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Car Dealer Reviews:Veracity Updates!

June 20, 2011 by · 15 Comments
Filed under: SEO 

First, I must say that I’m more than a bit surprised by what my investigation into the ongoing car dealership “phoney” reviews in Google Places/Maps has shown me over the past week or so…they appear to be “down!”

Almost 10 months ago, we covered this then popular trend in car dealerships acquiring what can only be labelled then as “phoney” reveiws here…and a quick read of same will show that many many of the sites that we found via a search in Google Places/Maps showed similar or exact copies of reviews appearing for dealerships that were local here to us in Ontario and we updated that blog piece a bit later too…with more dealership names and reviews….and it appears, that things DO change – at least in googl.ca land…and here’s why.

First, we found that local dealerships had obviously used someone – staff maybe, consultants maybe, marketing agencies maybe, SEO firms maybe to “salt” their sites with 5 STAR reviews over a period of a few months. Similar dealerships showed similar phoney reviews from the exact same reviewer for different cars and buys or leases and they made no attempt (at least that we could find) to hide same.

For instance, one of those dealerships was Leggatt Pontiac Buick (note to turn off ALL google personalization/history etc) and they showed then this page of Maps results…

As you can see, and may remember…we then drilled down on that first review — from a “beatrix.misner” who not only reviewed Leggat on July 20/10, but also in Scottsdale, AZ, bankruptcy in Los Vegas and more….obviously all these reviews lacked any kind of credability….and we pointed that out then.

And to be totally honest, we expected not a blessed thing to happen.

No notice from Google. No notice or comment from the dealership. No notice really by anyone but those of you readers who do visit (big tip-O-the-hat!) and comment….and now I have rechecked and low and behold, there are some changes! And here’s a current screenshot of that same Leggat review page in Google Maps…

As you will note, there have been NO updates or reviews posted now in 11 months….and a really nice thing is that the obviously phoney reviews are gone! Disappeared! Vanished….

So, is all ‘well’….well not quite, but I’d have to say better….why that caution though you might ask?

Take a look above at the review posed on July 2/10…but someone called “natureseeker” – and then drill down on all the reviews made by that person by clicking on their name…and yup, what do you see?

41 various reviews, stretching from Bozeman, Montana to Lubbock, Texas…from Las Vegas to Australia…..sigh….yup and all 5 STAR reviews. Somehow, the dealership “missed” this one….or someone at Google did…but it continues to put out favourable review juice to the various sites reviewed…and that’s not a good thing, eh!

Other dealerships noted in my original column on Canadian SEO and Google Maps were also looked at too, in the past week….and here’s some of what I found too!

Taylor Chrysler Dodge, a local dealership had as it’s newest review, one from March 2/11, from someone called “Mag” and when I clicked on that name, I found that this 5 STAR review was joined by others including an Escort service in New York city….not the best of company, eh! There’s more of same for other reviewers too if you care to look yourself.

GeorgeTown KIA, offers up nothing more current than last July/2010…but yup, they too have the same phoney reviews, just click on Troy to see what I found.

KIA of Hamilton offers up something else that I’d not seen before — someone named only “D” reviewed the reviews! And he/she put’s out this comment —

“BEWARE!!! lies and hidden fees!! Every one of the 9 reviews posted are lies. If you click on some of the generic names and check some of the other reviews you will find that they also have had high reviews of the other dealerships in the “Car Nation” family. It looks to me like they are writing their own reviews. (-Troy -Nick -Ralph)…”

<big grin here!>

Looks like others have noticed this too….folks that I’m assuming are not search engine experts nor anyone who’s skilled at “sussing” this kind of review scam out…but as they point out and may be true, these reviews are all “lies”….

How’s that for a real catch! Tip-O-the-Hat – D!

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Comments

15 Responses to “Car Dealer Reviews:Veracity Updates!”
  1. Jim says:

    Jim, Interesting point. Just to add to your research I took a look at some of the listings you mentioned. Both Aaron and Waqar posted 5 star ratings for Taylor Chrysler Dodge on April 16 and 5 star ratings for Root Canal Dentists in Forest Hill on April 21. Perhaps they car pooled in their new Chrysler?
    :-)
    Paul Riggs, CFA
    (cut & paste from LinkedIN!)

