This Business Is Furious With Google For Deleting Hundreds Of Reviews

    August 31, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

In May, Google announced Google+ Local, which would replace Place Pages, and overhaul Google’s entire local business review search results. We’ve written in the past about how the transition may be costing business clicks, and we’re still seeing some pretty upset businesses talking about Google deleting reviews, which again, could be costing them customers.

What do you think of Google’s transition to Google+ Local? Was this the right move for Google? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Car dealership Suzuki of Wichita has had a pretty bad experience with Google’s transition. The business has lost hundreds of reviews, which it considers to be a very valuable source of marketing. Company President, Scott Pitman, blogged about the situation, showing the timeline of events.

Aaron Wirtz, the dealership’s social media manager, tell WebProNews, “It’s difficult to quantify exactly how this has impacted our business. Luckily our repeat customers don’t need to check Google reviews to know they like doing business here, but how many potential customers found our listing and were turned away?”

Over the course of about a month and a half, Google deleted more and more reviews, according to the dealership. By July 15, the number of reviews had dropped from 418 to 405. By August 1, they had dropped from 405 to 281. By August 3, they had dropped from 281 to 9.

Think about that for a second. You had over 400 reviews for your business, many of which were positive, and that number was quickly reduced to 9. 3 or 4 of those 9, Wirtz tells us, were negative.

In the blog post, Pitman shared some screenshots, backing up the claims. Here, you can see the 418 reviews:

Suzuki Reviews

Here, you can see it with 9 Google reviews, which Google even displays right from the main search results:

Google Reviews listed in the SERPs

It doesn’t necessarily reflect well on a business to have that small a number of reviews, regardless of the positive to negative ratio, unless perhaps the business is brand new. The company was founded in 2007, and claims to have been ranked the #1 Suzuki Automotive Retailer in the USA in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Note: In another screenshot that goes with the one above, it does show links to “more reviews,” totaling 169, still significantly less than what the company once had.

“We weren’t the only dealership in Wichita affected by this issue,” Wirtz notes. “But our case was definitely one of the most dramatic.”

“Many dealerships in Wichita have been so far unaffected, but one dealership in Wichita was left with nothing but 0/3 reviews, giving them a 0/30 average score,” he says.

Wirtz put out this video about the situation:

“During the bumpy transition from Places to Local, thousands of businesses lost the reviews customers submitted as well as those that Google had collected for them so far,” Pitman said in the blog post. “We’ve heard reports of businesses losing reviews as many as three times over the course of a 30 month period.”

“The problem was, the reviews vanished without warning or explanation, and affected many businesses who collected reviews with integrity,” he added. “Any attempt to contact Google would result in vague, canned answers citing an entire list of reasons why reviews may or may not have been removed. Even today, Google does not have a customer service team to answer questions about Google+ Local and online reviews, citing the reason that Local is a free service.”

Automotive News, who interviewed Mr. Pitman, shared a statement from Google on the matter, which said that Google seeks to prevent “spammy” content, even at the risk of sometimes removing legitimate reviews.

Wirtz tells WebProNews, “We don’t feel like any of the reviews were ‘spammy.’ Every review posted was written by a customer who had done business with us, contained specific information about the transaction, and most of the reviews mentioned members of our staff by name. None of the reviews contained links, irrelevant text, or any of the other characteristics commonly associated with spam posts.”

Google has restored some of the reviews. When we checked there were 54 of them (still a great deal less than the 418 the business had in mid-July.

“Most of these restored reviews do seem to be ones that were originally deleted,” Wirtz tells us. “We know that a few of these reviews are new, however.”

Luckily, for Suzuki of Wichita, the business has a rating of 27 (with 26-30 described by Google as “extraordinary to perfection”). That seems pretty good, and is unlikely to deter many potential customers.

Wirtz agrees that 27 seems “pretty good,”

“But if our customers have stated our business is 29/30, our average score should be posted as such,” he adds.

So how much help has Google been to this business, following the deletion of the reviews?

