Monday 25 Feb 2008
Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
If you caught my earlier post regarding the Canoe Guy’s missing reviews, I have an update on the situation to share.
This afternoon, I phoned Charles at CanoeSport in Houston, Texas and he was gracious enough to chat with me about the reviews that have gone missing from his
Google Maps’ Local Business Listing.
According to Charles, in November of 2007, he had just one review appearing in Maps, and it wasn’t a great one. He said it was in the nature of a flame of his business. Not happy with that, Charles took action and sent an email to some 100 of his very best customers, asking them if they’d be so kind as to consider leaving a review for his business. He got a great response of more than 30 reviews being left via Google’s Own Review System.
Yes, the missing reviews are from Maps, itself.
As of last week, Charles discovered that ALL of the reviews had disappeared, both the good and bad ones. If you look up Canoesport in Houston, Texas, you will see that there’s nary a review to see there.
This is not a community wide problem. Google reviews are showing up for other businesses.
Charles is feeling understandably bewildered by this, and has tried to bring the situation to Google’s attention by posting in Google Groups, as I mentioned in my previous post. I wonder if he will be given the attention he deserves.
I have documented in the past my own frustration with the fact that Google does not appear to count its own reviews in the ten-pack or upper levels of its interface. You have to click through to the expanded pop-up in Maps to see the Google reviews included. But this isn’t what is going on here. The reviews for Canoesport are truly gone. On a similar note, Mike Blumenthal has just posted about the fluctuation in review sources he is witnessing in Google’s Maps top ten. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride, but not the cause, I would say, of Canoesport’s problem as these reviews were from Google, itself.
You Know What I Think?
In talking this situation over with my husband, Liam suggested a theory I’m feeling inclined to agree with. If CanoeSport’s 30 + reviews all showed up suddenly, over a very brief period of time, perhaps it has triggered some sort of a spam filter in Google’s local algo.
Because it would certainly be possible for a business owner to create a bunch of fictitious accounts in order to write false reviews for his business, Google might be experimenting with a filter that would discredit these reviews, if they show up too quickly, and either put them in a holding tank (read sandbox) or altogether banish them.
I like Liam’s theory very much, but if he’s correct, we’ve got a serious problem.
Local business owners are going to be asking happy customers for reviews. They will be engaging in email campaigns like CanoeSport did, they will be sending thank you cards to patrons with requests for reviews, they will be doing whatever it takes to let satisfied clientele know that they’d appreciate a review. What Charles did was a smart and natural response to seeing what he felt was an off-the-wall poor review of his company. He harnessed the power of his local customers and asked them to speak up for the quality of his company.
If Google has got some kind of undisclosed algorithmic policy that stands in opposition to that, it’s going against the tide of how things work in the real world of reviews. Based upon marketing efforts, reviews can trickle in or they can pour down like a storm. After speaking to Charles, I was quite convinced that his reviews were legitimate, and that whatever is going on is resulting in an unfair review-less presentation of his business in Maps.
My hope is that those reviews are going to show back up, and what Liam and I are considering as a potential cause of their absence could be totally off-base. What do readers think?