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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 Brian Pasch on July 22, 2011 at 9:55pm



Let's address your concerns and add some color commentary.


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. 


Most consumers click on page one or refine their search.  Searches with the words "review" are in the vast minority of organic search traffic.   Check the stats.


Google Places displaces Page One organic content  ABOVE THE FOLD, in a big way for the #1 organic search term that drives traffic to a dealers website: their dealership name.  


I've been able to get content ahead of Google Places for broad OEM searches.  The average dealer does not have the content and link building strategy to pull that off.


Google Places is also triggers Page One display for all high volume, general search terms like "Boston Honda Dealers" or "Baltimore Ford Dealers" so in terms of visibility, nothing trumps Google Places for impressions. 


No 3rd Party Review Website has greater visibility than Google Places.


Six years ago for example, was on Google Page One for a search on a dealer's name a HIGH percentage of the time. This was a brilliant SEO strategy by founder Chip Grueter.  


Back then, there was no Certified Dealers.  If a consumer posted a negative review, it went live.  Dealer's had no recourse to prevent a negative post.   This pissed off dealers to no end.  


The thought of starting a Certified Dealer Program created a business revenue model for Chip.  Smart Guy!


Then one day, announced their Certified Dealer Program.  It was brilliant.


Some dealers felt it was extortion.  Others felt it was smart business practice.  In any case, created the market for car dealer reviews.  Bravo!   They are the #1 most recognized brand for car dealer reviews.


Today, the visibility of listing on Page One has been most likely cut by 30-50%  since the dealer's Twitter, Facebook, microsites, sub-domains, press releases, and other dealer optimized content appears on Page One.   


Did I say that Google Places displaced a good chunk of Page One SERP space?


Also keep in mind that,, and other websites took Chip's lead and optimized website pages on a Dealer's name to attract free clicks to their website pages.  


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


The average dealers Google Places listing has over 20,000 impressions a month and that is 20x-40x more than any review page on a 3rd party review website.  


So, yes, some consumers will go to the 3rd party sites that they like, but it WILL NOT be the majority.  


3rd party review sites are important.  I believe that and each have their merit.  I can spek to each of their strengths to any dealer that call me. 


It seems that people have ignored past articles that I have written which encourages dealers to review ALL sites that show up in Google search for their market.   


I have encouraged dealers to implement policies that monitor and post reviews on ALL 3rd party sites that have relevance for their business.  Dealers need to be represented positively on all consumer touch points.


3rd party sites like have built a solid reputation for encouraging honest reviews and if consumers have found specific 3rd party sites valuable, then dealers should continue investing time in posting 3rd party reviews.


Sites like are a uniq

Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 22, 2011 at 9:06pm

Wow, I wrote a novel. Sorry about hitting the character limiter.


Again, I hope this came across the way I intended. I've proven that I can admit when I'm wrong and I wouldn't be afraid to do it twice in one thread if you can show me I am in left field on any of this. 

Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 22, 2011 at 9:02pm


Here comes what I hope to be a friendly exchange of ideas. I don't post here often, but I do remember the ground rules at one point were to encourage spirited debate. That is my goal, nothing more.

I respectfully but wholly disagree with you. Google flushed EVERY 3rd party sites content from the star count, but my assertion is that was NOT a great move for Places regardless of vertical. I’m not alone in that thinking either. I'm not saying that some adjustment isn't necessary, but I think we need to take a really sober look at this before a wholesale strategy change.

1. Content has been, is and always will be KING. What happens when a user is seeking content and they don't find it on page one? They change the terms in their query. Have you noticed how often the term "reviews" shows up behind a business or product in instant? This is not at all like "starting again with reviews." If I don’t find what I want when I want it I bounce, reset my query and search again. Add the term “reviews” to any of the screenshot searches you provided and the landscape changes dramatically. It is perfectly reasonable to expect a consumer to search with these terms and that alone nukes the “starting again with reviews” suggestion.

