Google Maps Not Counting Own Reviews

Greetings from Inside the SEOigloo!

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something odd happening with two Google reviews I had written for local businesses. When I went back today to check on them, I saw that the same ‘weirdness’ was still going on, and this led me to performing some other Maps searches to try to reproduce the same odd thing. The following article demonstrates the peculiar thing I have found in Google Maps.

If you go into Maps and do a search for fabric store santa rosa ca, Google will bring up its list of results on the left. The result in the C position, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, shows that 2 reviews have been written for this business. *See image below.

Google Maps detail

When you click on the title of the business, it makes the following pop-up appear over the map, again citing 2 reviews.

Google Maps detail

It is when you click on the link (which I’ve underlined in red) for 2 reviews that the full pop-up opens and shows you a different number. Now, the enlarged pop-up is stating that there are 3 reviews and, obviously, it shows all 3 reviews below it:

Google Maps detail

Two of the reviews are from Insiderpages and the other is mine written directly as a Google review.

I wrote that review on December 16, 2007, and though the enlarged pop-up is accurately displaying the correct number of reviews for this business (3), neither the small pop-up nor the rankings are in agreement with this number.

At this point, I wanted to see if this peculiar phenomenon was occurring elsewhere within Google Maps. I first checked another of my own reviews, and I will break the following results down into easy-to-read stats.

Search Term: the red grape sonoma ca
Age of Review: December 16, 2007
Number of Reviews in Rankings and Small Pop-Up: 5
Number of Reviews in Expanded Pop-Up: 6
Review Sources: 5 reviews from Insiderpages; 1 from Google Reviews

As with the fabric store, the restaurant in question was only referencing the Google review once I went into the expanded pop-up feature.

This struck me as very odd. Why would Google not be counting their own reviews?

I researched three other companies and found the exact same thing happening. Here are the results:

Search Term: florist denver co
Business in Question: Perfect Petal standing at C position
Age of Review: July 30, 2007
Number of Reviews in Rankings and Small Pop-Up: 2
Number of Reviews in Expanded Pop-Up: 3
Review Sources: 2 reviews from Insiderpages; 1 from Google Reviews

Search Term: chinese restaurant marin ca
Business in Question: China Palace at B position on second results list
Age of Review: November 6, 2007
Number of Reviews in Rankings and Small Pop-Up: 2
Number of Reviews in Expanded Pop-Up: 3
Review Sources: 1 review from Insiderpages; 1 from Tripadvisor; 1 from Google Reviews

Search Term: florist san francisco ca
Business in Question: Church Street Flowers in F position
Age of Review: October 20, 2007
Number of Reviews in Rankings and Small Pop-Up: 4
Number of Reviews in Expanded Pop-Up: 6 *see below
Review Sources: 3 reviews from Insiderpages; 1 from Judy’s Book; 1 from Google Reviews

* You will note the very odd discrepancy of this last set of stats. Google is listing 6 reviews on the expanded pop-up, but there aren’t 6 reviews there to see. There are only 5. I wonder what is going on with that.

My first question was whether the lack of cohesion between the results/small pop-up and the expanded pop-up numbers is simply a time thing. Maybe it only represents some type of lag going on between the different types of results. However, the Google review in the search for the florist in Denver, Colorado is 6 months old. That’s a pretty long time.

Why would Google Maps not be showing its own reviews in the first stats the user sees? Why is there a discrepancy between the different pop-ups?

With the talk in December focusing in on how important Google Reviews are likely to be to local businesses, this mystery of the missing numbers is one I’d like to see cleared up. If you know of some reason why Google would be treating their own reviews differently than the reviews they’re aggregating from outside sources, I’d love to hear about it. Also, if you’re interested, could some of my local-enthusiast colleagues perform a couple of your own searches for businesses you know have a mix of outside reviews plus Google reviews? It would be great if you could add some data to this post, showing either like or unlike findings. Thanks!

