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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 Keith Shetterly on July 23, 2011 at 12:59pm



Nothing directed at you, personally, at all.  I think you've handled yourself here very well, and like Ralph I appreciate your candor and perspective.  It's nice to hear from the folks involved.


That said, I stand by what I wrote.  I'm actually also offended that Google Places itself even suggests other "like" businesses at the bottom of a business listing in GP, as well.  It's not quite the same as placing a competitor's ad right on the review of a business, but it's still not right, imho.


Thanks again,




P.S. ADDED:  And I don't know how many of DR's staff ever worked in a car dealership.  However, I will reiterate my point:  Using a review of a dealer to sell ad space to that dealer's competitor or to the dealer itself . . . I wonder if the customer writing the review would have a problem knowing that their voluntary and freely-given review of their dealer was costing the dealer money . . . which got passed on to them in the purchase price of their car?  Essentially, that they paid money to give that review?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 23, 2011 at 12:51pm



I just wanted to say thank you for introducing another perspective on Google's Reviews and Star Ratings system... There is a lot of value in this discussion because of the expression of opposing, or simply different opinions and perspectives.  When it comes to the dealer's strategy on where they guide or direct their customers to post a review of their experience in the dealership, I simply believe it should be where that review will yield the most benefit to that dealership.  


Because this requires "situational management" I also see this target as changing over time.  There may be times when a Google Places/Maps review is sorely needed, and other times where the need may be DealerRater, MerchantCircle or even the dealer's own reviews and ratings site such as what PrestoReviews and BusinessRater provide.


In any circumstance, the portability of the review as "web content" should be an important consideration.  Simply stated, can the dealer easily and automatically syndicate review content to web pages and sites where prospective customers can be invited to read these reviews without being marketed and advertised to by outside businesses and competing dealers.


One of my favorite aspects of DealerRater Certification is that DR provides dealers with the tools to push their best reviews to just about any website or social network that the dealer may want to use, without limitation... This is a valuable asset to dealers who are accruing reviews on a regular basis.


I love the way that PrestoReviews and BusinessRater generate web pages for the dealer's reviews along with additional pages focused on city of the reviewer and the other criteria.


But, when i look at and use the reviews within Google Places/Maps, there really isn't anything compelling about the services OTHER THAN THE STAR RATINGS THAT SHOW UP IN SEARCH ENGINE RESULTS PAGES (SERP).  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. 

Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 23, 2011 at 12:16pm

Hey Keith,


I can't speak to Yelp. They are crazy over there for sure. Since you raised the topic I'd like to comment about responding and advertising on DealerRater as there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there.


In short, any GM can request access to post a public response to any review. You don't have to be a certified dealer to respond. But just like Amex "Membership has its privileges." A big part of certification is training and teaching the How To's of responding to negative reviews. That part of our model isn't really any different than any other consultant a dealer may hire. Private responses are a privilege reserved for certified stores only as a primary function of certification. When a reviewer leaves a review they are informed that certified dealers value them and are likely to attempt to reconcile. But again, any GM can publicly reply to any reviewer. They don't have to be certified to do so.


The ad space on DealerRater is fundamentally no different than any other ad space and arguably much more "fair/dealer friendly." Let's bring this full-circle and consider the Place Page we've been discussing. Without looking do you know how many advertisements are flanking the reviews? How about this one, how many competing stores did you just introduce your prospective customer to on that Place page with your dealer's name on it? If you don't want to take the time the answer is 4 and 6 respectively! Why again is everybody so giddy about Google making this change?


Worst case scenario at any point with DealerRater you have an ad space filled by one competing dealer that you have first right of refusal to claim...


I'm sick and tired of any attitude that says DEALERS will cheat in a review system that cheats THEM.


Honestly, not sure if this was directed at me or not... But really Keith, if anybody has a right to feel cheated right now by a review system it is the small businesses that just got robbed by Google's self-serving decision to remove credible 3rd party ratings and reviews from their star count and force them to use their inferior system.

Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 23, 2011 at 12:11pm



I don't discount Google reviews as a platform and I agree with you that things have changed... but I think people need to realize that it comes with some inherent problems/difficulties. Yes, I think they are woefully neglect in policing their own review content for a company that was so eager to police every 3rd party.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 23, 2011 at 8:53am

Personally, I won't push a single reviewer to Yelp, DealerRater, or the like.  It's funny that the "gaming" that is "policed" on these sites is a distraction from their real game:  Taking reviews on dealers and selling access to the same dealers of the process to be able to fully respond AND selling ad space around the reviews to that dealership's competitors.  Who polices THAT?!? I'm sick and tired of any attitude that says DEALERS will cheat in a review system that cheats THEM.


These comments are strictly mine and do not necessarily reflect those of management.  I can tell you, though, that they damn sure reflect the feelings of a LOT of dealers, because they write me every time I take on this subject.

Comment by Brian Pasch on July 23, 2011 at 8:23am



Your original comment was " The current content from Google Users is suspect"


My point was that all reviews can be gamed.  I did not say people could not game Google.   You discounted Google review content as a platform. 


Dealers who allow or hire companies to post false reviews on their Google Places page are at fault.  Dealers have the ability, as well as anyone, to mark a review as spam.  I am well aware of the scam companies that offer to post false reviews for a fee.  


Dealers that understand the value of their online  reputation don't hire these companies and those are the dealers I am addressing in my post. 


Is Google lax in enforcing reviews?  You clearly demonstrate their policing policies have failed. They only have a few people working in Google Local.  Hopefully the revenue from Boost will increase staffing.


DealerRater has done a great job in enforcing your TOS and the Certified Dealer system allows negative posts to be corrected before going live.  Balance.


A few bad apples does not however invalidate the content posted by many dealers who engage their customers to post valid reviews on Google Places.


Some companies swing to hard on policing to extremes.


In fact just today Eric Miltsch posted a comment that 3 of his VALID customer reviews were removed because they were "too good".  Yelp is ridiculous!  I would say that they love when customers complain and hate when customers rave.    They border on the edge of being a cleaned up


Is this a better system?    


DealerRater is a fine product and a part of any IRM strategy for car dealers.   I've never said that these changes invalid the value of, it just changes the strategy.


Where DealerRater has missed the boat is not allowing consumers to post reviews from a mobile app when they are in the dealership.  The mobile consumer is any business's best advocate since they can post a review "during" the positive experience.


I can post a review on TripAdvisor when I am in the hotel.  I can post a review of a Spa from Google Places App while I'm paying post treatment.


If DealerRater could develop a trust in people to post from a Mobile App, that would be great.  This would be a innovative enhancement to the DealerRater platform that is just frankly, long overdue.



Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 23, 2011 at 7:18am



This is really the crux of the discussion. If a dealer is utilizing reviews in their sales process as a closing tool, not just for seo, the review itself matters. The necessity of leveraging HAS NOT changed. Shameless plug probably, but it looks like that is ok around here…


Training dealer’s to proactively build reviews that are relevant to a prospect, not just a search engine, and providing the tools to leverage those reviews to increase show and closing ratio in all aspects of the sales process is what the DealerRater team does better than any other. I’m really proud to be in that choir and it seems a lot of preachers are trying to step up into the pulpit right now with a “Fire and Brimstone REPENT and worship at the altar of GOOGLE!” message. 3rd party sites aren’t crawling in a hole because Google made what may be a temporary decision, and even if permanent it doesn’t really change much for us. It actually creates some opportunity to augment our tools and create greater differentiation.


I had some great calls from my dealers yesterday. One of them was hoping this would “thin the herd” of certified dealers in his market so that he could increase his dominance. If all you are worried about right now is a star count you will be seeing stars when your competition outleverages you on the 3rd party sites that are recognizable by your unsold prospects.