2. Dealers that have been working at the 3rd party sites have not been doing it in vane. I won’t give a sales pitch in a forum, I don’t like reading them anymore than anybody else, but a big part of the strategy is leveraging the reviews to unsold prospects as a closing tool. Nothing that happened today changes that and dealers will still find that to be very effective. There are no tools to leverage with Google reviews and Hell really might freeze over before Google feeds your reviews to Mr. Zuckerberg at Facebook for you ;) Getting a star was a great perk, but it was never the foundation of a successful strategy.

3. This one is a two-parter. 1. The current content from Google Users is suspect at best due to Google’s failure to stop boosting practices. Quite obviously their lax enforcement was in preparation for this change. They chose numbers over validity which will decimate the key factor of confidence in the content. Remember the KSAT expose on fraudulent reviews out of San Antonio? My prediction is that you will see a surge in fraudulent boosting activity as a result of this…I give it 2 weeks before the FCC starts the investigation. 2. Prospects aren’t going to wait around for content from Google they can get from another provider now. As much as Google would love for everybody to have forgotten about Yelp, Edmunds, kudzu, angieslist, DealerRater and other well branded sites, that isn’t going to happen.

4. The reviews from 3rd party are still on the place page, given they are not as prominently displayed and don’t count as stars, but I believe that in a lengthy buying cycle on a high ticket item the customer is absolutely going to seek until they find and credibility and mass is everything. The truly successful and valuable are going to rise to the top through this change now that Google isn't aggregating every site into the star count equally.

One more thought in what is already a long post. This is huge news to us in this industry, but it isn’t even close to the radar for most consumers. If they are looking to read reviews they will find trusted sources, they aren’t going to limit themselves to a place page just because Google stopped putting in snippets from 3rd party sites. TripAdvisor blocked Google from scraping their content before this change and Yelp caught them using their reviews on the mobile app without a citation. This change happened quickly and with a promise that they were still tweaking things. Running to a primarily Google Reviews strategy and turning a blind eye to all the 3rd party sites and leveraging potential they possess because they currently don’t count for a star is just the same old 30 day kne

Comment by Kirk Sanders on July 22, 2011 at 8:42pm

First Post here on a new job.  

I unfortunately must agree with Brian, based on the last few changes with Google.  I did a presentation more than a year ago now on mobile to a board that were shocked at the numbers and came to the conclusion that getting an iphone app was not even close to what they should be planning for mobile and it would change the face of banking.  This review change together with mobile is more immediate.  Apps will not replace search engines, search engines will keep their dominate portal to the internet into the future especially with the mobile device tied to it. The browser wars are won by Google and Bing and they are the phone books with reviews no matter how some try to buy their way out in quick fixes or alternative review sites.  We now have competitors that focused on Google Places at the first of the year and turned their 1 star ratings into 4 1/2 stars in 6 months with obvious companies who know how to adapt to Google's alog, since that reviewer seems to buy a car every week, or the occasional dental visit as they are being held hostage too.  I refuse to go that route.  I've never been an knee-jerk kind of internet marketer, but I am looking at plans to create to an API using Googles App Engine to create an application our customers will sign into that gives enormous value with their car, just in order to sign them in using a google account in order to generate reviews.  No amount of advertising will overcome the reviews and their power going into the future that is being backed by a company that doesn't need to play by the same rules...that's the kicker.  
Even our diehard anti-Google customers will see the value in order to generate an email they never use just to receive the value.  It will be set up to get honest feedback like any immediate survey, and we can correct it the right way through doing business right.  

Multiple angles are great in tackling this going into the future and adjustments will need to be made, but right now Google's angle is the steepest by far and the tactics in order to handle it without serious negative impact to the company with tough competitors, need to be just as steep in my opinion.  Now that Google has the engine in place to gain more market share with a marrying of the search and mobile os (mobile still exceeding internet usage estimates), there is not a lot to stop their momentum in this shake-up in the computer world.  iPhone is already a generation behind in product development leaving one giant.  (Sorry, I like the iPhone).  Tablets are our next computer and Android has the capability to dominate there if Windows 8 falls which I believe it will.  Leaving Google with more users than ever.