“The only verbal conversations we’ve had with Google have been with AdWords representatives, who sound very sympathetic and helpful, but because Google+ Local is not under their jurisdiction (no customer service department exists for that product), every conversation with them breaks down like this,” Wirtz tells us, outlining the process as:

1. We explain the situation to them (i.e. the missing reviews, etc)

2. They say they’ll check with someone they know who is a specialist in that area

3. Then we get an email back within 24-48 hours that contains canned responses why our reviews “may have” disappeared. None of the information contained in those emails was anything new–it all could be found in products forum posts

“The reappearance of some of our reviews is one of the most confusing aspects of this whole situation,” Wirtz says. “We were assured in two separate correspondences from Google that, if a review disappears, it would not return. At no point could any of the information from Google be described as helpful.”

Wirtz shares a response he says they got from Google in response to a Better Business Bureau complaint Suzuki of Wichita filed against the company:

“Thank you for reaching out. I’m very sorry to hear you’re having problems with reviews on your Google+ local page. It’s feedback that we’ve heard / have been hearing in the last few weeks and months. And trust me, we are taking the feedback to heart and working on improvements regarding the way we collect reviews. At this point, it is impossible for us to locate the reviews your business has unfortunately lost. We realize this may seem unfair, but our engineers are working on features to make the stability of reviews more (for lack of a better word) stable. Aaron, we, as Googlers and consumers, understand how important reviews are to a business and trust me when I say we’re working hard on making this a better experience for everyone. Thanks for your understanding.”

“Positive reviews are indeed as good as gold,” Pitman said in the dealership’s blog post. “What makes online reviews so much more compelling than word of mouth referrals is that one consumer can now reach thousands, perhaps millions of other people, and the review, once written, is permanently posted online for anyone to find. Or so we thought.”

On the flip side, one has to wonder how many negative reviews have also disappeared, possibly leading to users to businesses that won’t necessarily live up to the expectations they have from available, and more favorable reviews.

Do you see Google’s transition to Google+ Local, and deletion of reviews as a significant cost to businesses, or simply a necessary evil for Google to improve the user experience? Let us know what you think in the comments.

  • Michael

    Were I the affected business, I would pull out my hardcopy stack of all the reviews (which I should have been printing out anyway for auditing and compliance purposes) and have an employee systematically re-enter by hand all the reviews that Google deleted with a notation after each one of “this review originally posted on DATE.”

    • John

      They would have to set up a Google+ account for each review. And that would be a royal PITA and against Google’s TOS.

      • http://www.checkfacebook.com good solution

        Yep, that could be good solution.

  • Doubtful Don

    Google has to go to an awful lot of trouble to track down any particular site and delete submissions like that. I have long believed that Google will accept payment to delete or in essence discredit one site over another. We have a URL that used to be the #1 pick, and it’s now nowhere to be seen. Nowhere! Gotta think that one of my competitors pays to have that done. I do not trust Google anymore.

  • http://twitter.com/dwhit110 dwhit110

    If reviews are that important to your business, perhaps you should be doing some work to cultivate, host, and distribute them yourself rather than relying on a 3rd party, like Google in this case, to manage that entire process for you.

    • John

      Yeah OK. And where are they going to advertise those reviews? On their website? They have to found in the first place. Like it or not Google controls over 70% of the search traffic and that is the problem. They are doing more and more “harm” So much for their motto. I bet they have secretly chnaged it from “Do no harm” to ” Rape, pillage, and make as much money as possible!”

      • http://twitter.com/dwhit110 dwhit110

        Wow, really? I’m a little surprised to see so much blame being placed on Google throughout this post and in some of the comments. It sucks that their reviews disappeared, but ultimately the problem with the free marketplace is that a lot of times you get what you pay for.

        And to answer your question, yes on their website (which to your point would help with organic search), in other free aggregators like Yelp, in paid media… just to name a few.

