Archive for the ‘Reputation Management’ Category

Is Google Opinion Rewards Fueling Local Reviews? My Findings

Monday, February 1st, 2016

I’ve been using the Google Opinion Rewards app for a couple of years now.  The app, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, sends you surveys a few times a week via your mobile device and you can earn Google Play credits for answering questions.  The questions vary, but I’ve found that Google is most interested in my location behavior.  Every few days Google will ask me if I’ve been to any of the locations on a list.  Sometimes they don’t make any sense, but more often than not there is a store or restaurant I’ve visited in the last few days in the list.  They then ask me when I was there, and to rate my experience from one to four stars.  I often wondered if Google was leveraging this data to fuel its local reviews and star ratings, but after a trip to Knott’s Halloween Haunt last October I’m convinced Google is in fact leveraging this data.

Last October my wife and I attended Knotts’ annual Halloween Haunt and since it was for our Anniversary I surprised her with the dinner and hotel package with it.  The day after our stay I received a notification from Google Opinion Rewards that looked like every other survey I receive when Google so kindly stalks my movement, asking me if I recently had been to any of the places in a list of local hotels.  Normally, after my response it simply asks me to rate my experience at the location, but this time, things took a bit of a turn.  On the following screen, Google advised that responses to my survey may be posted on Google and associated with my Google profile.

Google Opinion rewards questions 1 and 2

Since this was a prompt I hadn’t seen before, I opted to go ahead and let Google use my responses in an effort to see what the final result would be.  The final two questions were similar to what I am used to seeing; it first asked to rate my experience and then asked me to review the location.

Google Opinion Rewards questions 2 and 3

I submitted my review and when I first checked the listing I didn’t see where the review had been posted to the local listing for the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel.

I haven’t seen a survey like this sense, but randomly thought the other day to check back and see if by chance Google was using my response as a review on the local listing for the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel.  Sure enough, the review I placed back in October via Google Opinion Rewards is actually live on the hotel’s listing.

Knott's Berry Farm Hotel Google Review

Needless to say, if Google tells you that your Google Opinion Rewards survey may be leveraged online, it likely will be integrated into their reviews system and ultimately impact that business.  As I mentioned previosuly, most location survey like this don’t include this disclaimer, however you almost always provide a star rating for the business.  I did some poking around to see if any of the businesses I have given star ratings to as part of Google Opinion Rewards appear as “reviews,” but that does not appear to be the case, at least not publicly.  I did discover however that the star ratings I have entered via Google Opinion Rewards show up under the “Contribute” section of my profile in Google Maps, which leads me to believe these are somehow being leveraged or at least weighted as part of the overall local review landscape in Google.  As a local business, this is something you should be aware of as it has the potential to tap into users who may have otherwise not reviewed your business online, regardless of the sentiment of that review.

Google Maps Contribute

The one thing I find amusing about this entire process is that Google’s guidelines say that businesses shouldn’t offer money for people to write reviews because it impacts the authenticity of the review, yet Google Opinion Rewards is based completly on a model that reards you Google Play Credits for doing just that.


Google’s At A Glance Snippets Now Show the Ugly Truth About Your Business

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Last week Google announced the global rollout of the new Google Maps layout.  The new layout, which many of us began using as a preview last May is much different than the traditional maps view many local businesses were used to.  Unlike the previous maps layout the emphasis is on the locations on the map and not the business listings that used to appear on the left.  For many local businesses that were less visible in the past this is a blessing, but what many businesses are learning is its also a curse.

Along with the new maps layout is the now more prominent at a glance snippets.  In the past these snippets would merely list words associated with your business, and in most cases these were pretty focused to what your business offered.  However, as Google’s methods for harvesting data get better and dive deeper many businesses are starting to see something more than their services.  They are seeing things that reflect their quality of service as well.

Last week while talking about the rollout of the new maps, a colleague of mine sent me the following result.  You’ll notice that Google not only associates MacMall with the macbook, but more prominently “horible customer service.”  Pretty painful to have on the map next to your business name if someone is doing research on where to buy their next Apple product.

Macmall Maps Listing with at a glance snippet

However MacMall isn’t the only victim of this.  Just today David Oremland posted the below image on Google+.  As you can see, not only is this particular BART station centrally located, but it’s known for its homeless people.

BART maps listing featuring homeless people as an at a glance snippet

When it comes to Google Maps and local in general, I have talked a lot over the years about just how crucial reputation management is.  The only way Google’s algorithm is going to pick up on stuff like this, is if there are enough people talking about these things in regards to your business.

Looking at this as an outsider, these can be a bit amusing.  But as a business owner this is terrifying.  No longer does a person need to click through and see your reviews to understand the sentiment people have about your business.  If it’s bad enough, it will be right there below your business name for all to see.

This is a short post, but I wanted to illustrate just how important reputation management can be, especially in the new Google Maps.  If you’re still not taking your online reputation seriously, and aren’t doing your part to make changes to improve these concerns within your business, let this be an eye opener for you.  These are just a couple of examples, but there are hundreds, if not thousands out there.  If you want to have some real fun, head over to the new maps and type in Walmart and then just browse the U.S. fun little snippets like “horrible service,” “white trash,” and other choice words pepper the map.

How a Recent Change In Google Made Wikipedia A Crucial Part of Brand SEO

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

The Knowledge Graph, it’s been all the rage with Google over the last couple of years, but a minor change made last week by the search giant might make businesses take the Knowledge Graph a bit more seriously, and more importantly their Wikipedia listings.

Last week Google announced a new feature in it’s search results to help searchers better identify if a search result is really what they are looking for.  If it’s available, Google uses data from the Knowledge Graph to add a small dropdown with the name of the entity associated with the page in the search results, giving the searcher more details about that particular website.  I’ve seen it in the wild for a number of queries and if you have a strong, accurate Wikipedia presence it’s a nice little addition to your ranking listing.  But what happens if you don’t have an accurate article, or no Wikipedia article at all for your business?  Yesterday, I found out.

Google search results featuring incorrect Knowledge Graph information

What you see above is an actual search result for an agency client I work with.  You’ll notice that instead of having information about the brand that controls the website, it is about a particular product the company makes.  If this were appearing on a page that features this particular product type I might be a bit more ok with this result, but what I uncovered was that this particular entity is associated with every page of the website that appears in Google’s search results.

After doing some digging I discovered that the company I am working with has somehow never had their company and brand information established on Wikipedia, despite being a major cosmetics brand.  Instead, Google was displaying this data based on a mention of the brand in an article about makeup primer on Wikipedia.

St. Louis Cardinals Knowledge Graph result featuring a gay slurThe cool thing about this is that it shows how powerful Google is at associating websites with brand names even when a link isn’t involved.  But sadly, it also shows that Google still hasn’t perfected the art of connecting entities using the knowledge graph.  As Google rolls this feature out to more websites, it is going to be increasingly important for businesses big and small to ensure that they have established themselves on Wikipedia and more importantly, that they are being properly represented on Wikipedia.  After all, Wikipedia and the Knowledge Graph have inappropriately represented a brand before in Google’s search results before.

Last October a Knowledge Graph incident featuring the St. Louis Cardinals showed just how vulnerable the Knowledge Graph can be.  During their World Series appearance against the Boston Red Sox pranksters rewrote the team’s description using gay slurs on their Wikipedia entry.  Despite being live on Wikipedia for only minutes, the slurs appeared in Google’s Knoweledge Graph results for days.  Needless to say, there are worse words that could appear next to your search results listing than “Primer.”  Regardless, now is a better time than ever to ensure that what Wikipedia and the Knowledge Graph say about your business are as accurate as possible,