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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: 2233

Tags: Customer, Google, Places, SEO, reviews


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Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 5, 2012 at 11:51am

@ VJ:  That's great news!  Thank you.  

So, in Tom Gorham's case, do you think then that the iMR created a business page not knowing the dealer had one already?  This causes a LOT of issue with GP when this happens.

Comment by VJ on March 5, 2012 at 11:47am

If I were still in the dealership and thought someone was messing with my Google Places page I would have been up the roof, so I understand the concerns of dealers on this string. We have done some high-priority research on the issues raised and can report on what we found.   

From the get-go and I want to make this point here really clear: Cobalt is 100% clear that YOU own your Google Places page.  Cobalt does not have access to any claimed business page at anytime.


As we know Google started early this year on enhancements and updates to their Google Places platform. Since these changes the Google forums in multiple verticals have been exploding with comments from businesses experiencing the same issues the dealers on this string are experiencing.


What may be confusing is that during the same time period Cobalt introduced GM’s iMR Listings program. The program was designed to support these dealers who had NOT claimed their listings to make sure they got the traffic coming to Google Places and nearly 100 other directory sites.  Chevy dealers were informed of the program in advance and can opt-out at any time, or just claim their Google Places page.  The program only applies to UNCLAIMED directory listings and is a great success for dealerships who hadn’t claimed their sites with a significant increase in their phone and web traffic.


We want to emphasize the occurrences like disappearing Google reviews, access denied to your Google place page and rearrangement of Google’s business categories is related to Google’s platform changes and not with Cobalt

Google has been responsive to fixing issues we have been aware of.  If dealers aren’t getting a timely response from Google they can contact their advocate and we will work to escalate their solution with Google.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 5, 2012 at 10:17am

You don't send Luke after The Borg.  This would be worse than the way TrueCar started out with dealers, in my opinion, and I would scream louder about it than just about anything else I've seen.  In fact, IF THIS IS TRUE it would deserve a name and logo change:

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 5, 2012 at 9:27am

Still no word from Cobalt.  As to the possibility of Google giving them admin or superuser capability, it's not so far-fetched.  Our Cobalt rep was telling us a couple weeks ago that Cobalt is a Google "Partner" now. Jeeesh!

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 5, 2012 at 8:47am

@ Ryan:  I'll be very interested in what Blumenthal says.  GP has to be one of the least-thought-out, widest-reaching releases in the history of software.

Comment by Ryan Leslie on March 5, 2012 at 8:36am

I'd agree with Keith... HUGE, but they would also certainly realize the problems this would cause with reviews, WHY would they allow that? As Keith already said, in a system where any user can affect the critical contact info in a listing, you don't need a super-user status, you just need enough motivation to invest the time in creating the new listing and let Google merge the content for you, right?

I just reached out to Mike Blumenthal for his insight. Many of you know him already as an authority on this subject matter. I'm hopeful he has time to comment.

One thing about Google, they always keep it interesting!

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 5, 2012 at 8:33am

@Ralph, we I know that we control the Google Places accounts for our managed clients and they don't make changes without contacting us.  I also know that every Google Places webinar I have conducted shows how to use the standardized categories.  So, there is no reasonable way that a PCG or our coached clients would use these categories. 

Comment by Daniel Boismier on March 5, 2012 at 8:32am

We also had it happen to an Acura and Nissan store.  So I don't know if it's Cobalt. 




Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 5, 2012 at 8:12am

@ Ralph:  I'd say that was a HUGE mistake on Google's part, if it happened.  

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 5, 2012 at 8:00am

By the way, the five categories that we would normally set for a Chevrolet dealer are:

Chevrolet Dealer, Used Car Dealer, Car Dealer, Truck Dealer, Oil Change Service. 

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