ADM serves Car Dealers, Automotive Marketing Pros and Internet Sales Managers
I just read this article today from this week's Automotive News. It is very discouraging when a dealer works so hard to get reviews from satisfied customers just to have not a few but sometimes in the hundreds disappear without an explanation! I agree with the article that a set list of rules need to be established in plain English so that not only dealers but companies in general know what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable.
Many of us do know that the following seem to flag reviews:
1. Reviews resulting from the same IP address.
2. Reviews where incentives are offered whether good or bad reviews.
3. Reviews written for other people. This can be flagged when different people are showing the same IP address.
4. I have heard that reviews from the dealership location use to be acceptable by Google but now it is being rumored that reviews from the dealership are being flag with their IP address.
5. Reviews are pulled randomly to prevent abuse. Ok. I understand this but how ironic the reviews pulled are never negative ones.
This is one of many reasons why dealers should never put all their review "eggs" in one basket... I have seen dealers with over 1,000 Google reviews accumulated over a 3 year period, lose them all... Gone... Three years of work. Ever since so many people became overly infatuated with Google Reviews I have steered the dealers who listen to me into a strategy that let's the customer choose the dealer review site they want, when outside of the dealership. When inside the dealership, the review site should be one that allows the dealer to own the content created and to have customer post reviews while they are still inside the dealership, and their experience is fresh in their minds; such as Presto Reviews or BusinessRater.
For those that did not heed my guidance over the past two years about predicting that Google would create review filters... I told you so!
I agree Ralph. We have many reviews on Yelp as well as Yahoo and now started using an independent review system with our dealership website called Driverside. However, it still remains that Google is the power player and carries more weight with the consumer. Maybe one day, the consumer will realize that they should consider all review websites.
I always love a good "I Told You So"
We have had this Review Thing all wrong for many years. Do you think Google or Yelp want customers writing reviews at a dealership...still in the ether? Not hardly. It doesn't even make sense. You've probably got advice to do this or do that from yet another automotive "consultant" as far as reviews go. Did it ever cross your mind that that area is owned by the consumer? Don't you think Google, Yelp and every other rating site wants the consumer to completely own their review? We're not in the review business. Let me repeat that: WE'RE NOT IN THE REVIEW BUSINESS! We're in the car business. We handle customers and their money. We just HANDLE them though. We don't own them. When a customer leaves, they should have time to think about their experience. The most we should do is ask them (only if we have rapport) if they wouldn't mind saying something nice in the media, if they enjoyed their experience at our business. That's it!
Everyone that collected reviews inside their dealer and with any marketing company they could find, simply false started in the race. Their reviews got ejected from the competition. What has happened to those dealers was categorically fair. In a race, you have the choice to false start. It's cheating to all the other competitors and that is why the gun rings out again, rather quickly. Google has fired the second shot and cheaters are paying the price.
Let the reviews fall. Don't go into the business of collecting reviews like they are seashells. If you run a great business, your customers will tell you...and the rest of the world. If you run a bad business, your customers will tell you. At least, let's hope they do. You get a chance to correct your mistakes. Let the cards fall on reviews. Get back into the car business...not the ratings business. That's the customer's business. For the record, if you do something great for a customer, it will remain fresh in their minds forever. Think about it...
Just Do It Right (with ratings)
I completely agree about not asking for reviews at the dealership. We have never done that and that we are not in the review business. Unfortunately because the business world has emphasized the importance of reviews, it has gotten really out of hand! So, all dealerships feel the pressure that if they don't have enough positive reviews, it will hurt them. In reality, it does hurt them as many articles have shown.
Incentives can be used for reviews you just can not reward people to leave a positive review. Google actually incentivized reviews itself ($100 Gift Certificate For Leaving Reviews).
Reviews from the same ip address are allowed, but what many believe Google frowns upon are reviews left from the same ip address to the same business. I leave many reviews from the same ip address and they all stick but they are to different businesses.
