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Are you Spamming Facebook?

Facebook announced recently they are changing their spam algorithm. 

 This is great for the "consumer" but could get tricky for business owners. I've always hated when people "baited" for likes, comments or shares by adding the tagline - "Like if you Agree" or "Share if you Love your Honda," but all of the research I've done has shown that posts that use those bait lines get 4x more engagement then  posts that don't.  WAIT! Before you run to change your social media strategy, you should probably know the new algorithm is designed to mark posts using "engagement baiting" as spam! 

What does that mean?  If Facebook deems your post as spam, they'll remove it from your audience's news feed, in short they won't be seen... and if your post isn't going to be seen, is it worth posting at all?

So how do you circumnavigate this algorithm change, but still get people to engage with your post?  Create engagement worthy posts!  What are engagement worthy posts? That's a topic for another day, come back soon!  

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Man Bites Dog? A Way to Fight the Deleted Google Reviews Dilemma

No different than numerous dealers, a client of mine, 25-year dealer Mohammad Ahmed―president of Northend Motors in Canton, Mass., in the Boston area―had numerbous positive reviews, all collected legitimately through very satisfied customers, stripped from his Google Places listing. Before this action, his dealership rated a score of 28 out of 30, which by Google standards is defined as “Extraordinary to Perfection.”


Removing his 145 legitimate positive reviews is one thing, but Google chose to leave six negativereviews and three negative scores without reviews―he has collected one positive review since. His dealership score has fallen to a 5, which is defined as “Poor to Fair” by Google.


According to articles posted by industry experts online, 70 percent of customers are using online reviews as part of their consideration as to where to buy. The results of Google’s actions have had a devastating effect on Northend Motors, even though they have hundreds of other reviews posted on CitySearch, Dealer Rater, InsiderPages and Yahoo.


Mohammad is not alone! Many other dealers all over the country have noticed the same thing.


How can you possibly fight a company like Google―which is so big and all-encompassing―where you have no real customer service contact and their own sales and engineering sides do not even communicate on their changed algorithm issues? E-mails sure aren’t going to do any good.


My brainstorm today was for Mohammad to do what so many consumers seem to do when they have a problem with their car … contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. It may have worked. If you, too, have had a problem, I suggest you take similar action immediately!

The following is directly from Mohammad: 

I called FTC, (877) 382-4357, and also used and (Internet company complaints). I have not filed a complaint in writing yet because the person I spoke to on the phone took the complaint over the phone. My complaint number is 39764404. After I explained in five minutes what Google had done throughout the country to good businesses, she was very receptive and (she) also said this doesn't help the consumer because they are only seeing the bad reviews. ‘They should see both, only then a consumer can make an educated decision.’ She recommended that we should have every business that we know and dealership that we know file a complaint and that will speed up this process because this is unfair to business and to consumers.”

Mohammad also reached out to his attorney general. He was less successful there since Massachusetts only takes complaints from individuals—not businesses. However, they thanked him and gave him a feeling that even though they don’t take complaints from businesses, if they received enough calls they would take their own action. Each state has its own position, so don’t rely solely on Massachusetts’ stance.

If you are a dealer or dealership employee, this is where you come in. Have you checked your Google reviews? If you haven’t, you should. Nearly every client I have has found their positive reviews have disappeared. A prominent dealer and client of mine in central Kansas had hundreds of reviews and ascore of 29 disappear, leaving but four negative reviews that averaged five-and-half-months old. They now have nine reviews (five new) and no score. Any doubt how that impacts a business?

I am not an attorney, but my opinion is what Google has done reeks of a deceptive trade practice (treble damages), and I think it could well cross the line of libel.

If you have the same problem, I urge you to call the FTC using the number Mohammad provided. He said you are welcome to reference his case number. I would also recommend you contact your state attorney general’s office.

Very few dealers, no matter their size, can have an immediate impact with a company the size of Google. The federal and state governments can. Google just paid a $22 million fine recently (I know, a drop in the bucket for them), and they will have to answer to the FTC.

It is their business, and they can cause changes like this at will, unless it materially misrepresents what your customers previously posted. Removing your positive reviews and leaving negative ones does just that. You may never get your positive reviews back, but just as the woman at the FTC said, leaving the old negative reviews just isn’t right. Hopefully, they will relent and repost the positive reviews; but if not, with enough of a voice against them, I would think they will quickly remove the old reviews as well.

Thanks for your ears today. Good selling, and for once, maybe the FTC can be viewed as a friend of the dealership as opposed to the bad guys. Go do your part!

