Have you checked your Google Places page this morning? Search Engine Land reported the news this morning that Google has eliminated third party reviews from all Places pages (except for a small attribution link near the bottom of your profile).
The death of third party reviews is a move we should have seen coming, since networks like Yelp have complained publicly about Google incorporating their ‘property’ (reviews) into each business owners profile. Yelp’s argument is that by including their reviews, or ‘aggregating’ them into a single spot, Google is taking content they do not have a right to, since users explicitly chose to post on a network like Yelp, not Google.
In addition, you have to wonder why Google didn’t highlight their reviews more prominently in the first place. Google user comments usually lingered at the bottom of Places pages and featured only two reviews. The new pages correct this with a red call to action button in two areas that read, “Write a review.”
Of course, what this really means for your dealership is that your Places page probably lost a whole bunch of reviews if you’ve relied primarily on other networks to drive activity. But don’t freak out just yet – this might be a terrific opportunity for you to get first to market and grow your positive reputation score.
Is Google Offering You a Second Chance?
For many dealerships, like Brickell Honda in Miami, this new strategy isn’t going to impact their profile much (Brickell dropped from approximately 1,000 reviews to around 817 at last count). However, a Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealer in Ohio has dropped down to just four reviews and seen their star rating disappear overnight. So what should they do?
Rebuild, for starters. Start encouraging people to use the mobile Google Places app to write reviews in-store, when all the love is still strong between the customer and dealer. You can do this multiple ways, either by offering up your smartphone for a customer to log-into or perhaps utilizing a tablet in your waiting area with a call to action sign explaining why reviews help you serve people better.
Rapid response is also a critical element of your continued success managing the dealership reputation. Start holding stakeholders accountable for responding to reviews quickly and driving more interactions/reviews via the social web. You can no longer afford to let a satisfied customer leave your sales floor or service drive without writing a review, appearing in a quick video testimonial, or participating in an event at your store.
Success driving fan growth and favorable reviews means teaching customers and members of the community howto advocate for your local business and why it’s so important to do so.
Does the removal of positive reviews hurt in the short term? Yes it does, but keep in mind you’ve also ‘lost’ any negative reviews from third parties that have polluted your profile. So don’t waste this second chance.
Build a community of raving fans. Discover the folks who are not pleased with your service and respond to them in a timely manner, taking the discussion offline. And finally, remember that the social web is a lot like an investment. Any investment manager worth their salt will tell you the importance of diversification (This is why you should focus on Google reviews and Facebook likes and other relevant social networks).
In the meantime, check out some helpful posts that will teach you to build the ‘perfect’ Places page.
Joe Mescher is the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Dealer.com.