Google is always trying new things, and everyone knows that new things don't always work out. But the search engine company's location on the Internet roadmap is a natural lure to its hundreds of millions visitors, so even when not-so-popular Google projects don't work out – like Wave and Buzz, for instance – or get entirely reworked, like Google Sync, it can affect a lot of people and businesses.

In August 2012, Google's social media portal Google+ (think of it as Google's version of Facebook) purged thousands of reviews left on the Google+ pages of car dealerships and changed the algorithm for how reviews are rated. According to Automotive News, one dealer saw 300 published reviews drop to just 11, another lost 145 reviews, yet another dealer had 400 reviews go "poof" over the course of two days. Google never truly explained its actions, noting that its efforts to remove all "spammy" reviews, like those solicited from customers and written at the dealership, for instance, would mean perfectly legitimate reviews might also be eliminated. That sent hundreds of dealers – especially those who had gone from positive to negative overall ratings – immediately on the hunt for another way to get reviews.

Five months later, dealers are still searching, with sites like DealerRater.com, Cars.com, DriverSide.com among the top destinations. The key to finding a supplement to Google+ is ensuring that third-party-site reviews get the prominence they need. A dealership's Google+ page will show reviews from other sites and it's possible to get them to show up in Google search results, but it's more complex than when everything was in one place, and right now, there's still the need to rebuild the goodwill that the purged positive reviews were creating. The power of positive reviews is continually evident in the amount of increased traffic online and in the store, so it's something dealers can't walk away from. Which takes us back to Google's location on the Internet road map: It means dealers could have a long walk ahead.


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  • 43 Comments
      Drakkon
      • 1 Year Ago
      I start with the assumption that most reviews are written by the marketing department.
        S.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Drakkon
        Most dealership reviews I've seen are the same...way too fluffy. Then you go visit the dealership and it's an awful experience and you KNOW that they're not actual customer reviews.
          Drakkon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @S.
          You should try the reviews for Vegas hotels. Shameless.
      speedracerx808
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you offer great service at an affordable price, positive reviews will naturally follow. Change your business model not your scummy advertising practices.
      MAJikMARCer
      • 1 Year Ago
      Cry me a river. This is no different than SEO results changing because Google adjusted their algorithms. The dealers are getting a free service here. If they have to work harder or be forced to live with 'organic' reviews, then tough luck for them. If I'm reading a review I want it to be as real and useful as possible. If this change makes the reviews better, then I'm all for it.
      jclaxton78
      • 1 Year Ago
      I only trust Edmunds.com consumer reviews because they require proof from customer and dealer that a purchase was actually made on the vehicle. There's no way around it and they're the only organization that does this (that I know of).
        Marg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jclaxton78
        Did you experience any blaring negatives about reviews on Edmunds?
      Val
      • 1 Year Ago
      No biggie, the dealers will just lobby for some law prohibiting google from erasing reviews, and things will be back to normal. Business as usual.
      antacid
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ive never seen a maps review for a dealership higher than 2 stars. The way they screw people on repairs guarantees a constant stream of bad scores. The ones here dont care because theres only one dealership per brand, where else are you going to go for a ford?
      UAW Sux
      • 1 Year Ago
      I rank car dealers and their scam-tactics at about the same level as funeral directors (who profit immensely, at the sadness of the families), most taxi cab drivers (ripping visitors off in their cities), their cousins the "real estate agents" (who operate without a cortex, and make far too much for their miniscule labors), and politicians (who screw the public relentlessly and painfully).
      JamieM
      • 1 Year Ago
      I had a dealer put brand new tires on a rim that was apparently bent. I noticed a slight shake before and after the tire were installed and called the dealer to tell them there was still an issue (i thought it may have been the previous tires since they were almost done for). They wanted to charge me to diagnose the problem, even though I just spend over 1,500 for tires, and other matnience related stuff. I tried to write a review about this on demand force (which is what they mostly use) and it never posted. I posted it three times and it never showed up. They have hundreds of 5 star reviews but no bad ones because they are able to manipulate the ratings.
      Haelphadreous
      • 1 Year Ago
      Google was pretty transparent about this one, And it's more than car dealerships that are upset. Google traced out a bunch of pay for review services, and wiped out the results. They wrote an algorithm to detect canned reviews based on factors like grammar and removed results that failed their mini Turing test. Google is simply trying to prevent a bunch of fake reviews from benefiting shady companies. And yes even Google admits that real reviews were likely caught up in their purge, however my bet is about 90% or more of what "vanished" was illegitimate as it gets.
      Autoblogist
      • 1 Year Ago
      Positive reviews of dealerships? I'm sure most dealers were happy with their review being removed, since the experience is depised by most people.
      Scr
      • 1 Year Ago
      Well, there is always Angie's List for the consumer. As for the dealers...they can try much harder at not ******* and trying to drag every customer over the coals. Personal word of mouth is still more valuable than an interweb review, and Google can't mess with those. I know I've sent many a person to another dealer than the one they started with after I gave them my experiences there. Cost the 'bad' dealer a number of sales. If they hadn't tried to play games and screw with me, they would have had those sales. Its amazing how poorly some dealerships handle customers, and how they remain in business.
      Polly Prissy Pants
      • 1 Year Ago
      The more you learn about Google, the more everybody is trying to find a way around them.
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