I was asserting that a business should get reviews from Citysearch and Insider Pages and Google almost as an after thought. David commented that he thought getting reviews on Google should be job #1. We had a friendly back and forth and than I read this post on Understanding Google Maps, which said that many of the reviews from Citysearch had been stripped out of Google’s results. With a resulting loss of “review stars” at the listing level and loss of business. Hmmmm… I thought, score one for David Mihm.
Applying What Was Learned From Links To Reviews? A Search for Quality
The question lingers, however, why would Google discount these reviews from Citysearch? I started thinking… if I were Google, what would I look for in a review? I couldn’t filter bad reviews and just show positive ones, obviously. No, I would want reviews from mavens. People who love to shop and give their well informed opinions. What would these people have in common? They would have a lot of reviews to their credit. So, I would look for reviewers with a large number of reviews to their credit.
Conversely, what if I wanted to game the system? The easiest way to do this would be to create an account, review the business and be done. Leaving in my wake a bunch of accounts with a single review on each, possibly 2 reviews to make it look good (but they were done on the same day). Is Google filtering these reviews? That’s a question worth asking… so I went to the florist that had lost some of it’s reviews and checked the reviewers.
Here are the Stats
Of the 15 reviews from Citysearch (that google stripped out) 12 of them had been the sole review of the reviewer. Certainly, not mavens and possibly an attempt to game the system in the eyes of Google??? The other 3 reviewers had only 2 reviews to their credit… hmmm.
The 4 reviewers on Insiderpages had 4, 3, 2 & 5 reviews to their credit, better… but not earth shattering.
To look for more evidence, I went across country and found a florist in NY with only 6 reviews but the stars were given. When I dug into the reviews a little further, I saw that they were provided by reviewers with the following number of reviews to their credit: 83, 31, 69, 19, 55. Much more “mavenesque”
Moving on I came across a restaurant credited with reveiws from superpages.com. I don’t see that very often, as Google usually favors sites that specialize in dining reviews for restaurants, so I checked on the reviewers. The 4 who had reviewed that restaurant on superpages.com had an astonishing 32, 191, 303 & 339 reviews to their credit.
Could reviews be getting like links? Where the number isn’t necessarily more important than the quality? Should the new strategy be to find people with a large of number reviews to their credit and give them a free sample? Are we going to have a paid review debate in the near future?
Some of these things probably aren’t happening yet but they may have just begun or be in the near future. As for Citysearch, most of the reviews on that site are from single reviewers. (Is Citysearch easier to game than others?) And that may have played a role in Google removing those reviews from the local algo.
And as far as the back and forth with David Mihm, I’m going to split the loaf and give David the bigger half: I would revise my advice to the small business owner to focus on getting reviews from Google and Insider pages and put a premium on those reviews from active reviewers.