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Bad Advice: Reputation Management, Yelp and Google

“The opinions in this blog are mine alone and not the opinions of who I work for” This is my fun stuff page…

“You can’t lose something you never had” How do you take a quote from a sappy romance movie like How to lose a guy in ten days and turn it into an automarketing blog about Online Reputation Management?Hang with me and I will show you.

Bad Advice

As a father of a teenage son I am tasked with giving advice as he becomes a young man. Part of my strategy is to challenge him with answers to his questions that are less than inspirational and make him consider my answers for discussion. I purposefully give him “Bad Advice”. When I do we talk about why it’s bad and we learn what is the better way to tackle a problem. Unfortunately in the automotive online reputation management space there is far too much “Bad Advice” that is not intentionally given. Let’s explore a few of these pearls of wisdom that may not be as valuable as we might think.


It is understood that Online Reviews have an effect on the customer’s purchase process;

74% of consumers report choosing a brand or campany based on online reviews

and we know that

90% of consumers say they trust reviews

This in and of itself gives a strong argument as why reputation management is imperative as part of your online strategy, unfortunately many experts will have you focus on volume, the more reviews you have the greater the influence right? NOPE!


Bad Advice #1: too many fall for getting a high volume of reviews with good star rating and feel that this task is done. I submit we should not focus on the volume but rather the content of the reviews. The reviewer has poured their thoughts, concerns, praises or rants into what they wrote, acknowledge that and learn from it.


In my opinion the more reviews a business has, the less authentic they are, if you do not see action taken from the reviews.


What Advice did the dealership take? “Volume of reviews sell cars so get all your HAPPY customers to write them” “Set up a kiosk at the store to get more reviews”. What is the context of why the review was written and at what time in the process was the customer asked to write the review?


Bad Advice #2? Onsite review writing. A customer should only be asked to write a review at their own discretion and in a place of authenticity. When a dealer asks a customer to write the review during the transaction the integrity of the review is now suspect. At no point should a customer feel pressured to share their thoughts. If we are looking at the importance of reviews in the correct light, an opportunity to improve the purchase process and learn from our mistakes and merits,then we should only offer up the opportunity to create a review of the dealership when the customer is completely comfortable to do so. The dealership is not a place of solace or comfort for our customers, their home is.


Bad advice #3? Well I guess its more of a misconception. Google+Local and Yelp hate car dealers, “that’s why MY reviews are disappearing. These review sites don’t believe that MY customers are real people”. 


First we need to clarify what these “review” sites actually are(very abbreviated version).


Google + Local is the business listing extension of their monetized search site Google. It is a platform to drive intending customers to a business. As reviews became more prominent, Google didn’t want to not be a player in this space, they tried purchasing platforms to fulfill the review portion of their strategy, failed a couple attempts and eventually bought Zagat to boost their content.


Yelp is an advertising platform built around a social community with review functionality. Yelp was one of the businesses that Google attempted to purchase, and helped to change the landscape ever since.


Google + Local deletes reviews at their discretion based upon their perceived authenticity and integrity of the review written. If they feel at any time a business has attempted to manipulate their reviews, deletion occurs. 

Yelp has a review filter used to protect three entities, The dealership, the consumer reading the reviews and the integrity of their own site.


So where does the bad advice come into this? Remember my quote from How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days? When a dealership attempts to turn their customers into review writers within these networks they are attempting to manipulate these platforms not manage to them. When a Dealership has reviews disappear or become filtered they feel as though they have “lost” something. Fact of the matter is that the reviews are not owned by the dealership. Ownership of the reviews is that of the network and the review writer, NOT THE BUSINESS.


In the case of Yelp, when a user is filtered 99% of the time it is not because they don’t believe that the customer is real, it is because the writer has not earned the right within the Yelp network to have their reviews easily accessible to the network. The review writer has not proven themselves to Yelp.


Buying advertising does not, I repeat does not stop the reviews of your business from being filtered. However you may begin to see more reviews of your business that are unfiltered…How does that happen? When you manage to the network(engage in advertising, use announcements, check in offers and rev share) as opposed to attempt to manipulate it you are now speaking to and reaching active yelpers. You are reaching active users on the site who write reviews, check in, engage in forums and discussions, you are now reaching those who have earned the right to have their reviews read.


Google + Local is on clean up mode. Bulk reviews generated in a short time period become suspect. Slowly but Shirley(see what I did there) reviews that were once written by gmail users are disappearing. In an attempt to make sure that they are serving up the best content with the greatest of integrity they have required Google + log ins and participation. Now you can see all the reviews written by the user. Now you can see what type of person is attempting to attract or detract from the business.


