02 January 2008
We're Not Review Mavens?
Miriam noticed that Google Local/Maps isn't counting her user review. Mine don't appear in the thumbnail summaries either.
Discussions about user review updates at Maps/Local's started last month at Mike Blumenthal's Understanding Google Local and Yahoo Maps and continued on to Convert Offline and Miriam's SEO Igloo. Tim of Covert Offline theorized that dropped reviews might have been due to reviewers lacking 'maven' status.
"if I were Google, what would I look for in a review? I couldn’t filter bad reviews and just show positive ones, obviously. No, I would want reviews from mavens. People who love to shop and give their well informed opinions. What would these people have in common? They would have a lot of reviews to their credit. So, I would look for reviewers with a large number of reviews to their credit."
Miriam, let's face it, at this point I guess we're just not mavens (but it doesn't appear any of the other Google users who've taken the time to write reviews are either.)
I've been tracking reviews and writing them since early summer when an informal group of local florists at Flower Chat, with more than 1200 active members, decided to make an effort to create reviews about other local flower shops. Since we deal with other florists nationally and internationally, we're in a unique position to give first-hand accounts of the quality of work provided by others in our field. In fact, most every flower shop has an internal data base which can be customized to write comments about other florists; rating them from 'preferred' to 'good' to 'poor' to 'never use' and noting their specialties, i.e. 'great contemporary designs', 'large selection of exotics' or 'good a basic work'.
While most florists use wire services to transfer orders for distant delivery (and earn commissions in the process), many of us also believe consumers will get the best value by ordering direct from a quality local shop that will deliver their order. My own site explains about sending flowers out of town and I customized a local florist search via Google Co-op to further the effort.
Our informal review group was/is based on the following:
Goal: Tell consumers about the good things your fellow local florists do. Who better than us to tell consumers about the best shops around?
Create a login at any of the following:
- Write reviews of florists that consistently do a great job filling your orders or with whom you've made direct purchases as a consumer. (You do buy flowers, don't you?)
- Highlight their specific benefits - quality, value, design, service, e-receipts, delivery confirmation, photo of your arrangement, etc... (If they've goofed and then fixed it properly, tell how they professionally handled the issue.)
Identify yourself as a florist if you are writing about a shop that only fills your orders through a WS.
Do Not: Review your own site
Do Not: Review your competitors
Do Not: Request reviews of your own site in this forum. Those posts will be deleted on sight.
Do Not: Quickly lash out in anger at a florist that blew an order. We all make mistakes from time to time so the more important story is how a problem is/was handled. Before you type, ask yourself if a bit of patience would serve you, the other florist and consumers better.
Effect: Raised awareness of good local florists.
In addition to writing reviews, we also reported a number of black hat reviewers. I give props to InsiderPages.com since they consistently and quickly took down obvious review spam once reported. (Unfortunately their down-stream users, including Google Local/Maps weren't nearly as responsive.) It was certainly a surprised to note that a few of the black hat reviews had been up for a year and that the victim-florists appeared to have never reported the issues themselves. Quite an indication of how disengaged from the web many small business owners still are.
In the midst of fighting my own battle with Google Maps/Local about their publishing and leaving up (for months) black hat reviews, my husband and I received a prestigious national floral industry award. With the irony that false reviews could unfairly damage (at least temporarily) a reputation that took a lifetime to earn, needless to say, the bloom was off the rose as far as my endearment of Google Local/Maps. (And I don't even want to take the time right now to go into how they've twice this year allowed some mystery data provider to override our LBC business information and are currently publishing a fax number as my business phone number in the Maps One Box.)
They also 'lost' user reviews about us. Here are two, from Google users Eric S and Richard S, both florists, that have also completely disappeared from our company profile.
It's unlikely any of us florists who've filled in our user profiles will write scathing reviews about other flower shops since we're clearly ID'd and therefore sitting targets for revenge. But are we going to have to go negative to gain a trust rank? I hope not.
Google obviously needs a better way to separate the useful reviews from the Urban John spammers (whose bogus 'reviews' still appear on some flower shop profiles weeks after being reported), but if they want more users to participate, they'll need to show that the time and effort counts. (Don't you wonder why someone would mark those bogus reviews as 'helpful'?)
I'd like to add Google to our review request list from our customers (right now we refer them to CitySearch, InsiderPages and Yahoo Local), but want to send them places where their words will seem to matter.
Like Mike said, we're all trying to be patient and add feedback because we really want Google Local/Maps to succeed. As unpredictable and seemingly unresponsive as they are now at dealing with obvious errors, they're still a useful local resource and have no doubt helped more florists get found by location than just about any place else on the web.
Maybe, one day, they'll also let us earn Review Maven status.
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