Sunday 24 Jul 2011
Thanks, Mike & Richard, for clearing up the mystery! See comments below. And, sorry, Google. It was me that was buggy this time…not you!.
Over the past few days, there has been massive reportage about the changes in Google’s handling of reviews and overall Place Page layout changes (actually, 90% of it has emanated from Mike Blumenthal as part of a ritual involving the Old Testament Deity).
While what I have to report is not of Samsonesque proportions, I want to highlight an apparent bug I’ve noticed because it is in keeping with a mystery that has plagued Google’s review base from day one. I think it’s time for Google to bring in the Hardy Boys on this one, especially as Google appears determined to go head to head with Yelp.
At right is a screenshot for the business ranked #1 when I search for restaurants Santa Cruz CA.
The review count displayed on the 7-pack at the top of the organic SERPs, and the review count displayed near the top of the Place Page are both 37. But, scroll down to the part of the Place Page just above the tiny new links to 3rd party reviews sources and the review count is being displayed as 32.
What happened to 5 of the reviews?
I am seeing this discrepancy of 5 vanished reviews on Place Page after Place Page.
I did a manual count of the reviews on the Place Page of the business shown in my example and there are, indeed, 37 of them.
My guess is that this is a bug and that’s it’s affecting a large number of profiles (at least, it was present on every Place Page I looked at). Local business owners are likely to be feeling cranky enough right now with review counts plummeting from the 100s down to the 10s over the last few days as Google dropped third party reviews out of prominence, but to apparently lose an additional 5 of them just seems like an extra little kick out the door.
For years now, I have been aware of a significant issue with review count in Google’s Maps/Places entity. I’ve seen review counts change from one day to the next, with no actual alterations being made to a given profile. I’ve seen Google discount their own reviews while highlighting data from other review sources.
Things are different now. Google wants to be Yelp. But Yelp has been able to gain such traction and deliver a reasonable level of user satisfaction because reviews are all they do. Google’s list of projects and properties, if lined up end to end, would circle the globe 72 1/2 times (I made that up). Can Google hope to provide equivalent satisfaction when this is just one tiny corner of their empire? I’d say mending the numbers bug would make a nice start to proving up.
I’ll be watching.