User Reviews Invade Google SERPs

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It's no secret that online user reviews can be of great significance to businesses. But a recent search of some brick-and-mortar businesses reveals just how important these reviews can be - particularly in the eyes of Google. And anything important to Google is important to the online success of your company.

I recently experienced some car trouble. So, I had the car towed to a local dealership to get estimates. This morning I needed to call and get an update so, naturally, I turned to Google and typed in the name of the dealership to get the phone number - I knew that because Google knows my location, I would have the phone number displayed quickly. Below are the top three results on the search engine results page (SERP).

Notice the third result - a handy map, the telephone number I expected ... and a partial, scathing review. Uh oh. I also see there are 24 total reviews. What's more, the URL listed is Carr's Honda - not Yelp or any other user review site. Clicking through reveals this page:

This page - still a Google page - features four more negative reviews. And now I'm considering a new place to take my car. Another point of interest is the source of these reviews. InsiderPages, JudysBook, DealerRater and Edmunds. Most are relevant to the auto industry, thereby carrying weight with consumers. In both cases, notice the limited text included in the reviews. This is very important, as most users will forgo a click-through if they learn what they need to know right away. If you're soliciting reviews, writing reviews or attempting to respond to a review, make sure to get right to the point. There's no need - and no room - for a flowery introduction.

Next, I searched for a famous Chicago pizza restaurant, Giordano's. Here are the results:

These are the first three results after a section with a Google Map, list of locations and phone numbers. Here, we find reviews in the first two spots, and a link to more reviews in the third. It's interesting to see that Yelp is listed (expected) but right below that is a link from Flickr. Click through and you get a photograph, along with the user's comments, and below that, comments from other Flickr users.

Thought prominent user reviews were limited to Yelp? Think again. This is a clear indication that your business' reputation is on the line, online, everywhere. That's a good enough reason to conduct searches for reputation management purposes regularly, and across all portals where users are actively communicating. That means Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and many other places. Also, be aware of your industry and its authority sources - such as the case with Carr's Honda and Edmunds and DealerRater.

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6 comments

Laura Betterly 05-16-2009 8:46 PM

This is great if the reviews are honest and valid.  It's of great service to consumers to know if a company is shady.

Problem is if the review is untrue, how can a small business go ahead and get a wrongly written review removed?  What's to stop a competitor from trashing you?  How is a business supposed to handle a inaccurate or plain bogus "review."  For a small business, it could bring them to bankruptcy.

The Better Business Bureau is a better forum.  At least a business has the opportunity to respond as opposed to finding an anonymous review that hasn't been investigated or substantiated.

It's kind of guilty until proven innocent and there's no forum for review.  

ClaudiaH 06-01-2009 12:49 PM

I totally agree with Laura. This is potentially very bad for companies since anyone can leave a review and there is no accountability. Fired employees can trash a company, competitors can trash a company and so on. There is a new business model SERM, Search Engine Reputation Management and our company has received multiple solicitation emails to sign up with these companies that can help you clear your company name. I say, disregard any "user review" since most of those are bogus anyway. Why would you trust someone you don't know??

FrankP 06-30-2009 2:54 PM

Very scary as this can be much worse than rip off report. If you get dinged on ROR at least you have the opportunity to push results down. Here you wont.

PatP 08-25-2009 10:27 AM

I agree - user reviews can be manipulated easily. It's good that they're out there if someone one's to read them  - but to have them prominently parked so high in the SERPs,,,,that's not a fantastic idea.

CullenS 04-29-2010 3:39 PM

Good comments by everyone but I know that I've used user reviews for years to help me decide on a product or service. A user review even if you don't know the person carries more weight than a one-directional advertisement from the merchant.

~ Commented through my Website Magazine iPhone App!

Stephen 11-05-2010 2:07 PM

I think the reviews are a good thing. It is pretty easy to tell if the reviews are BS or not IMO. One area that has been really abused has been Ebay reviews. But I still find it easy to tell which reviews are legit or not.

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