Why Google reviews are crap.
Yes, I know, I am the one who for years has been promoting the importance of getting your customers (or your clients customers) to write reviews on your Google places page, now Google plus for business, and soon to be ???. From a SEO stand point it has always been helpful, and more importantly from a on-line reputation concern. But I recently returned from a long weekend with my wife and younger children to the Manitou Springs area of Colorado, and this has changed my view on how valuable Google reviews are.
You see, during the trip we took advantage of the touristy sites in the area, and they are many! Some lived up to their reputations while others didn’t. As a long time follower of Google reviews and other on-line reviews I found it odd that several of the attractions we visited seemed completely out of wack with the Google reviews we had read. And yes, I actually plan out the visit by looking into the things we want to do by checking reviews.
Today, as I did my duty as a Web Citizen, and went and wrote reviews on several review sites for the touristy places, the restaurants and the hotel we stayed at, I noticed an interesting trend. Now keep in mind, we didn’t go any where off the beaten track, these were your normal family go to places, and as a highly visited area of our great country, most of these places had a ton of reviews.
The trend is, some of the places that had good Google reviews had very mid to low Tripadvisor.com over all reviews, and at least in our experience the Tripadvisor reviews seemed far more aligned with the actual experience, and the Google reviews seemed, well… like they had reviewed the wrong place! And in several cases the tripadvisor reviews were good, and the Google reviews were bad…
Now if that was the inverse it might just be the old “people who have bad experiences have a tendency to write more reviews than those that write good reviews”. But this was the opposite. So do people who write reviews on Google just have a propensity to be happier and nicer people who would never leave a negative comment?
My theory is far simpler, as I have a simple mind, (some might say a simpleton).
I think Google is just infested with fake reviews. Why? Because it had become so important to small businesses that many made the decision to write their own reviews or entice others (and at times pay others) to write them for the business, a form of Internet prostitution if you will. I would even guess that Google knows this, and has taken extraordinarily stupid steps with their new review system to steam the tide, making it difficult to even get a real review published, and making it harder to understand the overall ratings by using a format that makes no darn sense to the average American when they acquired a restaurant review service, and applied it to every type local company. Insane? Details here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zagat
I was going to show you screen shots of it, but I want to stay on point, and that point is Google reviews are crap.
Now, should small businesses stop asking for Google Plus for Business reviews because Google reviews are Crap? NO. You can’t. What has been created is a bit of a monster for businesses whose prospects search their services out on the Internet. I do think we all need to complain and whine and do what ever we can to encourage Google to find a better way. I did a blog recently making the simply suggestion that Google verify reviewers the same way they verify business listings on Google places, through a postcard or phone call. I think that would go a long way in cleaning things up.
And frankly they may be doing the American public a great service if they just delete every review currently on Google places, send them to the respective business if they would like to post them on their site, and be ride of the problem for ever.
Can you tell I am upset over spending $75.00 at a tourist trap that (in my opinion) clearly either had false reviews, or completely insane customers who write delusional reviews after they get back to the hospital?
Now add into that the oddity that our hotel had pretty poor Google reviews, but pretty good tripadvisor and yelp reviews. What’s that about? (I feel lucky not only because I married the most perfect woman on earth), but also because I read the tripadvisor reviews first.
I can only surmise that the Google reviews once again were written by the same bus load that stopped at the aforementioned tourist trap, or a competitor had these reviews posted, a nefarious tactic far more common than the public knows about, but will surely be uncovered more and more as time goes on.
So in closing, (thank god) as a consumer, check several sources for reviews. As a business encourage your customers to use several different on line review site. Tripadvisor, Yelp, Yahoo, Bing, City Search, Angies list and many more. Spread the good word around the entire on-line community!