  • lots0

    Simple… Don’t use Google’s “free” tools…
    Google’s free tools will push you up then drop you down and then blow smoke up your {you know what} till you pay up to google…
    Google’s “Free” tools are not really free… those Google “free tools” will cost you a bunch in the long run.

    • http://booksandhealth.com kc

      No one owes Google a living either! It is time to stop supporting Google and their God approach they have undertaken with the internet… When will people wake up to the fact that the big G stands only for one thing, GREED?

  • http://twitter.com/davidkyle David Kyle

    You people are idiots. Google is 100% in the right here. Google Places and now Google+ is not a medium for any business to take “hand written” reviews and transcribe them to a bunch of sock puppet accounts that were created for the sole purpose of leaving said review.

    Google only wants reviews from legitimate accounts. Can you imagine the abuse that would take place if every business were to attempt what Suzuki Wichita were doing? How could Google even begin to police that?

    Google does not owe you a living! If you don’t like it, GET OFF!

  • http://www.sweethomeabroad.com Katya R

    So… The reviews were lost, because Google had technical difficulties during the transition from Pages to Local? Or are businesses expected to start anew with Local, and Google deleted the old ones on purpose? Either way, bad news. /*sigh

  • José Ramírez

    Google sí this quedando Con Todo Mi Dinero, el Negocio no me da el Dinero Suficiente párr what this cobrando con google local. Me parece Que nep this esprimiendo, Estoy a punto de suspender mis Anuncios por ahi.

  • http://X-Tremetan.com Dallas

    I have also lost MANY good Google reviews during this same time period & I think it is unfortunate.

  • Robert Blueford

    Ya, occupy g, at least

  • lots0

    @David Kyle
    Why the hate and name calling dude?

    These guys at Suzuki of Wichita were not doing anything wrong.

    However, your right… EVERYONE Should “Get Off” the google gravy train. Google has enough gravy… Time to get your own, without google skimming off all the best stuff for it’s self off the top and then kicking you in the gut, after they don’t NEED your site in “their” SERPs anymore.
    Don’t be a fool.. Don’t use Google’s “free” tools.

  • http://gastric-banding-surgery.eu Geoff Lord

    Google is a law unto itself and does not really care about us mortal beings…they seem to be working on the theory that the worse they make our results look the more we are likely to spend money on advertising on adwords so that people dont see the crappy results they now produce in the generic searches !! Google are NOT doing themseleves any favours in my Book, I now personally use Bing to search for stuff, at least I can find truely relevant results that way !!

    Geoff Lord

    • Phillip Kilby

      Bing is probably not any different to Google. If google do not co-operate a similar problem to what I am having, I will most likely remove myself from google map listings. Google claim not to be evil:
      But in this instance, they can solve the issue quite easily. Remove the review section all together. It’s a free service that I don’t want. I already had thousands of happy customers.

  • SuzukiofWichita

    It would be nice if businesses were given a choice as to whether they could “use” the free tools or not, but they don’t. No business is given a choice about whether the Google Review score is posted next to their basic listing information or not, and people trust Google to report accurate and complete information, which they are not doing at this point. To treat review scores (which people rely on to make very real buying decisions) with such instability is unacceptable. Imagine if they handled Google Maps information with such carelessness. Would anyone tolerate it?

    To David Kyle: Like we said to your YouTube comment, you missed the point of the video entirely. The reason we showed our stacks of handwritten reviews was to show that we have other ways of verifying how our customers feel about us. Not only is your assertion that we created 418 different Google accounts completely wrong, it’s baffling how you even came to such a conclusion based on the evidence we presented. Take a look at our profile on DealerRater–we maintain a 4.9/5 average out of 178 reviews, and DealerRater maintains strict account creation requirements and monitors IP addresses very closely.

  • Jesus

    What are the like! Should we wait for Google to be reasonable or what?

