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Google Boots Third Party Review Sites From Star Counts

Change once again is rocking the automotive digital marketing world as Google today drops the third party review counts from its yellow stars.  ONLY reviews directly posted on Google Places are showing.  This screen shot of BMW of Scherville showed all the DealerRater reviews last week in their star counts but not today.


This is what their Google Places account looked like last week:

In fact, all BMW dealers in Chicago are impacted:

In-Store Reputation Management & Google Places


I've been coaching dealers to start using the Google Places App on their iPhones and iPads to increase directly posted reviews.  The benefit?  The dealer can use Google Boost to spice up their PPC strategy. 


I also warned dealers that if Google every dropped the review "counts" from the stars from 3rd parties, they would be better protected by having a direct Google Places posting strategy.


Now keep in mind, Google is still showing the counts from third parties in brackets, but the key metric is that the yellow stars are what always show and not always do the consolidated reviews show.


A Tsunami of Change

Acton Toyota has over 1,227 reviews posted on DealerRater but they only have 10 reviews directly posted on Google Places. A few weeks ago I saw their Google listing and it showed over 1,000 reviews with their stars.  That is now history!


In fact, Google is not even showing all of their reviews from as shown below:

Dealers looking for direction on how to best adapt to these changes should start an in store reputation management process that include using 3G iPads and iPhone devices.


Dealers must set processes to identify consumers with Google accounts while they are in the dealership.  550,000 Android devices are activated a DAY and all have Google Accounts.  Google empowered consumers can post reviews directly on Google Places, with their account, from a mobile device.


I told dealers this day would come and today is that day.  If you need help with in store training, processes, and strategy on reputation management, give me a call.  I'm here to help.  We have the strategy and solutions.


Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing


Views: 415

Tags: dealer, google, irm, management, places., reputation, reviews


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Comment by Matt Tucker on July 25, 2011 at 2:21pm


You nailed a key point (error imo) that Google Reviews / Places has. They have a VERY soft TOU agreement. See it in the link at the bottom.

Customers are getting smarter and better at scanning the data placed in front of them. When you leave the door 'open' and basically make the content you display subject to a wiki-like monitoring (you can flag an inappropriate review, but Google is unlikely / won't to scan for false data like Yelp or DR), you leave a big question mark in your relevance and/or importance to consumers. (example, I now question consumer reports seeing that they back-door sell customer lead information to dealers - so much for impartial).

Also as you point out, the current review is interesting considering the FTC did the exact same inquisition on Microsoft in the late 90's. The fear there was that Windows and IE would become the gatekeeper funnel for the Internet. The anti-trust issue arose out of MS ability to lock-in a customer to the product. Want a different operating system on your PC, go ahead and try it....


Google, by operating as a free system, works in a different method. They function on loyalty and brand awareness (not sure how android / google phones will play into the investigation). Along with loyalty comes the need to continuously make your product relevant to consumer need. That, in my opinion, is what they have done.


The issue with mining and reusing data from reviews without consent is a valid business complaint. The issue of why Google related products appear before non in a Google search I find to be not valid.


It will be very interesting to see what the FTC 'finds' out .......something tells me there may be some political leaders who magically will appear at the top of search results over the next year.... just saying.




Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 25, 2011 at 11:04am
Google could theoretically put a lot of this to bed just by providing a voluntary way for a review site to offer it's star ratings to GP; they could even vet the review sites on things like # of reviews, length of existence, depth and breadth of market, etc. and keep out the riff-raff, so to speak.  Having been through a DOJ anti-trust when I worked at MS, I'd say it makes you do things a little diff.
Comment by Kirk Sanders on July 25, 2011 at 9:34am

The changes in computing make this change from Google more significant than just the change alone.

The mobile of impact of android together with the success and potential of Google Apps for Business (mixing their consumer products in with their recent platform change) and with both Google + and Reviews integrated into a search that 85% use is significant.  Other failures were because it was not integrated into search.   Now two review systems (places and your social +1's) are owned by Google and is seen every time the car shopper goes on the internet for their most basic task (even on dumbed down mobile search engines which only seem to make the stars look bigger).  There is a major shift going on not just at Google but the whole computing world and Google is positioned well.  I wish it wasn't so and their was more market share for other engines.  

If WebOS (the new platform on HP tablets) is successful and if it switches from Google to Microsoft Bing or Windows 8 is successful, then that would be the only way to slow down Google's momentum.  It's ironic that turning to Microsoft in this case is a way to avoid a monopoly, but the internet/search/cloud business is being taken over completely by Google.

Google doesn't have to make a better product right away in this realm, just needs to be in front of the consumer and more convenient to be successful, and it is just another piece to a bigger picture that will make it more significant in the long run.

