Tuesday 07 Apr 2009
Mike Blumenthal has just authored an informative post regarding Google’s Review Policy. In the comments on Mike’s post, I mentioned that I’ve been considering writing about Google’s reviews, myself, but that the variety of oddities I keep encountering in this portion of Google Maps has made it difficult to focus a post, and in truth, has just felt plain discouraging to me.
Well, I’ve made up my mind to at least describe some of the apparent bugs I’ve met with lately in Google Reviews because they do bug me, and I’d like to know why the efforts I’ve put into leaving 50+ reviews using Google’s system are getting such irregular recognition.
Here is one I’m encountering on multiple reviews I’ve left. I’m in Maps, looking at businesses, and I click on the link to read the reviews associated with a business. I’m shown the list of review snippets that link to the full reviews. But, on my own reviews, when I click on the ‘more’ link, I am not shown my full review. I’m only shown a ‘hide’ link. See illustration below:
Why can’t I access my full review? It’s very frustrating clicking that more link only to be shown a hide link. This is happening on a ton of my reviews and I don’t get it.
In many cases, my reviews and the reviews of others are simply missing. For this review of Ten Inverness Way B&B, my review (one of the few less-than-glowing reviews of the business) is simply absent. For another business, The Holly Tree Inn, there used to be something like a dozen reviews and now there are only two of them.
I happen to remember this because the reviews of this particular business were intensely negative including a memorable description of a poor old cat with a hole in its neck (not kidding!). Why are all but 2 of these reviews now gone? And why, though I am repeating myself, is my review of this business being subjected to the more-hide treatment again?
I don’t have a visual example of this one right now because it comes and goes. I’ve blogged about this previously. Some of the time, the number of reviews being listed in the text portion of the Maps listing appears to count everything except Google-based reviews. In other words, reviews from TripAdvisor, MenuPages and other 3rd party sources are being counted, but reviews left in Google Maps simply aren’t being counted in the total. I’ve seen this phenomenon again and again, and I don’t get what is going on with this.
A Few Thoughts
Thought 1 – The extreme weirdness I’m encountering in regards to reviews I have left for businesses made me wonder if, for some reason, my account had been banned or something. But, no, it still exists and a percentage of my reviews are showing just fine, with all the text. And, my reviews, to my knowledge do not violate any of Google’s Review Policies, outlined in Mike’s post. I’m honest and as accurate as possible in what I write when I leave a review, and I even try to be as fair as possible, listing both the positives and negatives of a business where appropriate. I don’t believe I’ve done anything to deserve this frustrating treatment from Google’s system.
Thought 2 – I’ll blow my own horn for a minute here in saying that I think the reviews I’ve left could be very helpful for other users researching various businesses. They are not 2 word blurbs; they are thorough and informative reviews, sometimes using the maximum space allowed by Google. I take my time when I write a review and am aware that what I am doing has the potential to be a benefit to both the public and to Google who is the recipient of my content, for free. I championed Google’s review system from the moment I first discovered it, and have spent a great deal more time leaving reviews there than in any other review entity. What is the incentive, may I ask, for me to continue creating well-written, thoughtful, free content for Google if they aren’t even going to show it to the public? These multiple bugs have begun to make me feel unmotivated to log into my Google account and spend 15 minutes of my day reviewing a new local business.
Thought 3 – I may be feeling unmotivated, but this sentiment can hardly compare to the woes of the local business owner whose online reputation is sitting, to an extent, in the palm of Google’s hand. Those business owners who have embraced review culture and are working steadily to encourage their customers to leave reviews cannot be satisfied with reviews that appear and vanish like a desert mirage, all shrouded with an aura of mystery.
The ethical and reputation-oriented concerns inherent in the reality of reviews certainly are not Google’s peculiar property, but few review entities have the power or prominence of Google, making concerns, flaws and bugs a serious matter, deserved of professional attention on the part of Google.
What is a business owner to think when, as in the case of the B&B I mentioned above, the negative reviews of his competitor disappear? Why did the negative reviews disappear? Is something going on behind the scenes? Is it just a technical bug? What is the business owner to think?
What is the reviewer to think when her reviews simply disappear? Is it a bug or is Google displeased with her?
And where can we go for answers?