Massive Problem with Google Local Search & Places Reviews

Over the last week I have been conducing some heavy research into Google Places after the big changes recently and I have noticed a huge problem with the review data. Any one who optimizes for Google local will know that Review data is an important factor, especially for the high level keywords which can drive very good amounts of traffic a highly optimized Google places listing with a large amount of reviews can work very well.

I have noticed that Google is now collecting data from Forums for reviews. The crazy thing about this is that say you have a thread on a forum where people have “Best Restaurant” Google has then thought they would be smart and pick up data with in this forum thread for reviews the only problem is if you have a Restaurant that is named after a popular location you will instantly see a boost in reviews. I noticed one of the companies ranking on page one for “Sydney Restaurant” has around 93 reviews coming from 1 single thread on JDM style tuning forum, this to me seemed a little funny. After digging around it seems the restaurant “Quay” was bringing in reviews for any one who had listed “Circular Quay” Have a look at the images below which outline these serious problems with places –

This first image shows results for “Sydney Restaurant”

Maps Search Sydney
Maps Search Sydney

The second image shows 93 reviews are coming from maps.

Maps listing 93 reviews comming from JDM forum
Maps listing 93 reviews comming from JDM forum

As you can see from picture three we can see inside the forum where the reviews are coming from.

forum Forum view
forum Forum view

In picture 4 we see the problem with the keyword “Circular Quay” picking up review for “Quay Restaurant”

Forum problem
Forum problem

13 Replies to “Massive Problem with Google Local Search & Places Reviews”

  1. Thanks I think it is a very interesting area especially for any one who optimizes for Local Search, I think review data should not include forums full stop as it is simply too easy to manipulate. I would love to see what Google has to say about this.

  2. Very interesting find. I haven’t been able to produce same results at google.dk – but if this is how reviews are created in the future – we will see a lot more spam in forums. It gives the ability to place data in places you do not have access to.

  3. Thanks James for digging into the places reviews. I think Google will be refining this for a long time.
    Have noticed one result where a page of search results from a directory site is showing in the blended results as being 22 reivews.
    In fact they were links to other businesses. Lots ore work to be done. nut as chris mentions above some scope for manipulation

  4. I’ve also noticed a number of paid review sites popping up and being clever to get noticed by google as a review source. Google “Dover NH Dentist”. As you scroll down the map places the fact Healthy Smiles has an unusual 105 reviews. After further review you find them coming a site:
    http://d35.demandforced3.com/g/index.jsp?id=12035
    This is a paid site that allows dentists to upload their customer comment cards (the ones they want), but google has been lapping it up. I recently worked with a hotel who’s competitors were using a site that took tripadvisor.com reviews and just translated them into different languages and google sourced it as a review source. I think citation and reveiw spam is going to be google’s next great headache.

  5. Whatever they’re doing, I’m of the opinion that they need to rethink their idea. Now, I believe in the value of local search, but what they’ve done is lessened the amount of organic search results by a few which has thrown off some of my clients from page 1 on specific keywords.

    What’s wrong with they way they had it before? It just doesn’t seem like a useful change.

    If you’re one who optimizes for Local, get in touch with me!

  6. James,

    My understanding is that the reviews are pulled from qualifying websites (I am assuming Google is using authority or quality thresholds) put into their database that uses the proper micro formats as indicated by their blog post on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 5:51 PM
    named “Microdata support for Rich Snippets”.

    The rich snippet or micro data format protocols are found here
    http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=146645

    My point is simply, that their results are only as good as the data the websites offer, however these images you are showing are very interesting as it would seem they are not using any type of micro format at all.

  7. Pingback: google news

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