This Google Service Gets 3 of 5 Stars

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It’s no secret that Google is full of geniuses. The fact that their name has become a verb in our vernacular has solidified their far-reaching impact. With so many services under the same roof, it’s no wonder there are a few gaps. The one we’ve noticed lately here at Zamolution deals with the review component Google offers alongside local business listings. Certainly the company capable of conceiving something like Android can improve their reviews service. In order to make it the most honest and accurate on the internet, here’s where we suggest they start.

Problem: Users can post an unlimited amount of reviews from the same IP address.

Why it matters: People with more than one Google account can sway a listing in their chosen direction. One dissatisfied client could pose as 10 dissatisfied clients, impacting the page big time. Likewise, someone trying to intentionally boost rankings could post as 10 satisfied clients.

The fix: Google can place a temporary suspension on an offending IP address, disabling its ability to post reviews for a specified period of time. Repeat offenders would lose their privileges to review completely. Google can also log the IP addresses to set and keep track of specific review limits, but can allow for the appending of a past review. I’ve had nothing but great experiences at Triumph Brewery in Old City, but I don’t feel the need to post about it more than once. Similarly, I absolutely¬†abhorred my last apartment building, but only felt the need to share my horror stories once per site. Most people share their sentiments, and move on. Imposing a “one review per listing” limit wouldn’t detract from the value of the service; it would actually add to it.

Problem: There is no tracking in place to disallow one user account from posting 10 reviews on 10 separate listings every hour.

Why it matters: This accounts for a lot of those scripted comments you stumble across. Though it’s discouraged by Google (and unethical), there are businesses that solicit comments in order to make themselves look better. Does Sally from Philadelphia really know a good roofer in Minneapolis, a helpful car dealer in Seattle, and a posh hair salon in Miami? Unlikely, and it’s even less likely that even if she does, she’ll post reviews for all three places within the same online session.

The fix: Google can set a limit on the number of reviews a certain account is allowed to post within a certain period of time. Couple this with the threat of suspension for abuse from an IP address, and offenders will be severely discouraged. Of course, the truly determined will likely always find a way. However, for companies looking to boost their ratings ASAP, offering better service will be a better time investment than paying some college student in need of extra cash to post scripted reviews.

Problem: There is no Google-created incentive for the community to patrol other reviews.

Why it matters: Google’s a large company, to put it simply. The likelihood that an employee will be hired solely to monitor listings’ reviews is slim, and without any call to action from other users, inappropriate reviews or abuse of the service will be ignored before they’re reported.

The fix: In addition to its guidelines, Google should reward users who take the time to flag suspicious reviews. It’s a well-known fact among digital marketers that people love badges. Take a look at Foursquare or Livestrong’s weight loss tools if you don’t believe me. Those systems reward active users, and Google could do the same to motivate the community. Or, perhaps, it could take a few notes from Klout: users with certain scores can unlock special “perks”. After all, simply posting rules doesn’t mean people will follow them (think about how many times you go over the speed limit).

I’m not trying to insinuate that I have a problem with Google – far from it, actually. What I am saying is that an improved review feature could really help Google stand up next to sites like Yelp! when it comes to community testimonials. Since we’ve helped a few of our clients claim their business listings and maintain them the right way, it’s important to us that other people do the same. Hey, Google could even tie in participation with some sort of something on users’ Google+ profiles. Regardless of how they do it, now is the time. There seems to be a shiny, new or improved service from the search engine giants every week – could something like “Google Reviews” be next?

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