Tuesday 13 Dec 2011
Back in October, I wrote a piece at Search Engine Guide covering the issue of the Google Place Page of Max’s Deli in Birmingham, AL being spammed with several pages full of negative reviews. These reviews clearly violated Google’s Review Quality Guidelines in that they had nothing to do with the food or business and everything to do with users’ political opinions regarding immigration laws.
I wrote about this, and so did many bloggers – and the story was covered by TV News, major Internet news sites like the Huffington Post and radio broadcasts. In a word, the story made headlines, and significant attention was drawn to the Google Place Page of the beleaguered business.
2 months later, those reviews – in clear violation of Google’s guidelines – continue to sit from about page 18 onward on the business owner’s Google Place Page.
I have no idea if the business owner took any steps to request removal of the spam reviews, but whether he did or not, the world had a big conversation about the reviews and, as far as I can tell, Google has ‘gone fishing’.
In my work in places like the SEOmoz Q&A forum and elsewhere, I frequently get asked about how a business can have negative or violating Google Places reviews removed. The answer I have to give isn’t very hopeful. If a business’ reviews are so spammy that they are front page news and Google still won’t take them down, your chances of seeing action in the common case of such scenarios as competitive review spam or personal vendettas are simply slim to none, from what I can see.
Review giant, Yelp, frequently draws criticism for its stringent and sometimes confusing policies, but at least Max’s Deli’s profile there is free of spam. Google could certainly take a page from Yelp’s book when it comes to treating reviews in a professional manner.
And business owners stuck with spam will have to take a page from Max’s Deli. As of writing this post, and dating from the time of the controversy, Max has received a couple hundred positive reviews – a triumphant backlash and show of support from the public. Your business may not be able to achieve numbers like that, but if you can bury your negative reviews with several pages of positive ones, your are doing about as much as you can to protect yourself from people who are willing to use Google’s neglect of their review base as an opportunity to be hateful.
As for me, this is my voice calling for Google to uphold their published guidelines and delete those violating reviews off Max’s Deli’s Place Page. Do the right thing, Google.