Scott Pitman, a Wichita, Kansas dealer, faced an online nightmare after Google arbitrarily deleted a large majority of his business’s Google+ Local reviews leaving them with only nine negative reviews. In all, almost 400 reviews, mostly positive, were deleted without notice, explanation, or chance to appeal.
“Google believes it can do whatever it wants and has no accountability,” said Pitman, whose store in Wichita, Kan., is Suzuki’s top-selling U.S. dealership.
Google also unilaterally deleted all but a handful of customer reviews from the Google+ Local pages of Fisher Auto Inc. in Boulder, Colo.; North End Motors, a used-car dealer in Canton, Mass. — and, by Google’s own admission, numerous other dealerships.
The Internet giant — which since has restored some of the reviews — offers no detailed explanation of why or how it did what it did. But the company said in a statement provided to Automotive News that it seeks to prevent “spammy” content, even at the risk of sometimes removing legitimate reviews.
“We know this is frustrating when it happens but believe that overall, these measures help everyone by ensuring that the reviews appearing on Google+ Local are authentic, relevant, and useful,” the statement said. Google declined to elaborate.
Pitman’s experience underlines both the marketing power and the pitfalls of Google. The Internet behemoth is connecting dealerships with a growing portion of their customers — but dealers have far less control over Google’s interactive features than they do over traditional advertising media.
The three stores said their reviews are legitimate, obtained by requests over several months to sales and service customers. They are at a loss to explain why Google cut them and have failed to get Google to discuss specifics.
The three have filed separate complaints about their treatment with the Federal Trade Commission. Pitman said he isn’t optimistic that the complaints will move Google. Auto News, 27 August 2012.
Pittman and his staff have started rebuilding their online profile and reviews by rallying customers to write new reviews. It’s worked. His rating is back up to 27 out of 30 with 55 reviews.
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