Trusted Reviewers Impact on Google Maps / OneBox

December 21st, 2007 by Will Scott

A Case Study of Trusted Reviewers’ Impact on Google Maps Placement

David Mihm, a local SEO in Oakland CA recently pointed me to a post by Tim Coleman of Convert Offline who offers Search Engine Marketing help for small business entitled “Is Google Filtering Reviews or Reviewers”.

Tim’s post suggests that trust is an issue in map ranking as well as general listings. There’s some question whether age of the review has an impact as well (from Small Business SEM author Matt McGee). Mike Blumenthal of Understanding Google Maps has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and made some valuable contribution to the discussion.

I thought that we needed something a little more concrete and decided to do an experiment specifically focused on reviewer trust.

Google Maps and Local are notoriously slow to update so this experiment may take some time to reach a conclusion.

As it turns out, we have relationships with 3 providers of the same health / wellness service in the same metro area, none of whom are currently represented in Google maps (I’ll be storing screenshots dated for archival purposes).

We have asked, and the practices have agreed, to begin asking their patients to go online and write reviews.

In the interest of controlling the experiment we’ll use only InsiderPages. There are a few challenges selecting the review engine of choice:

  • Despite multiple universities our area is NOT tech-savvy
  • No review site has significant local depth
  • Few reviewers on Insider Pages have profiles which would indicate trust
  • On Yelp, the highest power reviewers are from out of town

Considerations and methodology:

  • None of the websites are in the OneBox or on page 1 of map results.
  • None currently have reviews
  • None have been heavily promoted (on a scale of 1-10 for internet promotion they represent a 1, 3 and 5)
  • All are seemingly equidistant from the Google centroid
  • Reviews for 2 of 3 will be from virgin reviewers
  • Reviews for the 3rd will be solicited from already active reviewers
    • We will make contact with power-reviewers and ask them to visit our test subject
    • We will not attempt to influence editorial content
  • In the best case each practice will have the same number of reviews.

Additional comments to the original were:

  • Miriam Ellis has written a very understandable follow up deconstructing Google reviews.
  • Cathy of Avant Gardens points to what can happen when the discussion goes negative.
  • Mike Muntz expresses concern that the de-emphasis of reviews may be in response to deceptively negative posts.

Some questions for anyone who wants to collaborate:

  • Should I showcase the sites and current standings in question at the risk of skewing the results?
  • Does the proposed methodology seem sound?
  • What am I missing?

This exercise is going to take some patience and I’ll update every two weeks at a minimum. In the early going I’ll be sure to indicate once we’ve got the reviews in place.

By starting from scratch I hope we eliminate the “age” question and are able to focus solely on “trust”.

I hope this is instructive because I think it’s critical we find a way to effectively combat all the map spam that’s cropping up.

Tally ho!