pursue reviews to obviously enhance their reputation. I could never understand why, as being one for many years. This google act will just level the playing field again on Google of course only. But still the auto 'monster' of search...

Nannette: Good info and an important issue for dealers. You said, "Consumers will be drawn away from Google to more credible 3rd party sites." Actually, Google is positioning itself as the most credible rating site. This year Google received a patent for its method of validating reviews and reviewers. The short description: Google looks at the rating history of each reviewer and gives more weight to people it considers objective. A person who gives a variety of reviews to a variety of businesses receives greater weight than a person who's posted only one review or a person who gives consistently high or consistently low reviews. I suspect a lot of consumers will see this as a better mousetrap. Third-party review sites have provided value, and they still can, but I expect increasing number of consumers will move toward Google ratings, not away.

Hi Chuck, I can't help but reply to the info you provided regarding Google's patented method...one thing they might have forgotten in their patent is filtering out people who are reviewing the same kind of businesses within days of each review...i.e. if you look at this reviewer, multiple reivews within 3 months for Automotive purchases and service.  Google Reviewer

7 different types of automotive reviews since April.  This kind of Fraud is rapant on Google and consumers are not buying it as credible as exposed by this news story from a TX station. Video Clip

I'm sure sooner or later they will address this, but as of now they are not prioritizing making sure their content is credible.

Angelica, I do not know the specifics on Google's algorithm, but I believe it looks for things such as people rating multiple dealer over a short time. The TV clip from San Antonio pointed a finger specifically at Citysearch, and Google Ratings was not mentioned. In any case, we can bet Google is constantly tweaking its criteria. This is an excellent example of why consumers may come to trust Google more than other rating sites.

One more thing: the Google Reviewer you pointed to is exactly the kind of thing Google wants to slam. This reviewer will be given less weight -- maybe zero weight -- compared with someone Google considers objective ... or on the words of Kathi Kruse above, authentic.

 

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