Best regards,


Greg Goebel, CEO

Auto Dealer Monthly, LLC

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Google Places Out, Google+ Local Takes Over

Last night several new rollouts were seen in Google+ Local, seeming to merge Google Places accounts into the newest social search display of your Google+ dashboard. Here's what we've seen in our research about the new way search and reviews are changing for Car Dealers for automotive internet marketing on Google.

Do the new changes show in Google Search today?

As of this article's publishing, no. However, we're sure its only a matter of time before the Google+ Local becomes integrated into your standard search engine results page from Google. Where can you find the new Google+ Local Search? Log into your Google+ account. You'll find the new Local button on the left dash.

From there, the Search boxes at the top are broken down into two uses: What you're looking for | Where.

In the following example, we went looking for "jeep dealers" in "Philadelphia, PA". Just like in Google search, the auto complete starts as you begin to type, and its obvious some of the "Categories" from Google Places have made it over to Google+ Local.

What do Google+ Local Search Results Look Like?

From the looks of the new search results, Google has been busy! Immediately we're presented with a new layout of information. You've got your standard Company Name, Address in a lighter color text, then your overall review score, At a Glance terms, and a quote from your most recent review. Photos are a bigger deal taking up a larger portion of the listing.

Even more shocking, where did your star ratings go? Some car dealerships will notice that reviews have been dropped in the transition, something we hope Google notices and fixes in the future. (Read more about reviews below)

While Google has dedicated more room to the first photo of your account, and the new reviews rating system, it has left a lot of the "Where did that come from" information on the listing, namely the "At a glance" terms.

I was fortunate enough to have spoken with some of the Google Places team at a conference earlier this year and I asked them where the "known-for" or At a Glance terms came from. Their response: "even we don't know", its another part of a Google formula most of the Google Places team is not familiar with, or was unable to comment on. My speculation, its from an old patent Google applied for several years ago surrounding actionable or descriptive wording. Type "great customer service" in a review, Google might be grabbing those  descripters after positive or negative indicators.

The map display with pins is nothing new along the right side of search results and the "Key To Ratings" helps describe how the review values have changed.

30 is the new 5! Big Reviews Change for Car Dealers on Google+ Local

There have been many changes in the way review information is handled in Google+ Local. First point of business, they've moved away from the STAR value reviews. Its now apparent Google's acquisition of Zagat several months ago was only the beginning, as  they've rolled out No Stars, but a point scale ranging from Zero to 30. This also brings up the question, will Google move away from displaying Star values in standard SERPs from other sources like Yelp & DealerRater, only time will tell.

Past reviews are there, some have been dropped, but most have made it over. The new 0 to 3 values are a departure from 1 to 5 stars. Perhaps this is an answer to the requests from review writers to be able to give a Zero star rating in the past, so Dealers be warned, no longer can you score a 1, you can be a zero. The overall formula is pretty simple to grasp. Previous reviews are still rated in a conversion of 5 stars now equals 3, averages are made, and then multiplied by 10, rounded and there's your 30 points.

When writing new reviews on Google+ Local, you're prompted for 3 different ratings. As seen in the screen shot above, Google is asking for your feedback based on different "Labels" or areas of review. By default, the systems asks you for a 0 to 3 rating on Quality, Appeal & Service. It appears right now that there are no specific review types for "Car Dealer", so hopefully this will be a change in the future. Even when testing and writing for this article, we found different variations for the "Labels" that were available, first only 5 selections, then by mid-day 7.

Its easy to see that once enough of these new reviews have been created, Google will roll out the individual Label ratings like they do for restaurants; the threshold at which point that will turn on was not apparent in our testing like it is for Places (the star rating turned on when you hit 5 reviews).

Photos, Reviews now pop on Business Listing

The company name is still front and center, but if its more than 33 characters its currently being cut off after character 32 with an ellipsis (...). For some reason, the address is in the listing info twice, once under the company name, and again under About. Fancy new icons represent different parts of the data. Phone number and Toll-Free numbers are displayed but not labeled, and the website URL seems to stand out less. Categories carried over from Google Places, along with the Hours of Business. We'll be watching the "actions" in the Google Places metrics to see how this new layout changes the way customers use the listing.

If you're wondering where all the time you spent picking those 5 key categories went, and now you're only seeing 2 or 3, click on the new Categories terms, and you'll see a list of hidden items, who really knows why they didn't display all by default, there's certainly enough room.

Your standard Description from the old Places listing has been brought over and is now called "From the owner:". The once large, bright red "Write a Review" button has changed to a more soothing white text on light blue. Another more transparent black on white Review button has also been added at the bottom of the page.

