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Carmax / Google Screwing Used Car Dealers !!! Or Honest Mistake ???

As an Internet Sales Director who utilizes Adword Campaigns to drive traffic to my site I am constantly searching my own keywords to learn what my competition is doing . Recently I was going over my "Used"   keywords and kept noticing a trend regarding Carmax and how they were the only "Dealer" whose Ads contained a star rating base on Google reviews that was not tied to a specific place page . Intrigued by this I decided to delve in further and what I found bothers me to my core and should the rest of you as well . Upon clicking the review link I was SHOCKED to see (191) 1 Star Ratings  , (22) 2 Star Ratings , (15) 3 Star Ratings , (19) 4 Star Ratings and (68) 5 Star Ratings. Doing the math that is an average rating of 2.2 stars yet as you see below , they have a 4 star rating with Google ? How is this happening ? As we all know the importance of reviews and the direct correlation between your Google Review Rating and the traffic Google drives to your site it is safe to assume that Google is either allowing or helping facilitate an unfair advantage against smaller local competing dealerships . Considering the current state of the used car marketplace and the size of the marketing budget of an entity such as Carmax I can promise this will effect every dealership selling used cars if not already doing so  . Thoughts ??? 

Views: 645

Tags: Adwords, Car, Cars, Google, Max, Used


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Comment by Bryan Brooks on January 11, 2012 at 5:55am

Just got a nice puzzling update from Google regarding Carmax . I have read this over 100 times and it still doesnt make a word of sense . Maybe someone here can decipher this load of bull for me . 

Hello Bryan,

I have just gotten done speaking with our specialist team.  Upon reviewing we have found that they sell reviews for cars and direct users
to dealerships.  They do not actually sell the cars themselves.

I wanted to also let you know that I have still contacted our Policy team
to investigate this further just to confirm that there are no policy
violations taking place.  If they do find this ad to be in violation they
will take the appropriate steps to resolve the problem.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.


Jacob H.
The Google AdWords Team

Comment by Silia J. Hatzi on January 5, 2012 at 1:09pm

@David & @Bryan Fascinating. Thank you for the dialogue gentlemen and Bryan, I'm staying tuned for more updates. Great post.

Comment by Bryan Brooks on January 3, 2012 at 5:24pm

Re: [#936870647] Follow-up to 866-2-GOOGLE

AdWords Support
5:54 PM (1 hour ago)
Hi Bryan,

Thank you for calling Google AdWords last week to report suspected
inconsistencies with Carmax's Seller Ratings.  After our call, I escalated
your question to my specialist team.  As of this afternoon, I am still
waiting to hear back from that team with more information for you.

I will reach out to you as soon as I hear back from my specialist.  Thank
you for your patience, and have a good afternoon Bryan.

Brette H.
The Google AdWords Team
Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on December 30, 2011 at 4:33am

For what it's worth, here's the flagship location on West Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia; the original Carmax lot opened in the fall of 1993.  Only four Google reviews logged (what's up with that?); all four are negative one-star reviews, and the overall score is zero stars.  Not what I expected!

Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on December 30, 2011 at 4:28am

For what it's worth, here's the flagship location on West Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia; the original Carmax lot opened in the fall of 1993.  Only four Google reviews logged (what's up with that?); all four are negative one-star reviews, and the overall score is zero stars.  Not what I expected!

Comment by David Brondstetter on December 29, 2011 at 9:31pm


I agree that your thoughts on age related relevancy have merit; at SureCritic we rely more on the power of large numbers and stay with an arithmetic mean. Dealerships are going to have a bump in the road now and then and over time a 1 or 2 star rating here and there that are accompanied with a proper response from the dealership are probably more of a positive than a negative. Like we are all questioning the 4-star rich snippets with Carmax as brought to light by Bryan, prospects researching a dealership don't believe it when they see stores with all 5-stars. 

As to your assumptions regarding this particular scenario, it is just not the case. In fact, it is just the opposite. To check it out for yourself, type in "used cars Baltimore" into Google search. You'll see the 315 reviews next to Carmax in Paid at the top. If you click on that, then sort by date (look to the right of the page), you should see that most of the page 1 reviews (when sorted by date) are actually 1-stars. In fact, 6 out of 10 when sorted by are 1-stars. Nearly the same scenario plays out on page 2. 

When I find myself asking why things are the way they are, I usually do what a good detective does, I follow the money! Good conversation and food for thought. I am very curious to hear back from Bryan once he gets some info from googs.

Comment by Bryan Brooks on December 29, 2011 at 8:45pm

Silia , the main point of all this is that Carmax ... a corporate entity is the only ..... ONLY dealership or group with a non place page connected review ranking . If I do an Adwords Express Ad it connects to a singular Google Maps Place Page with an accurate review score removed of all 3rd party reviews since July  .... not like the PRODUCT SEARCH you see above . This gives an unfair advantage to Carmax over the Amazon/Ebay conditioned masses . Although  to touch on what you were talking about I 100% understand Google putting heavier weight on 

fresher reviews however I am against treating the people that reviewed a place prior to whenever in time they decide on their timeline like second class citizens with unimportant voices and if your going to do that do it for everyone . I called an AdWords Rep today and was "promised" an answer by Tuesday due to the holidays and will keep you updated as to their response .

Comment by Silia J. Hatzi on December 29, 2011 at 7:52pm

Whenever I try to figure out why or how Google may be doing something, I've found it consistently helpful to ask myself "If I were Google, how would *I* do this"?  

So when I read this post, I asked myself that question. My answer on how I would determine what overall star rating to show if I were Google, included in part that I would configure my algorithm to assign a greater weight to the more recent reviews as recency is a strong contributor to relevance (which seems to me to be Google's #1 objective.) 

The screen caption includd in the post shows a small number of recent reviews but 5 out of 6 shown (83%) are 5 star ones whichwhile not proving the above syllogismmay illustrate its worth being considered. 

Just food for thought. I love these Holmesian explorations. Cheers, all!

Comment by Cole Matthew Mitguard on December 29, 2011 at 11:55am

@ David

   I do agree that this seems like a bit of a stretch with the aggregate being so different than the sum of its parts, and I am not going to pretend like I am anything more than an educated observer, but I think that HOW it happened is more complex than Google wanted to get paid. 

   Its going to be very interesting to see the review element sneaking into organic and paid search results, I do hope that eventually the number begin to make more sense. 

  I will have my team keep an eye our for some sub 4 star reviews, then Ill come by and bother you for that beer! haha

Comment by David Brondstetter on December 28, 2011 at 8:47pm


Just part snarky, part anecdotal on may part hence the reason I threw it in quotes and made it bold...

That said, I'll be at NADA in Feb. If you can find one below 4 stars, I will buy you a beer. 

To your comments on "beyond the arithmetic mean", let me repost the numbers: (191) 1 Star Ratings  , (22) 2 Star Ratings , (15) 3 Star Ratings , (19) 4 Star Ratings and (68) 5 Star Ratings.

In whose world would this equal 4-stars? I am in the ratings and review business and I would love to see the algorithm used to come up with 4-stars with these numbers!



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