If the concept of Google Reviews is new to you, this tutorial on Google Maps Reviews will help you.

15 Responses to “Google Maps Not Counting Own Reviews”

  1. on 01 Jan 2008 at 7:38 pm Will Scott

    Miriam,

    That is odd. One of the elements I found interesting in the discussion at convertoffline.com mentioned above is the diminished authority given to certain review sites. In other words, they don’t necessarily count all reviews the same.

    That said, what you’ve got here is really interesting and speaks to another issue I’ve seen cited: the disconnect between the various layers of maps integration.

    Specifically, it’s been noted that the ranking for the OneBox and the ranking within the local business interface don’t always mesh.

    My opinion is the maps system isn’t ready for prime-time and your discovery reinforces that!

    Another quick thought — did you check the review dates from insiderpages, maybe the index updates differently depending on the view (in other words, maybe the index being referenced for the initial popup has not updated but that for the detail page has)?

    I’ll be interested in Mike’s perspective.

    Will

  2. on 01 Jan 2008 at 9:14 pm admin

    Hi Will,
    Yes, I agree that that was the main point of the ConvertOffline discussion – not all reviews are judged as equal. That being said, my hunch has been that of all the review sources, Google would trust their own as being the most important.

    I just went and looked at the dates of the insiderpages reviews for that fabric store. They are the same as what is being shown within maps.

    There doesn’t appear to be a way to access those reviews from the top level layer of results. You do have to go in one click to get to them, so I can’t see a way to determine if they are pulling from different sources. Maybe I don’t quite understand what you’re suggesting?

    If this is just a Beta thing, so be it, but if there’s something else causing this…a quality score or what have you…that would surely be weird.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to weigh in on this, Will. I value your opinion.
    Miriam

  3. on 02 Jan 2008 at 9:17 am Cathy

    Miriam -

    I was working on a post about uncounted and disappearing user reviews when yours showed up on my Google Reader. :)

    I’m certainly seeing what you’re seeing and have posted the observations and some background info on my blog – http://floristblogs.com/blogs/avant_gardens/archive/2008/01/02/we-re-not-review-mavens.aspx

  4. on 02 Jan 2008 at 9:48 am Mike Blumenthal

    Hi Miriam

    I do see the same phenomena where the Google review is not counted in the total….exactly as you reported.

    Why that is I am not sure. Its not clear whether the review has less impact as a result or whether it is just an artifact of their developing software.

    Time is one theory, another might be that a Google review requires additional authority by someone tagging it as helpful (just a theory) before they count it.

    I would agree with Will that Google Maps is an unfinished work in progress and this could be part of that.

    It could also be part of their larger effort to add social aspects to Maps.

    As for Will’s comment, it’s been noted that the ranking for the OneBox and the ranking within the local business interface don’t always mesh. though I am not sure is a reflection of that. Bill, Matt and I discussed this at length. My conclusion at the time was that Bill Slawski had identified the nature of the issue in his post on Location Prominence and that it comes down to the fact that the main serps and Maps use different coverage on their maps.

    Mike

  5. on 02 Jan 2008 at 10:10 am earlpearl

    Miriam: Interesting catch. There are reported bugs within Maps. For instance it seems you can’t enter a coupon with an expiration date, but you can enter a coupon w/out an expiration date. I’ve done that. I guess you can manually adjust an expiration date after the fact. (haven’t tried that yet).

    This under reporting could be a bug.

    Beyond that. I don’t know. But nice catch.

    Dave

  6. on 02 Jan 2008 at 12:23 pm Matt McGee

    If the reviews that are not being counted are all semi-recent, I would brush this off as yet another case of Google Maps being the slowest information clearinghouse on the Internet. If it takes them 6-8 weeks (so they say) to update business information after it’s submitted into their own system, I would think recognizing reviews in their own system would also be incredibly slow.