Third Party review sites are not your digital assets. They are owned by companies who are looking to monetize “your” data against you. If the review was not generated and integrated into your own website, it is not yours, it’s theirs!


So what is the “Good Advice”?

1. Source Your Customers: Know what networks they participate in.

2. Don’t try to turn your customers into Yelpers, turn Yelpers into your customers.Look into Enhanced Listings and advertising opportunities.

3. Invite your customers to write reviews, all your customers even the upset ones, but do this after their experience at their own timeline not yours.

This was originally published on my own blog written by me... so I think I am okay with it being published here as well, by 

This is me...

Views: 2248

Tags: data, data ownership, google, online reputation management, orm, reputation management, social media, yelp


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Comment by Micah Birkholz-1:16Digital Media on October 6, 2013 at 6:24pm
I'm just commenting on this blog post to see what type of reaction random commenting on old posts can get...
Comment by Tom Gorham on September 9, 2013 at 5:50pm

LOL Ryan, love it!

Comment by Ryan Leslie on September 9, 2013 at 6:22am

Is that about right Micah?

Comment by Micah Birkholz-1:16Digital Media on September 8, 2013 at 11:16am
Ralph! Well said! Manny you make me smile! Hahahaha... #wicfadwoc! Also I meant onsite review requests, as in having the dealer have the customer write the actual review at the store, while the customer is there, before finance, before they leave.... Yeah
Comment by Ralph Paglia on September 7, 2013 at 10:38pm

Micah, thanks for the update... As customer reviews and ratings continue to grow in popularity, credibility with buyers and use by car shoppers, there will be more and more pressure and "demand" from all business owners, including car dealers who simply want to pay for a service that will "get it handled". The irony is that using such outsourced services is more likely to ruin a dealer's reputation than simply asking the store's customers to post a review describing their experience while buying or servicing a car there...

Even a less than all-out review request blitz, something as simple as an automated email that goes out to all customers on the day they buy or service a car telling them that they have a voice and it matters, along with links to the dealer's review pages on each of the major review sites works better than trying to game the system and defraud customers with bogus reviews... Which many savvy consumers can spot within 30 seconds.

I have seen far too many conscientious dealerships and management teams do an excellent job getting customers to write reviews, and then projecting a competitively superior image, brand and reputation online WITHOUT resorting to expensive and scammy-spammy outsourced solutions.  There really is no excuse for hiring review spammers when most customers really like the dealer they do business with and are eager to post their reviews if you simply make it easy for them and invite them to do so.

Comment by Micah Birkholz-1:16Digital Media on September 7, 2013 at 6:39pm

Found another company that pushes onsite reviews... I threw up in my mouth... not a little...

Comment by Micah Birkholz-1:16Digital Media on July 25, 2013 at 3:01pm

Just took a look...

My concern would be that you had quite a few post in short period of time by people who have no friends and no profile pics....

Did you have a "push" to get some people on board?

Comment by Mike Elmore on July 18, 2013 at 4:51pm

Thanks for the Bad Advice Micah, informative & very timely, as I just found out that 80% of my Yelp reviews that were shinning brightly 2 days ago have since been moved into my Yelp "filtered" file?

Comment by Camille Forte on July 2, 2013 at 7:41am

Larry, this is where we may have to agree to disagree... what's made me successful with the marketing & reputation management of many dealerships was exactly that - to change the brand perception from a dealership full of Ferengis and instead show that a family-owned dealership, for example, is just as Bajoran as any other local family-owned business.  They DO have brand champions, they just don't segregate them strategically and know what to do with them.  As strange as it sounds, I actually do know people who love the dealership, not just the car, because Bajoran-type customer service keeps them coming back.  Other unique value propositions, like a free detailing service with any oil change made one woman I knew drive 40 miles out of her way to get her car's oil changed at that dealership because of the unique value.  I agree that there's an overall perception of "the evil car guys," but that perception can be debunked with the right PR and branding... which leads to more brand champions!  Women are 3X as likely to leave reviews, for example... so let's say you just helped a mom get a great deal on a safe, used car for her daughter and you threw in some extra maintenance to keep her safe... yes, you just got yourself a brand champion who's going to give you a review AND the most valuable form of marketing in existence - word of mouth!

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 29, 2013 at 7:04pm

Micah, the debate will not die out until best practice is decided.  You can always feel pride in creating a forum for this debate.  You have, at this moment, 1100 views.  That's amazing!  Success, my friend!  You renewed an extremely important discussion.

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