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From the Trenches - Who Sank Your Google Reviews?


We work hard to get good customer reviews.  Our customer service and satisfaction are extremely high.  We are a 5-Star dealership.  But yesterday or last night, my dealership lost hard-earned reviews from Google Places.  There is one left and no stars. These were, each and every one of them, legit reviews.

I have a suspect.  I consulted my friends Ralph Paglia, Scott Falcone, and Keith Shetterly.  Keith asked if I had made any changes to our Google Places page.  I didn't make any recent changes to Google Places, BUT... a little less than a week ago, Cobalt decided we needed a Google Places page that pointed to their website.  We have two websites and Cobalt, as mandated by GM, is our secondary site. They copied our Google Places page completely and put one up with a link to our secondary site belonging to Cobalt.

At that time, when I looked for our Places page in Google, it was gone from the top of the first page.  I finally found it half way down the third page... but it directed people to our Cobalt site instead of our main site.  When I tried to edit it as "Business Owner", it said it was not my account.

I logged into our Places account and everything was as it should be.  I then called Cobalt and demanded that they rectify the situation.  They apparently corrected the situation and the next day we were back where we should be.

Yesterday, all but one of our reviews disappeared and when I search for our company, Google Places is gone again.  When I search on and find the page, it is again directed to the Cobalt site.

Hmmm, I've been investigating and most of our direct same-brand competitors have been ripped as well, and coincidentally, they have two sites with Cobalt being their secondary site....  all reviews before a certain date (when Cobalt screwed around) are gone.

A connection?  What do you think? I am furious! Can anyone corroborate this with a similar experience?


Written by Tom Gorham

Editor, From The Trenches

Automotive Digital Marketing

Professional Community


Views: 2261

Tags: Customer, Google, Places, SEO, reviews


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Comment by Mark Dubis on March 3, 2012 at 8:48am

Reviews on Google are important, bus as discussed here they are fraught with all sorts of issues, that's why we are seeing more dealers who are starting to use to promote their customer reviews and leverage the RSS feeds to their social networks.  Most dealerships are already in the directory, so sales and service folks just need to set up their personal pages. 

more information

Unlike Google, Carfolks allows dealers to leverage their marketing power in the local market to stand out from competitors and highlight the customer focused buying experience.  The individual program is FREE. 

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 3, 2012 at 5:24am

Thanks Brian, I'll use those links and work on it today.  I did set ground rules for Cobalt through my advocate, but it seems they ignored them.  Wish I could attend your Boot Camp and meet the Google Places team.

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 3, 2012 at 4:36am

Tyson, you are right there are some differences.  We had one listing only and Cobalt took it upon themselves to make changes.  I am not sure exactly what they did.  I am the only administrator of our Google account.

A while back, Cobalt notified us that they were going to search all directories and add us to any that we don't show up.  I immediately called our advocate and asked them not to touch any listings we already have... SPECIFICALLY Google Places.

The only difference is that it points to the Cobalt site instead of our main site, but when I go into our legitimate account, it still points to our main site.  When I try to edit from the search page on "as the Business Owner", it tells me it's not created with our account.

So anyway, it's not a matter of clustering or different addresses.  We do have a storage lot that keeps showing up as us separately.  I take it down, Google puts it up again. Mostly it's confusing for the customer.

What's interesting is that most of our immediate same-brand competitors had theirs disappear also at the same time.  The only commonality is having two sites with the secondary site being Cobalt.

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 3, 2012 at 4:26am


I can confirm that other clients have had issues with Google Places, and for some, it seemed related to the initiative that Cobalt has undertaken to update Google Places listings.  I have not personally asked Cobalt about their updates/maintenance to Google Places yet.

I would agree with Criss that any vendor partner that touches Google Places must do it in conjunction with the store because how sensitive the listings are.  Some of my clients were unaware that Cobalt had desire to touch Google Places listings.

Getting Google Places Fixed

Here are the two links to submit problems to the Google Places team regarding your listing:

For incorrect information (or other issues) on any external listing, please visit this troubleshooter:

For difficulties verifying a listing (either via PIN or bulk verification), please visit this troubleshooter:

These linked should help start a process of resolution, according to the Google Jumpstart Automotive Team.  

The Google Places team came out to the Digital Marketing Strategies Conference in February, and we hope to have them back for the Automotive Boot Camp since the attendees go so much help from them face to face.

I would encourage ADM members who have Cobalt website to ask their ProCare rep about the processes and set some ground rules for their Google Places strategy. 

Comment by Tyson Gamblin on March 2, 2012 at 11:18pm

Tom, I am in the same boat as you!  I have had a messy encounter with Google Places the past couple of weeks.  Our situation is very similar and a little different as we have two store locations so we have just allowed our cobalt site to use one of those locations and our main website the other location (different addresses and slightly different title)  My big issue came a few weeks ago as one day I was checking my reviews I could not find my listing, it was completely gone in search results.  I jumped on some google forums and they instructed that Google places was having some issues with consolidating places accounts.  They instructed the owners to make a small edit change and submit the small change and that should help the issue . Within 24 hours my listing was back up.  (Blood pressure went back to normal).  The biggest issue that addresses your concern with reviews is this... We had a 196 Reviews (we are not a big dealer and this is a big focus for us as we plan on making this a marketing stance for 2012). This whole week I have 2 reviews to my name and of course I got blasted in 1 of those two (perfect timing).  I have done some major research on this and the answer I am getting from everyone is the same: just wait and hope the reviews come back.  That is the last thing I want to hear.   The worse is Google themselves say, sorry, but you might get your reviews back or you might not.  I have talked to specialist at Cobalt and TKcarsites and others in the industry as they all have instructed me that they have seen this recently and most of the reviews come back.  Here is a post in a Google Forum that explains google stance on the situation (this is what they are directing all question regarding to): I personally do not like their answer how to get the listing back on our places account. "There’s no way currently to quickly, easily and absolutely get your reviews back on to your listing. If we dropped them during a reconciliation process, you’ll see them reappear after a few days. Other than that, there’s not much our support team can to do to ensure they get reinstated. Fixing this is a priority for us, and we’re working on long-term solutions to resolve most of these cases. " I received an email from Cobalt today on their ongoing relationship with Google on this: We’ve had the chance to dig deeper into your Google Places listing.   While your business listing profile is not missing, it is still not showing up in the SERP.  As a result of a Google Places platform enhancement, we are seeing business listings  experience a series of issues and changes such as listings disappearing or getting duplicated, impacts to reviews, delays in listing updates, among others.  This has been happening to all types of businesses since the beginning of the year, including listings managed by Cobalt.  It appears you are impacted by this.  We will continue to optimize your Google Places listing and will further analyze what recent changes Google has done so that we can apply these learnings with the intention of getting your Places listing visible in the SERP again.   As always, we can’t guarantee as we don’t control the changes Google does. I personally do not let Cobalt touch my google places account, I just linked one of my locations with my cobalt website url a few weeks ago and that is when I started having problems, I would not point the finger at Cobalt at all, this is something that goes outside our industry and bookstores, dinners and real estate agencies have put in claims on google forums to get this resolved. I created my own forum post n

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