How to Leverage Google Reviews for Global Word of Mouth

Recently, a friend from high school posted on her Facebook page about a bad experience she’d had trying to buy a new car from a local dealership.  She also documented her process of trying to get her voice heard, which basically involved writing a negative review of the dealership on a site that hosts car dealership reviews called  Let’s look at the (heavily redacted) search result page for the dealership’s name, shall we?


This is clearly a savvy merchant, they’ve claimed their business page and uploaded photos, hours and directions.  What’s important to this discussion are the two lines above the photo that refer to reviews.  On the Search Engine Results Page; Google directly aggregates reviews from other sites that you can click and read; the site is where my friend put her scathing review.  You can also see that Google has pulled in reviews from Yahoo!, and citysearch as well- but only to the search engine results page.  If a User clicks through to the Place page; they’ll see that Google is no longer aggregating reviews right on that page; instead, they are only putting Google Places reviews directly on the page itself:

As you can see, the reviews from other sources- which up until a few days ago, were included directly on the Places page- are now instead linked.  This is likely in response to the fact that Google is starting to be seen as cannibalizing other review sources’ information by including said reviews right on the Places page; and is facing legal pressure not to crowd out competition.

So, what’s this mean for you as a consumer? It means that in order to get the maximum impact when you do write a negative review- or hey, even a positive one- you should rate the business through Google Places.  You do have to have a Google account of some kind to rate places- Gmail is good enough- and they will ask you to log in when you write a review.  Some things to keep in mind:

  • Give the vendor/merchant/business a chance to rectify the problem before you go online and blast their establishment.  For example, if you have a bad experience with a server and are waiting to talk to the manager, then is not the time to whip out your smart phone and write a nasty review on a website.  Give them a chance to handle the problem BEFORE you spout off about how terrible the service or product is somewhere. Services like Yelp! have realized that in the heat of the moment is not always the best time to write an objective review; you can’t even enter a review using their mobile app, for example.  They want you to cool off, get home, and sit down to think before you spout off a half-cocked review that can negatively impact someone’s business in a very real way.
  • Write positive reviews when you have a chance to do so as well! It’s difficult to keep up with a lot of negativity on line, and all the time that a business spends worrying about their online reputation is time they can’t be improving their process and serving you better.  It’s said that for every 1 positive review of a product or service online there are as many as 10 negative reviews- merchants, make sure you encourage customers to write positive reviews (Though you can’t incentivize ONLY positive reviews) and consumers, be good buyers! Make sure you say good things too, once in a while, or you’ll just come off as a crank that no one wants to listen to. Also, don’t use text speak, or abbreviations, or incomplete sentences, or just rant without giving any specifics.  If you want to be really helpful, write thoughtfully and think about how it might help someone else.  A profanity-laden tirade might be cathartic for you but it isn’t really helping anyone else and it isn’t helping the business improve, either.
  • Make sure you use +1 to show your friends important resources! For example, if had had a +1 button on their page,it would have made sense for my friend to go back and +1 that page.  That way, when her friends search for information on the dealership that provided her lousy experience, they’d see the negative review as being +1’ed by her- and the picture notation increases attention and click through rates dramatically.  Much more effective than a Facebook rant that only a few hundred people will see!

On the flipside…vendors, don’t whitewash negative reviews on assets you own.  Instead of scrubbing any negative mentions of your company from your Facebook page, for example, you can win brand converts by responding to those complaints and then dealing with them publicly, showing the user that even if you can’t satisfy them 100%, at least it’s important to you.  As a personal example, I bought my wife and daughter pajamas from Pajamagram this past Christmas.  This put me on their mailing list, which led to a DAILY email espousing their new offerings. (Is there really that much going on in the world of pajamas?) Anyway, in a moment of pique, I went to Twitter and Tweeted out “@pajamagram I DONT NEED YOUR EMAILS EVERY SINGLE DAY!”.  Within 10 minutes a Customer Service rep tweeted that they had adjusted my account settings and I’d only be getting a monthly email.

Now THAT is how you use Social Media for global word-of-mouth!

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