I agree completely that dealers need a strategy that evolves and should partner with teams that can help them reach their goals. Most I talk with have a pretty simple goal, sell some cars, service some cars, make some profit. Despite a ton of fear-mongering, this change by Google in no way diminished DealerRater’s ability to help achieve that goal. Like you already said, Chip is a “smart guy.” I know he already has a few things in mind to make some great lemonade out of these recent developments.


Thanks for the interesting discussion and happy to talk offline to anybody…



Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 23, 2011 at 7:16am



Claiming that Google Places reviews are suspect is without grounds.  


Um… Can’t sugar coat this one Brian, it’s your turn to say those three dreaded words, and I’m going to hold you to it…let me provide you some grounds. Google has paved the road for those companies that I won’t dignify by naming here. Google has not enforced their own TOU, likely due to this impending change. Look at these screen shots, there are several more like it and they are easy to find right now:


Vendors might be the ONLY people in the world that visit 6 different dealers in 3 months. What is the likelihood that multiple reviewers all using one name monikers with nondescript avatars are visiting the same dealers? Here is the link to that KSAT expose I mentioned in the previous post. There have been other recent stories that are similar. Wanna watch your stars implode and turn your showroom into a black hole? Prospects can smell this fishy stuff a mile away and it destroys the dealer’s credibility. As for outmanuevering filtering, that isn’t as easy as you think when that is a focus. We have live eyes on every review that hits the site and frequently research reviews beyond IP and GUID. I pulled down 40 reviews all written by the same salesperson from a single point Honda store. It took national coverage to pull down the blatant fraud at that eyeglass store in NY. This is clearly not Google’s focus… if you don’t believe me try to get a fraudulent review removed from your places page, hell, load up a couple positive ones and put in the body that you are the owner…


Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 23, 2011 at 7:12am

Thanks for the engaging reply. I think I understand now where our differences lie.


Content is king, agreed. I'm and advocate of content and SEO strategies.  You are preaching to the choir.  No one knows how to leverage content online better than my team. 


Let me clarify as this is a great synopsis of our differing viewpoints.  I was not referring to leveraging content for SEO, this preacher isn’t interested in that pulpit. I’m talking simply about the number of reviews necessary to impact a decision to buy. Relatively low review counts of low quality isn’t going to inspire anybody and leads to the click away from the Place page. You are absolutely right that most dealers don’t have internal folks to do some of the things you do, but you only take one dealer per make per PMA, right? I didn’t get from your initial post that this was primarily an SEO tool only for you guys. I don’t think it needs to be for most dealers out there to have value.


In fact, I believe that and recent entry into consumer reviews is DUE to Chip's innovative revenue model!


I don’t think so. Their foray into reviews had nothing to do with a revenue model. Cars launched it for free to all dealers because they recognized it as a hole in their game that caused shoppers to leave their site for another in a critical part of the buying process. It is the content, read information that is valuable to a prospect, that they were looking for.



Comment by Brian Pasch on July 22, 2011 at 10:04pm



Claiming that Google Places reviews are suspect is without grounds.  


We all know that anyone can outmaneuver review filtering processes implemented by DealerRater, Yelp, CitySearch, Edmunds, etc.  


Keep in mind that even DealerRater Certified Dealers have two weeks to "resolve" complaints from consumers.  This resolution never is transparent to the public if it is resolved before the holding period expires.  


Those dealers that don't pay the fee to be "certified" have immediate posting of negative reviews.  To the consumer, they are unaware that certified dealers have a grace period.


In the end, dealers need a strategy.  Dealers need marketing partners that keep them advised on market changes and they need innovative solutions to those changes.


My posts have been a great wake-up call for some and a cause for varied opinion.  That's what makes ADM a great community.


Dealers who want to lock in their market for PCG Digital Marketing strategies, just need to call.  We only work for one OEM brand per market, so snooze you lose!




Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG DIgital Marketing

732.672.2356 (cell)

732.450.8200 (office) 


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