You’re searching for a local Plumber using Google Local Listing (also known as Google Places).
However, how do you know whether the plumber is reliable and reputable ? The Reviews ! But how do you know if they are authentic reviews ?
We’ll go over a few Google Local Search Reviews to see for yourself if they are real reviews. Also we’ll go over Google Review Syndication.
Local Search Analysis:
I did a random search for “plumbers san diego ca” in google ( http://ow.ly/2qB9D ) and saw one listing (Bill Howe Plumbing) that stood apart as it had 106 reviews !
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If you click on the reviews for this fellow you’ll see that the top 5 reviews are all 5 stars, perfectly happy customers ! Thats a good thing right ?
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So i decided to look into the details for the top 5 reviewers and noticed an odd pattern. I’ll use the latest reviewer : “Chappy” as an eg to show the odd pattern i found [singlepic id=77 w=320 h=540 float=left]
This fellow is someone who takes posting reviews very seriously. All his reviews are 5 stars. On August 6th chappy has posted 17 reviews. Most of us dont have the time to post more then a couple in a day but thats ok, “chappy” takes reviews seriously.
However should one look further in detail you’ll see a lots of odd things :
1) On the review for Bill Plumbing “chappy” claims to be Megan M of San Diego Ca, however on the same day posts reviews under the names of Craig B of Denver CO, D G of Chicago IL, Danielle of Minneapolis, MN, Christi of Costa Mesa, CA
2) Chappy claims to be living at Legend Park Apts in Schaumburg, IL yet takes his/her ( not sure ) garage door to be fixed in Lake Forest, CA ! Further goes to a dentist in Boston, MA and uses a Spine Doctor in Chatham, NJ.
3) Posting of 17 reviews on Aug 6th alone and buying of several cars from various dealers all across the country
4) Always posting 5 star ratings ! I guess he/she is always extremly satisfied.
Now, would you agree with me, that there is an odd pattern here ? Also its the same pattern with the other top 5 reviewers for Bill Howe Plumbing. Which brings the question: Are these Reviews Authentic ?
There could be some explanations for the reviews done. Perhaps chappy is a young billionaire who has houses all over the country, travels on a daily basis for leisure or business. Perhaps used their services at one time and just got to posting the reviews on a day when they had nothing else to do. I dont think thats its likely, but i really dont know. Perhaps you can come up with an explanation and share with all of us here ?
Now i must say that this is not an odd incident. I found similar questionable reviews for several other service providers like Chiropractors and even Criminal Attorneys. I found one case for a Criminal Attorney in Texas that specialized in military cases, where they had a review posted every 7 days on the dot. All of the reviews gave 5 star rating, each reviewer had only 1 review under their profile and the writing pattern was the same for all reviews.
I’d have to say that they were probably done by a Review Providing Service … Google Review Syndication. There are firms that provide reviews for business by either posting fake reviews using various techniques or claim to find your customers and get them to write their reviews on a post card, mail it to the review firm which then posts the customers reviews online under various accounts. Is this service acceptable to google ? While there is no official statement from Google regarding this service, i’m sure google review syndication would not classify as a review but as a comment.
Google’s guidelines are very straight forward. NO FAKE Reviews are acceptable and they do remove fake reviews, ban local listings for business if found to indulge in unfair and unethical methods. Are you willing to take that risk ? I’d recommend thinking twice before you hire a firm offering a review providing service.
I hope you’ll use this post to determine if the reviews you see in local listings for business are authentic or not and do share your thoughts on the eg’s i provided and let me know if you think they are authentic.
On a key note, i have to clarify that I have no affiliation with any Plumbing service. Also am not liable to any loss of business that any firms used in the eg’s may face due to this post. Also i would not be liable if google decided to ban the local listings for any firm mentioned here for unethical methods or non authentic reviews posted. I am not saying that they indulged in any unfair methods, thats for the readers to decide for themselves based on the facts i provided from the reviews.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts on whether you think the reviews are authentic or not. Also if you have other methods to determine if a provider is reputable to not. I can be followed on Twitter and you can fan me on FaceBook. Also feel free to sign up for my Free Newsletter for more exciting articles.
In my next post i’ll go over Top Citation Sources For Local SEO
UPDATE ( Aug 18, 2010 ): Stephanie, Communications Director from Bill Howe Plumbing contacted me to inform that all the reviews posted were genuine and that they had provided them to a Review Syndication firm they hired. The Syndication firm then posted the reviews for Bill Howe Plumbing.
This brings me to ask
Should Review Firms Provide Proof that the Reviews posted are Genuine ? (Some do by posting a link to a scanned copy of the correspondence from the customer) Let me know your thoughts.
UPDATE ( Sep 13th 2010 ) : Looks like Google has responded to Review Syndication. At the time of writing this post Bill Howe had 106 Reviews showing on Google Places. Now there are only 75 Reviews showing. Did Google respond by removing the reviews they found questionable ? It would seem that way. Will this mark the end of Review Syndication ? feel free to post your thoughts on this below.
UPDATE ( Oct 2nd 2010 ) : Google removed more reviews for Bill Howe. They have only 49 reviews showing on Google Places.