Comment by Todd Vowell on July 25, 2011 at 8:52am
What a great article from WSJ, everyone needs to read that. Thanks Ryan. I guess when your swinging a $200 Billion dollar worth, everyone wants to knock you off the mountain. The online industry is still unfamiliar land for many. The government will intrude and it will get much more interesting... Thanks again for the link Ryan, great article!
Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 25, 2011 at 8:28am

I want to clarify my last comment was not aimed at PCG. I don't want anyone to think that was intended to be a low blow dig, the work Brian's team does in SEO is NOT a 30 day solution. We obviously differ on this topic in some areas, but I was specifically referring to the boosting companies that are popping out of the woodwork on the heels of this change.

Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 25, 2011 at 7:56am

Great comment Todd!


That visual image really nails a lot of the sentiment I've read online over the weekend, especially at Google's support forum for small businesses impacted by this:

New changes to Place pages - Google Places for business Help


Let me give the counterpoint though...Here is an interesting read from the WSJ and a wrinkle I mentioned earlier in this discussion that was omitted in the OP and Google's blog announcement. A good friend sent me a link to this article from the WSJ. I know it doesn't fit exactly, but there is an organization that has the power to make the guy in the lab coat quit shocking the lab rats, and they seem to be taking an interest in this little experiment.


These guys don't think this was all about Google making decisions to totally control flow, and if they are right, this was a reactionary move from Google to keep Uncle Sam off of them, NOT a POWERPLAY. The assertion is that the 3rd parties forced their hand to protect their content and their tremendous lead over Place pages in content users are actually searching for, not the other way around. You may see some even more interesting changes to this maze in the near future ie, no preferential returns of the Place page over other more viable content due to anti-monopoly/antitrust regulations from the Feds, now wouldn't that be interesting...


Forget the Fire extinguishers, we're going to be needing radiation suits!


Things aren't always what they seem in the first 24 hrs... Brian and I agree on this point for certain, Dealers need a comprehensive strategy that adjusts but always has value in a changing marketplace and partners that can truly help them achieve their goals, not just provide a 30 day knee-jerk solution.

Comment by Todd Vowell on July 25, 2011 at 7:07am

Sometimes I feel like we are all running around in a maze like lab rats. While some dude in a white "lab coat" with "Google" as the name tag, is writing notes on his clipboard. (the clipboard dude has a cold and uses $100 bills to blow his nose).  

Google can't get social media right (Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google Orkut, and now Google +), yet we continue to jump on the wheel every time they make another change or another product.


Comment by Brian Pasch on July 25, 2011 at 5:41am

Thomas, everyone is entitled to an opinion.  That's why ADM is such a great forum.  


The changes in Places is just one "shift" that Google has put in play which changes a dealers operational and marketing strategy.  The change in how "star counts" are calculated forces a change in strategy and marketing visibility.  


This change also opens up new advertising channels that 95% of dealers are not using today.


The awareness that posts like this one create, will open the eyes of many dealers to the importance and visibility of Google Places.  You obviously feel that this change isn't very important, that's OK.  I believe differently based on data.


Since about 20% of dealers have not claimed their listing, and about 75% have not completed their listing, it's a wakeup call for our industry.  Dealers are ignoring the free and paid opportunities, and of course strategy, that Places offers.


The net impact of how Places handles reviews and opportunities that Places  offers qualifies as a game changer to me. 


Aside from Places, Google is on a role lately, change is everywhere.


Recently Google has added changes in Adwords ads which now can include Sitelinks and META tags from landing pages.  


The +1 impact is yet to be fully understood.  


When Brand Pages are allowed for car dealers, another shift will happen when businesses leverage author tags.


All of these individual shifts may seem to some as "no big deal" which is great for the marketplace because not all dealers are ready to lead.  


Those dealers who understand how to leverage change will advance.  Those that continue doing what they always did will miss opportunities and lulled into complacency.  


It's much easier for people to submit another blog article on a topic that has been written, rewritten, and rehashed.  It's safer that way and keeps the haters at bay.


I don't mind the heat...Does anyone know where I can buy a fire extinguishers?

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on July 25, 2011 at 3:14am
I strongly agree with RP's comment, "So, to me it is neither a surprise nor is it the "Game Changer" that everybody else seems to think it is that Google will no longer incorporate Star Ratings from non-Google sources in the Google Star Ratings displayed in search results.  To me, this should have been expected and seems like a very logical move on Google's part." When Ralph says ".....that everybody else seems to think....." I exclude myself from "everybody" and suggest that some who are screaming your houses are on fire are selling fire extinguishers. I would not be too quick to start writing checks to fix something that may not be broken. A crisis, real or perceived makes little difference to some marketers as either case can represent a new profit center. I wholeheartedly agree with RP that this is not a "Game Changer" that some would have us believe.
Comment by Tom Gorham on July 23, 2011 at 4:12pm
Interesting comments from all here. It's not the first time Google has made companies "change gears" and I'm certain it won't be the last. They are not in business to make us happy.

In their own words, their goal is to provide the most relevant search results to their searchers. It's a starting point on their mentality whether you believe it or not. As companies continue to try and game the "system", Google will change their business plan and algorythms. And like it or not, companies will continue to ante up.

I like Ralph's term "Situation Management". As Frank Sinatra said, "That's Life".

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