  • http://www.greyolltwit.com/ Grey Olltwit

    The plain fact is you cannot trust Google. They roll out new services and then drop them with little or no warning. My new laptop came with Google Chrome connecting to iGoogle as the home page complete with a message saying Google is discontinuing iGoogle from 30th November. Sound familiar i.e. buzz, wave, places et al. How long before they decide to drop Google+ along with all the data folks will have added.

  • http://www.marketplace-solutions.com steven rosenberg

    It has been a nightmare for me….first it was impossible to change any information. then the site just disappeared. then it came back up again. then it disappeared again. I have my own e-mail buddy at Google now. It’s “technical issues.”
    I haven’t put a lot of time into this, but now that Google Places and Google Plus are part of the search engine traffic, want to build up those reviews.
    And the map is wrong and I can’t change anything….
    I have been on Google Places for many, many years. Certainly did not hurt anything, but now with the emphasis on reviews, I want that site to be found.

  • http://www.pilotfishseo.com Pilot Fish SEO

    They’re complaining about a free service because it’s not working the way they want it to anymore. Get over it. How about investing in SEO so that your website shows up more prominently and posting the reviews there — take control of the content.

    • http://twitter.com/dwhit110 dwhit110

      Yes. This.

  • http://foreverelegant.com Karen Miller

    Given the way that they have been aggressively monetizing lately, I would not be surprised to see Google offer an option to pay more to have your reviews retained!

  • http://myticketrescue.com/warrants/ @FTA Los Angeles

    The plain fact is you cannot trust Google. They roll out new services and then drop them with little or no warning. My new laptop came with Google Chrome connecting to iGoogle as the home page complete with a message saying Google is discontinuing iGoogle from 30th November. Sound familiar i.e. buzz, wave, places et al. How long before they decide to drop Google+ along with all the data folks will have added.

  • http://www.portlandwebdesignanddevelopment.com Azunga

    I haven’t tried since the transition to the new Google+ Local but previously when a business moved to a new location they loose all their reviews. Across town or wherever. That’s tough when a business has been in business for years and all is lost because they found a better place across the street…

  • http://www.canaltire.com hugh

    I am a victim of review abuse. Review websites are worthless and damage legitmate businesses. Not one review website ever asked a person with a complaint to work it out first and instead the complainer should fill out a “review” instead which always has a wrapper of ads around it. Reviews are a sham and scam and will lead to a digital divide the likes the world has never seen. If reviews are allowed to have any meaning at all, then people will lie, cheat and scam the system so bad, the reviews will have no meaning later. Reviews only encourge cheating. How many bad restaurants are there that an elaborate review system will shield us from? How many bad shoe repair places are there that we need a review system so detailed than only Google can pull it off? Reviews are stupid and very laughable considering how easy it is to plant a fake one. How many millions of dollars are going to be lost by good busiesses who for what ever reason haven’t gamed the review system? Why do robo-reviews (incentivized exit surveys) count at all? Barf barf barf
    And have any of you all heard of “information supression”? Ever wonder why some businesses don’t have any complaints even though they oughta? Use reviews at your own peril.

  • Janet

    While the service is free, it has value to Google – the reviews enhance the value of Google Maps to its users, right? If Google justifies the lack of a customer service department on the basis that the service is free, then why don’t they completely do away with reviews? In other words, Google needs to own up, be responsible, and develop a consistent policy rather than hide behind lame excuses.

  • RDL

    I get 30%+/- of my business from the internet. Not pay-per-click.
    I have 3 simple, 3 page, white hat web sites that I built myself years age. I am always on Google’s 1st page (1st, 2nd or 3rd under the generic listings).
    Some competitors have put up bad reviews about me. I know who they are, Google would not remove them. NOW THEY ARE GONE! No one pays any attention to the good reviews anyway. They should do away with all reviews.

    • Phillip Kilby

      How did you remove it?