Other Reputation Management methods have value, but they've dropped and one just went dramatically up, to deny that (in my opinion) will have a significant negative impact that will be recovered from but not quickly.  How it will shake out later is still in question, but if what I think happens, happens soon...there is a new big fat Yellow Pages book in town that not only takes your money to advertise, but doesn't care if their ad has writing from many bad sources as they will just point to it as the "One That Get's Used".  Your only choice is to generate real consistent reviews to get the dial going in the right (and true) direction and then and and really only then will other methods help make right, our true reputation.  Sorry about the incoherent rant-it's late.

Comment by Brian Pasch on July 22, 2011 at 6:58pm


Dealers who had been using platforms like Yelp, DealerRater, CitySearch, etc. for years had a leg up on the star counter.  Many dealers ignored Google Places.  Now that the counter is only Google Places, many of the markets have seen a level number of reviews.  This is like starting again with reviews so dealers that were behind, now have a second chance to accelerate. 

Comment by Scott Falcone on July 22, 2011 at 5:02pm



We all have our thoughts and opinions on this and ours are congruent with what you have been saying...these changes shine a spotlight on strategies that you and I have both discussed at length. Google Places is a "component" of a strong Search Engine Reputation Management strategy, not the end game.

I realize that is a term that may be new to some, but we believe that Reputation Management may have become outdated reality, a review performed by a customer (who has yet to buy a car) is useful only when "discovered". One discovers these reviews digitally, hence the addition of "Search Engine" when discussing Reputation Management. Here is a link for consideration when deciding how to proceed with the new issues Places had put before us. Review Sites. Interesting times...

Comment by Ryan Leslie on July 22, 2011 at 3:44pm

Gotta put my big boy pants on and say the three words I hate in a single sentence, "I was wrong." Glad I got that over with.

It is now clear that this change has been made and Google has spoken. There were an awful lot of blogposts from those in the know about the reasons. I saw everything from potential litigation from Yelp for using their content without citation in the mobile app to TripAdvisor blocking them from scraping content altogether, according to a few of the bloggers I've read today those underlying themes were certainly present in the release. I'm not crushing sour grapes here and that isn't really why I'm posting. I'm concerned that the fever pitch created may cause some dealers to throw out the proverbial baby...


Brian, can you clarify exactly which playing field you believe has been leveled?


Given 3rd party reviews across all verticals no longer count towards Google's star count, what value are you placing on the existing reviews on any 3rd party site (ie. tripadvisor, angieslist, kudzu, Yelp) due to this change? Are you anticipating a change in consumer behavior as a result of this?

Comment by Brian Pasch on July 22, 2011 at 2:39pm

In many ways, the playing field has been leveled, and now dealers can get a jump start on their competition if they work on an in-store review process.

PCG has a strategy in place to accelerate existing customers to directly post on Google Places and the PrestoReviews platform.  We have developed in-store scripts, word tracks, and processes to encourage in-store posting which is 10x better than post sale, off-site compliance.

Dealers looking to use this change an an opportunity to outpace their competition can give me a call and signup for our IRM services.  This is the time to strike when the playing field just got leveled for so many dealers.


The ones that emphasized only Google Places were few, so the game is wide open.  Do you need help with implementing a killer strategy?  Just call.  732.672.2356

Comment by Rob Fontano on July 22, 2011 at 9:30am
Thanks guys! I appreciate the feed back.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 22, 2011 at 9:16am
@ Rob:  That's a myth.  I do it every day.  If my customers are all on my complimentary Wi-Fi with their SmartPhones, they aren't blocked.  They wouldn't be blocked for the same thing at a restaurant, bookstore, or otherwise.  No review is more relevant than the one gained from the customer at the store.  This "blocked IP" myth came about as part of a marketing campaign from 3rd-party review sites to drive dealers to use their product "off-property" of the dealership--what Google has really said, and always said, is that same IP is ONE of the flags for them to consider looking at the review content for validity.  Google seems to actually catch on more to the, er, "content" from those review-boosting companies that was VERY similar . . . and some from IPs *far* from the stores.  Dealers and other businesses, by the way.

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