  2. Nyagoslav says:

    Hey Jim,

    It’s an interesting coincidence that a couple of days ago I wrote an email on very similar topic to Vanessa (the Google Places Community Manager). It went like:

    Hey Vanessa,

    I am sure you are very concerned regarding reviews on Google Places and probably also on keeping it spam-free and clean.

    However, the last few months I noticed many times reviews from judysbook.com from the exact same person, posted on the exact same date. Judybook seem not to be moderating the writing of reviews on their website, and I think you at Google should take some measures.

    I mean, just look at this: http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=8460929700486827375

    Here is the link to the judysbook page of the business: http://www.judysbook.com/cities/austin-tx/Construction-and-Repair/30038075/p1/Interior_Decorating_Austin.htm

    Also be sure to check the Google Users reviews of this business and check which other businesses these users have reviewed. It seems like they love traveling around the country, going to jail and then writing great reviews for bail bonds, like getting electrical services in Colorado, roofing in Idaho AND Nebraska, go to psychotherapist in LA and get their air conditioning fixed by a Houston company. It is ridiculous in my personal opinion, and I think if that total abuse doesn’t stop, Google Places would never be a nice place to review on.

    Users like this one: http://maps.google.com/maps/user?uid=204734451600493308932
    and this one: http://maps.google.com/maps/user?uid=209056103248988006013
    which are OBVIOUSLY fake, created by some scam companies, make Google Places (ex-Hotpot) reputation rot.

    I can give you HUNDREDS of similar examples.

    Check this one too: http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=17030334755524819458

    Check the reviews by Brenda.

    I would really love to hear back from you Vanessa.

    Nyagoslav

    Of course I haven’t heard back from her up to now. But you know – hope springs eternal.

  3. Jim says:

    @Nyagoslav….thanks for the comment…and like many others of us in the SEO industry who’ve sent similar emails to Googlers….you’ll see I think what we all see….that you never ever even get an answer….sigh….

    that said, who knows…maybe you will…but I’d not lose any sleep on it….

    and if only more folks like “D” would comment on these phoney review posters, that’d help immensely….

    hmmm…wonder how long it’ll be before someone comes up with a “review crowdsourcing” site where you can simply post the firms who do that kind of phoney reviews….and then SEO’s it to the top of google….

    I’d surely check out that site to vet any review I ever read….

    :-)

    Jim

  4. Nyagoslav says:

    That’s a truly cool idea, and I’d also gladly contribute to such a site!

    Actually sometimes I do get answers by Google people. Of course I have to be extremely pushy and to ask the questions at the right places (their twitters, facebooks, blogs, etc). Everyone would answer if such type of question is public, and I don’t mind sharing the bads of Google publicly, then it’s up to them to fix their reputation ;)

    However, it’s funny that they are promoting so hard their Google Places (ex-Hotpot) review service and in the end of the day it’s not spam-free and in fact in its biggest part it’s even spam-friendly! I’d say that at least 15-20% of all reviews that I read from Google Users are phoney.

    Cheers,
    Nyagoslav

  5. MiriamEllis says:

    Jim,
    Thanks for the follow up post on this topic. Looks like Google cracked the whip silently, at least in your one example, but the spam infestation remains. By the way, I particularly enjoyed your use of the world ‘behold’ in this article. Doesn’t firing up Maps/Places always feel like a ‘behold’ sort of moment? I think so.

    Hope you’re doing well, Jim!

  6. Interesting research. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. Jim says:

    @MiriamEllis….

    thanks for the comment! and yup, it truly is a “behold” moment….

    like in Forrest Gump where he comments that “life is like a box of chocolates…you just never know what you’re gonna get….

    searching using Google is the same, eh! always a “behold” moment….and thanks Google for at least clearing away “some” of those phoney reviews….

    :-)

    Jim

  8. First, I must say that I’m a lot more than a bit surprised by what my investigation to the ongoing car dealership.

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