  • http://darrylmanco.com Darryl Manco

    Sounds like a classic he says she says mess. A business has no control over online third parties. If a business is relying on third party tools to host reviews they should ask what if occurs. The example is one of those types of what ifs, and Google’s free tool owes no one anything. Instead, social integration within the website should be used to bump engagement. Sites such as Amazon and Ebay do this. Why is the car dealership not doing the same? Good luck with getting those reviews back, maybe next time ask for them in writing. At least then, those gracious comments could be scanned and posted as well as framed and displayed.

    • http://KeithJamesDesigns.com Keith James

      I guess you didn’t take the time to watch the video before posting a comment. He shows hand written copies of the reviews for the past 3 years.

  • http://www.mietwagenbewertung.info Bewertungen

    Another good example, that you should not put all your eggs in one basket.

    Try to diversify as much as possible and, apart from Google, use other marketing tools like Facebook or Twitter.

  • http://www.vesta-tech.net Manila Website Maker

    Back to zero

  • http://www.prodentite.com Chris

    I hear this from frustrated dentists on a daily basis. They take a proactive approach and encourage reviews from their happy patients.

    The patients don’t post their review at the office, but the dentists will send a follow up email with a link to their Google Places (+ Local or whatever they’re calling it this week) page OR they provide a link to their GP page on their website.

    These dentists create an environment where the staff is asking for reviews.

    In Google’s eyes, this is gaming the system.

    I wonder how much longer Google is going to keep this going. Their local product sucks. From their stance on duplicate listings to ridiculous review rules, they are shooting themselves in the foot.

  • http://www.urakaraokesuperstar.com lillian

    I think that google is on some sort of power trip. hope they wake up soon. if they don’t some other company will storm in and take over. businesses will get fed-up and the proverbial will hit the fan. google might be all powerful now but i believe they are heading for a fall.
    that said, why don’t all companies have a review facility ON their sites. Google cannot remove that ! can they? or just have a review site separately listed?
    with the company’s site URL embedded IN the review site
    bu tnot have the word review in the site URL

    • http://www.prodentite.com Chris

      It’s all about credibility. Consumers know that third party reviews are the most credible.

      If you were looking for a new dentist, you’d go to Google first. If you are on a dentist’s website and you see a ton of 5 star reviews- with 0 negative reviews, you question how credible these reviews are. No one is perfect!

      But Google’s stance is just as bad. The pendulum swings the other way doesn’t solve the problem.

  • http://www.hpah.org john

    Not surprising that Google is seeking to monitor/mind reviews. In the past, for clients interested in reviewing us online we’d push them to yelp. We experienced the same issue with Yelp (of 9 5 star reviews only 3 show as legitimate) so we started suggesting Google……based on this story we may have to find another solution!

  • http://fishandcrane.com Peter

    Google is like the owners of the only road that also sells billboard space.
    Your business may build upon the road, and the road seems to “improve”, but ultimately the road follows the billboards not the other way around.

  • http://www.tvsinternetmarketing.com Travis Van Slooten

    Those of us that provide local SEO services to small businesses have been dealing with this issue for weeks. It’s been a nightmare for business owners (and us too). And while I think Google’s local product sucks, it is their product – and they are offering it for free. As I tell all of my clients, anything you get from Google+ is icing on the cake. It is not the cake! Your website is the cake.

    To that end, I encourage all of my clients to cut and paste all their reviews from Google+ and post them on their site (I have them create a “Testimonials” page on their website) – giving Google full credit by stating the following reviews were left for us on our Google+ Local page (then provide a link to the page). That way you get the best of both worlds. If Google does this crap again, you’ll still have records of all of your reviews.

    Travis Van Slooten

  • http://you-play.ro Jocuri Online Gratis

    They would have to set up a Google+ account for each review. And that would be a royal PITA and against Google’s TOS.

  • http://pronetworkbuild.com Lonny Dunn

    Well, I think Reviews ARE a great source of marketing, since some of them are prima facie crossmarketing tools like Yelp, etc, which force the information to other networks. As a Google Review? There is no better way to see a business rank than getting positive reviews.

