Mike Blumenthal’s When Will Google Places Fix Reviews? hit a nerve, as I imagine it would for any business that relies on Google Places as an important part of its presence on the Web. I spend a lot of time sending emails to Mike and other Local SEO’s that go something like this “Have you noticed something screwy about Places reviews today?”
Here are some things I have seen in no particular order:
- Reviews disappearing from Place Pages
- Clicking on a “more” (page 2) of a reviews page on a Place Page and getting an empty page
- Inaccurate review counts
- Inaccurate star ratings
- Text extracted from a web page incorrectly categorized as a review
- Reviews associated with the wrong business
- Reviews linked to the wrong review on a third party site
- Reviews attributed to the wrong reviewer or better yet to a non-existent reviewer
- Links to third party review sites showing up attached to a SERP result but not displaying on all pages where the result appears. For example, a link to CustomerLobby.com might show up in the Places filtered SERP attached to a result, but CL won’t show up as a review source on the business’ Place Page (although it could show up as a “More about this place” link.
Mike’s article and the commenters hit on some of the other winners.
Mike says he has received some “we’re on it” assurances from the Google Places team and I have heard the same thing. I have no doubt that they are working on this problem, particularly in light of the recent HotPot launch and the ascendancy of Marissa Mayer to the head of Google Local.
I am guessing that one of the reasons why local reviews – and data consistency in general – persist to be a problem for Google is that many of the Maps/Local products were built separately and rely on their own indexes and algorithms. I suspect a lot of the volatility we have seen over the past year has been due to Google’s gradual attempt to unify these experiences and their backends, causing Rube Goldberg-like ripple effects that are hard to anticipate.
Like everyone in this business always says – “Local is hard”.