    In reality, they may say 6-8 weeks for info. updates, but reading the Google Groups help threads, it seems more like 3-4 months is common.

    As slow as they are, I wouldn’t be alarmed until a good 6 months have passed. If the reviews still aren’t being counted then, something might be broken.

  7. on 02 Jan 2008 at 2:54 pm admin

    Cathy -
    Thanks so much for that link. Your efforts have been ongoing and dedicated in all this. I’m impressed, and also, congratulations on receiving that national award! That’s pretty great!

    You bring up a very interesting point in that post. I want to find a Google power reviewer’s account and see if their reviews are being counted upfront. This could tie into the whole authority concept. If I could further see a power reviewer’s reviews that have been tagged as ‘helpful’, that would give us more data.

    And, one of my Local goals for 2008 is to become a power Google reviewer. I haven’t put the time into becoming becoming a power digger, a power reddit-er or a power sphinner, but becoming a power Google reviewer is just my cup of tea.

    Thanks so much, Cathy, for taking the time to share all of your hands-on experience with Maps with us. Your input is really helpful to me!

    Miriam

  8. on 02 Jan 2008 at 2:59 pm admin

    Mike -
    A social aspect to maps! I would not have thought of that. Gosh…I wonder if that could be.

    Like I said to Cathy, above, it would help to look at a power reviewer’s reviews that have been tagged as helpful and see if that crosses some kind of authority threshold so that the reviews start being counted. If you know of anyone with a power account, Mike, maybe we could figure this out.

    And then, I guess it could just be a bug. Your Thank You post to the Google groups lady seemed to sum up your feelings about this – you make ‘complaints’ because you truly do want Maps to be better. Google should know that this is going on, if they don’t already.

    Thanks for weighing in, Mike!
    Miriam

  9. on 02 Jan 2008 at 3:06 pm admin

    Hi Dave!
    I have yet to do any proper reading about the coupons. That expiration issue sounds like a very goofy one.

    There was a thread on Sphinn this past week about how the author wished Google could slow down and really do serious usability testing before releasing products, but BETA seems to be the way of things on the Internet.

    In the event that Google feels they simply can’t slow down without losing their competitive edge, then citizen usability testing is what it comes down to, and, like Mike, I’d like to see them get some help in the local department so that reported issues could be logged and fixed quickly. Google should make use of their users if BETA is their state of mind these days, don’t you think, Dave?

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I surely value your input!
    Miriam

  10. on 02 Jan 2008 at 3:10 pm admin

    Hi Matt!
    Thanks for stopping by.

    In the case of the Denver Florist, the Google review was exactly 6 months old, as it happens. Seems like a pretty long time if this is just some kind of lag…or even a sandbox-y thing, eh?

    Matt, if you happen to know of any power Google reviewers you can point me to, I’d like to investigate the reviews in their profile to see if I can get any further than this!

    Hope your week is off to a good start.
    Miriam

  11. on 04 Jan 2008 at 12:42 pm Mike Blumenthal

    Miriam-

    It looks like you should become the “power reviewer” and we can all say that your reviews were helpful…to see what happens.

    Mike

  12. on 08 Jan 2008 at 1:41 pm David Mihm

    Miriam, I see I completely missed the boat on all of these comments, but I agree with what most everyone has said. Matt’s comment about the ‘slowest clearinghouse’ on the internet seems to be the simplest answer??

  13. on 10 Jan 2008 at 4:07 pm admin

    Mike -
    I think that’s a good plan. I’m going to keep working on this!

    David -
    Yes, could well be that this is a lag issue. It sure is producing strange results.
    Miriam


  14. [...] in January, I blogged about the fact that Google was failing to count their own reviews in the A-J listings and the small popup in Maps. One had to click into the bigger popup to see [...]


  15. [...] friends and neighbors in Local Search spend a lot of time calling attention to bugs and spam in Local Search. Having watched florists, locksmiths, plumbers and canoe resellers pull out their hair by the roots [...]

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