For those who leave reviews from a mobile devices the same ip address can be shared between users so theoretically several people could leave a review to the same business from the same ip address resulting in legitimate reviews being flagged as fake. Many believe with the recent change of Google TOS a new tracking feature was added that is being pushed to devices to show each device leaving reviews are different therefore legitimate even though they may have the same ip address.
One thing that we all know for sure Google will do what ever they want to do and there is not much we can do about it for now.
With 73% of car shoppers actually checking online reviews and 1 in 5 changing their buying decision based upon reviews, according to Yahoo!/Cobalt Dealer E-Business Study, reviews matter today more than ever before. I think that with the current rise of smart phones and tablets that more and more people will do more research prior to making a buying decision.
Unfortunately Jason people who are upset or not happy with your service or sales process are much more likely to leave a review than someone who had a great experience. That is just the nature of the beast. That is why it is always important to ask your happy customers to spread the word about experience within your dealership.
Agree with Ralph you should never have all your eggs in one basket. But the sad fact is if you do a search for a local business from a mobile device the primary thing that shows up is the Google+ Local Pages. Most searches from mobile are local so like it or not you have to deal with the Big G.
When I said reviews from the same IP address, I meant for a particular dealership not if someone left reviews for a variety of businesses. I am unaware of the mobile devices having the same IP address.
I still am unsure about incentives. This article said they were giving away $100 gift certificates for reviews. However, this is different than a dealership asking for reviews on their website. Why? It was a contest to get Google Places' review service out there, correct?
One thing I do know for sure is Google needs to set rules that stay constant instead of changing on a weekly or daily basis!
Like Ralph commented earlier in this discussion, I am working on all review platforms and not just Google.
I once offered $500 on here for anyone to link to Google complaining about in-house reviews or that they filter OUT reviews by IP. Nobody took me up on that, but I figured it was worth it if someone actually KNEW this rather than just accepted it. Content can get you flagged a lot faster. And they talk about THAT issue. Why not the IP? I'm not paying $500 for it any longer, but it would be good if someone could clear this up. Personally, I think it's paranoia long-fueled by review systems within our industry. I think of hotels . . . if they ask for reviews in the lobby, would Google care? They HAVE said that t's the CONTENT they look at--whether IPs are flagged for audit, so far no one knows more than a rumor or their own feelings on it. If a dealer's content looks shady . . . is it? Maybe. Thanks!
The example I provided was just one example of Google giving incentives to post reviews but they are many more. I will go back over the terms and see if I can find a more definitive answer. Unless you post online you are offering an incentive for your customers to leave a review not sure how Google would ever know.
Keith one thing for sure is that none us really know what the secret algorithm is that Google uses so we all keep adapting to changes.
Michael, you got THAT right! Google: The Land of Infinite Profits Through Secret Sauce. :)
Google bought Zagat last year and last month bought Frommers. Google is going the route of complete transparency thru 'consumer reviews.' People may not agree with it or like it but that is a fact.
Just in the last week they did another algorithm change to Google Plus pages, the old Google Places, and the companies with bad reviews were removed from the showing up at the top!
Consumer reviews are what shoppers are making their decisions on. It sucks that Google cleared out thousands of good reviews and left bad ones. However, as stated above you need to spread your reviews around to multiple sites. It's a never ending cycle with getting more positive reviews. You can't stop getting them otherwise your dealership will suffer.
Not to mention only about 40% of reviews will stick. Google will not post the other 60%. If you don't try to keyword stuff the reviews then you will have better results of getting them to stick.
Google algorithms have always been subject to constant tweaking to get around people trying to trick the system, and it seems comments have become a victim, too. Part of me agrees with Jason that it would be great for us to allow the comments to post organically, but in this era of social media, the same trends ring true as word of mouth - you are lucky to get ONE person to tell someone about their great experience, while someone with a negative experience tends to tell TEN or more people - even when you DO correct the concern. But in this digital era, that stuff - good and bad - is out there F O R E V E R, so it does make sense to encourage customers to share their experience when you KNOW they are happy.
I know dealers who spiff salespeople for getting their customers to comment, and I also know dealers who pay someone to try to trick the system. It's a sure bet that the latter of those situations has led to this great purge, even if it isn't fair.