    Now, if the business were smart, they’d set up a laptop in the Lobby of said Suzuki Dealership, and every happy customer get a $25 gift certificate if they log on using their Google Account, and post a positive review, and get those Reviews BACK!! Have customers G + their page. This is also direct marketing. I disagree with the commentor that this violate’s Google’s TOS. That is pure bunk. Google does not have the time to go through each Comment! It could be that there is some glitch that caused these reviews to be deleted. But it doesn’t mean you give up.

    I Tweet at @ProNetworkBuild and Provide Social Media Resources to Busy SEO and Web Firms who don’t have the time to do it themselves.

    • http://www.bradbixby.com Brad_Bixby


      If you tweet at @ProNetworkBuild and Provide Social Media Resources to Busy SEO and Web Firms who don’t have the time to do it themselves.

      Then I’m guessing or HOPING you are aware of IP addresses and algorithm’s. It’s VERY possible that there were a few hundred reviews from one IP address, if they followed your super plan. Oh… I bet they did, they are MARKETING PROFESSIONALS. What you state about Google not having the time is exactly the problem. They deploy a robot to grade and remove these reviews, they do not care if it wipes out tens of thousands of honest small businesses. Google doesn’t care about you until your reach 5k monthly spending on adwords.

  • http://www.bradbixby.com Brad_Bixby

    Diversify, diversify and diversify. Google and their “FREE” services can’t be trusted. If you are relying on Google to make money you must exploit all new e-marketing techniques, especially outside google. Getting on board early with new things like Pinterest before they explode, are things you have to do. Everything changes all the time and Google is fast becoming the least consumer-centric company. Too many changes, too fast and the decisions are being made by wall street algorithms. Now I know partially pie in the sky when it comes to local. Google took ownership of local & put geographic directories out of business. I’m hoping after Google screws this up we see the geo-portals come back with funding. Then Google will just de-index them. Google going public makes every slimy way they make money off our content much more eye opening. Probably going to lose many lawsuits.

  • http://www.bradbixby.com Brad_Bixby

    Gmail accounts & Google+ phone verified accounts are available for purchase to people who KNOW what they are doing. This dealership could have and should have built an app that would generate unique IP addresses if they did in fact have a terminal available to the public for creating reviews.

  • http://252cats.com Yuki Nakabayashi

    we went with unyelpme dotcom – it totally cured our problems – same as everyone else – reviews getting distored, hidden etc. We love it and never have to worry abour what;s being done to our reviews now – just my 2 cents’ worth.

  • Laura Perry

    Last November 2011 Google began systematicall deleting my business reviews, all 5 star. The best of my reviews were selected for deletion. At the same time I was being solicited heavily with scare tactics and thrreats (imo) by a Google salesman trying to strong arm me into spending money on Google adwords. I was told if I did not spend money on Google adwords, my organic listing would disappear, be buried on the last page of any search.

    The problem resolved itself in April or May of 2012, or so I thought.
    In the last four days several reviews have disappeared, and some reviews have been “edited” by Google. Simultaneously, once again I am being solicited to spend money advertising with Google.
    Coincidence? I think not.

  • http://www.everythinghereplus.com Yoon Jung Lee

    They did the same thing to our company with their ending of Google Checkout. We had 51 hard earned reviews from satisfied customers and three weeks before the announced November 20, 2013 end date of Google Checkout we decided to archive them just in case. Turns out that Google had already deleted them. When we inquired, we got the same corporate template speak from them. Small businesses mean nothing to them, and their arrogance and apathy towards other people’s livelihood is breathtaking. Before any of Google fanbois defend them, Checkout was not a “free” tool, we paid for every transaction. In other words, despite making money from us, Google didn’t even have the courtesy to warn us that they would delete our reviews.

  • http://enfoldmed.com enfoldmed

    That’s very unfortunate that reviews cannot be restored at a later date when google algos become smarter. Google engineers could have saved the data and continue working on it better. We see a lot of genuine reviews disappear from pages, when “shady keyword rich” seem to stick.