Abilities to Google +1, Share (only on Google+ of course) and upload a picture have all been added or moved around, but are in a logical flow as buttons under the Map on the right side of the listing.

Hopefully, the amount of personal data that is now displayed via the Google+ profile when you leave a review will discourage those hit and run negative reviewers.

Claiming and Optimizing your new Google+ Local page

Not much has changed when it comes to claiming your listing, even Google admits this process is the same as it has been.

You're still presented with the old Google Places claim interface asking for verification.

However, from the outside trying to update an unclaimed or claimed listing that is not yours, the editing screen is significantly different, as seen in this screen shot.

You can now select which part of data is incorrect and how it should be corrected. While the old radio buttons are still available a level or two down into the editing screen, there's more specificity to your edit suggestion.


What's a Car Dealer to do now that Google+ Local is taking over Google Places?

Go with the flow. Google is just asking you to do what it feels is best business practices. Claim your account, add a description, photos of the staff & showroom, pick the right default categories, fix your marker, ask for reviews in the service lane and at sales.

Start to focus on social indicators like Google and Bing are now doing. They want a personalized feeling for your customers, and increased engagement with social factors like +1, Shares, Tweets, Links and Likes.

Expect that the next change is just around the corner, and when Google flips the switch you'll need to be on the cutting edge to keep up with automotive internet marketing.

UPDATE! As of May 30th @ 5pm Eastern:
There seems to have been an update to Google Maps searches, but not to Google SERPs for straight search. What we're seeing now is if you do a search in "Maps", it now displays the new Google+ Local review ratings and upon clicking "XX reviews" are brought to the new G+ L listing page. Interesting, we'll see if tomorrow brings us the actual Google Search change.

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Recently Google created a Tsunami of change by integrating Google Places into organic search results. Dealers called me to ask what I thought these changes would have to their Automotive SEO strategies. I was not quick to answer because I think that Google is still refining their balancing act of SEO, SEM, and Google Places.

With that said, I am feeling much better about the changes that are in play. I was worried that the new Google Places integration would start at the top of organic listings which would favor websites connected to a Google Places page. From what I can see, Google is still rewarding exact match domain names and highly optimized websites before the “mosh pit” (in green) is displayed.

In the example below, a broad search phrase like “Los Angeles Dealers” produces a list of car dealers that have Google Maps, but before those listings, three company websites appear.

Los Angeles Car Dealers

In the search results shown above, you can see that an “exact match” domain with good content, links, and relevance PRECEDES the massive block of results shown in green that are enhanced by Google Places data. You can also see the other two websites that rank above the Google Places block are not slackers at all: and

Google SERP Find Exact Matches First

I’ve said this before and will repeat it again, Google always tries to present, on a search results page (SERP), the best matching assets in its database. Google, Yahoo, and Bing all weight exact matching domains very high as long as the websites have relevant content. Redirected domains that are not hosted will never appear in search results so all those parked domains you may own are not helping you. It may be time to get those parked domains on a real content publishing strategy!

Don’t Forget The Stars

When Google integrated Google Places, the normal 8-10 organic listings were changed dramatically which created a “jump ball” once again in the search marketing Olympics.

I would like to remind all car dealers that they MUST develop a comprehensive Internet Reputation Management (IRM) strategy to increase participation of their clients to posted reviews. My recommendation is that a successful dealer should have TWICE the number of positive reviews “stars” of their nearest competitor. That may be harder in years to come but all dealers should have a few HUNDRED reviews posted from authentic customers.

Testing Search Results Start To Show A Trend

From recent testing that I have done, websites hosted on great domain names may actually have an edge over local car dealer websites. Take a look at the search listed below. The websites that Google felt were best matches and NOT in Google Places were listed first. Then the local dealers were listed.

Once again, the TOP websites above the integrated and enhanced Google Places organic listings are two heavyweight contenders and Yahoo Autos. For the car industry, the bigger, more established inventory advertising websites could be getting more traffic because they are NOT in the green Google Places area and shown at the top of the page.

Miami Used Cars

This trend continues as you type in even broader searches, and you can see that websites that are EXACT matching or that have high SEO inbound links on targeted keywords, appear on Google Page One before the Google Places block. So, in essence, Automotive SEO strategies are still in tact and dealers that have EXACT matching microsites with great content are getting a boost.

The Future Automotive SEO

Since I am an advocate of Automotive Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, you would expect me to defend this marketing strategy but I will be the first to say that the changes with Google Places is still a dynamic event. I’ll keep you posted on what I find and make recommendations to take advantage of opportunities I see.

About the Author

Brian Pasch

Brian Pasch is the CEO of the PCG Digital Marketing and an active writer for the automotive community.

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