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Google Reviews | Do’s and Don’ts for Car Dealers

I wonder how many dealers have looked at their online reviews recently and asked?

 “Hey ! Where’d they all go?”

If you are one of them, you’re not alone. It seems the automotive industry was hit particularly hard with this most recent round of changes to Google reviews over the summer.

One of our clients sent us a link to a blog post by a large Suzuki Dealer in the USA who went from over 400 reviews to just 9. Below is the link to the full story.

Suzuki of Wichita From “Near Perfection” to Nonexistence?

We’ve all heard stories like the one from our friends in Wichita. Few things are more frustrating than seeing your dealerships name and reputation trashed in such a public way, (especially when there seems to be little one can do about it).

Many dealers have spent time and money creating processes to help cultivate online reviews over the past 2 years only to see them disappear.

So, what’s the solution?


The Don’ts


1) Don’t allow staff members to place Google reviews for your customers.

2) Don’t help customers setup up new Google accounts just so they can place a review.

3) Don’t provide an iPad at the dealership for customers to add reviews.

4) Don’t offer any incentives to customers or employees for adding reviews.

5) Don’t hire a reputation management company to solicit and add reviews.


Paying for reviews is a clear violation of Google policies. This includes hiring a company who claims they have a unique process that Google can not detect. (They do not).

There are many ways for Google to spot “manufactured” reviews. For example, a Google+ account created solely for the purpose of adding a Google review, (that goes dormant after the review is added), can raise a flag.  (And the review will likely never be published).


What can cause a dealer with dozens of positive reviews to lose them?


Below is a list of just a few of the ideas floating around on the web today about why this may be happening. Some may be more accurate than others. Some may be completely off base. (Conspiracy theorists should stop reading now).

1) Adding reviews for their customers.

2) A “spike” in the number of reviews that appears “unnatural”.

3) Hiring a company that “manufactures” reviews.

4) Too many “single review reviewers”

5) Maybe an engineer at Google just decided to take out dealers who had a lot of positive reviews because they found it hard to believe they were all genuine.  (A “tall poppy syndrome” algorithm.)

6) Google may have adopted a filtering system similar to that of Yelp. The video below is 3 minutes long and does a good job explaining how such a filter works. If Google has done this, it would account for many of the reviews that have gone away recently. I recommend you take a few minutes to watch this.

7) Perhaps some combination of the above list and many, many other variables only known to Google.

Google can “notice” something happening and not react for months, or years.

SEO experts, “Reputation Management companies”, car dealers, small business people, etc,  can try something (like adding a bunch of reviews themselves) and notice it working, then use this as “evidence” that what they did was OK with Google. Or worse (and perhaps more common) that they somehow found a clever way to beat the system.

Months later, when Google releases a new algorithm, the hammer drops and everyone is left wondering what happened and why.

Let’s not forget that Google has an army of smart engineers. Crossing swords with them is futile. (It won’t help sell one more car).  For small businesses, submission may be a more practical strategy.


The Do’s


1) Do respond to reviews you receive. (All the bad ones and some of the good ones).  It’s important to show you are reading feedback from customers.

2) Do stop listening to what the Guru’s tell you about engineering a creative solution to this problem. The fact is, the only thing predictable about Google is that they are ruthlessly and consistently unpredictable. Were they not, nerds around the world would get rich manipulating search results. (And Google would lose market share).

3) Do ask your customers for feedback.

We recommend making this part of your delivery process. Simply ask your customer, “Are you happy with your experience at our dealership?” If the answer is no, great, your team has an opportunity to make it right. If the answer is yes, send an email to your customer with links to your Google Reviews, Yelp, Dealer Rater, etc.

This simple step will ensure a steady flow of genuine reviews that accurately reflect what’s happening in your business.

Is there a secret to “managing” Google reviews;


There are however dozens of online businesses today specializing in “Reputation Management” who will try very hard to convince you otherwise.

Hold on to your wallet and…

Just say no.

David Tingley




{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Darryl Varadi October 28, 2012, 8:27 pm

    That is interesting stuff David…thank you for the info!

  • Mike Nelson October 31, 2012, 8:41 pm

    Referrals are the foundation of a successful and sustainable Car Dealership.
    Well said and valuable advice just offered up for free. Thank-you 🙂

  • Horton SEO November 7, 2012, 7:30 am

    The only flaw in this article is that we’ve also discovered that sending out the email with links to your review area is also futile because Google sees where those links originated from and then they start discounting those reviews as well. If you include it in an email, they see where that click came from. If you place it on your website, they see where it came from. Then it ends up falling into the “solicited” basket again and those reviews disappear.

    The only way to really assure a review sticks is to have them go to the site naturally without any assistance and that’s a tough nut to crack. Google looks at originating links and IP addresses, and that puts dealerships at a huge disadvantage. When that algorithm update hit, it wiped all of that out.

    I spoke with a rep at Digital Dealer and he said that Google is still tweaking that algorithm, so hopefully there will be reviews being reinstated on the near horizon similar to what happens at Yelp where they change their mind off and on.

  • Kate Post December 18, 2012, 1:26 pm

    I agree with both David and Horton on many counts here,

    It is tough to get around very advanced algorithms, especially with Panda’s release and the Google + Local community on lock-down (under Google’s control.)

    It seems so ‘old-school,’ but organic ways to encourage feedback without providing a user-friendly but traceable link are small business or thank you cards reminding the customer to please let the business know about their experience so they can improve upon their customer service and keep in touch.

    Nothing like a simple gesture, hand written note with this card and review logos, a bottle of water or a cookie, to show you truly care. It’s those unique personal touches that will make someone want to get online and shout their feelings from the rooftops.

    Also, QR codes using goo.gl (like bit.ly) links on paper that link to the review sites that are not Google + Local have been shown to work and stick online.



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