Google Now and Local Businesses

Google Now, Local Business and Anonymous Reviews

With the launch of Google Now for iPhone and iPad, Google has made local business pages more visible – and with it, reviews from anonymous, non-accountable “Google Users”.

google nowGoogle Now works by accessing the machine’s location and analysing the contents of the person’s Gmail and Google Calendar records as well as their past Google searches.

Examples of the results then given, without the user asking, include:

  • Maps suggesting the quickest route home
  • Flight departure updates based on bookings made
  •  Suggested nearby restaurants, museums and shops
  • Live sports results based on which teams the user follows

Until now Google Now had been limited to devices running Google’s own Android operating system; most phones don’t have it yet, but as users upgrade phones that will change.

For local businesses, this could be a great development but what’s not so marvellous is when Google foists anonymous negative reviews onto users.

Negative reviews are one thing, but anonymous reviews allow people to say whatever they want, true or false, without being held accountable.

Google’s official policy actually moved away from anonymous reviews when they made the change from Google Places to Google+ Local for business pages.  In theory, users are now required to sign in with their Google account before they can post reviews.  Better in theory (although there’s nothing to stop someone setting up multiple fake accounts) but the problem is that old anonymous reviews which predate the change still remain on business pages and what is worse, new reviews are still being posted by anonymous users.  A user complained about this in a Google help thread and a Google representative admitted the problem, saying “they were looking into it”. However, there has been no indication from Google that they have solved the issue.

Google needs to act now to fix the fault and halt the spread of anonymous comments.  Apparently Google does not intend to get rid of old anonymous comments, though they should eventually be pushed down the list by more recent reviews.  Let’s hope Google ensures that the comments that replace them at the top are real ones rather than more anonymous fakes.


9 responses to “Google Now and Local Businesses

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  4. Bring back this website! Now more than ever, as they keep on getting bigger, we should be keeping an eye on them. I’ll be writing an article soon, based on Heather Stimmler Hall’s excellent expose.

  5. I think that any internet review, anonymous or not, could be affected by some malicious intent, and could be very difficult to understand for the user. Maybe in the next future Google will remove that…

  6. Hi there, could you point me to a place where the rating system is explained? We have been on tripadvisor for some time and although we appear to have more 5 star ratings, more recent ratings and more ratings over all, our place on the “Things to do in Albany” is below that of our competitor. We had been on top for a good while, then somehow moved down, back up and without any changes on his “site” but two additional 5 star reviews for us, we moved back to second best? It just doesn’t quite make sense to me and I would love to understand how tripadvisor works out who is on top of the list.
    Looking forward to your reply and thanks for your time,
    ( or

  7. Hello,
    I’m with CBC Radio, and I’m working on a piece right now about Trip Advisor and defamation law. I came across your website, and I was hoping to chat with you more about this. If you could please get back to me, that would be great! You can reach me at emma dot smith @ Thanks for your time!

    • It’s time to take a stand and try to make a positive change. Please read my petition and give me your thoughts. We need to stand up! It’s time for managers and owners to take a stand public! Why are we “dreading bad reviews”?

      The guest stays at your property and leaves you a negative review that isn’t true.

      How does that make you feel knowing the following:

      1 it’s not true and you can or have proven it
      2 they personally attacked you or your business
      3 others are reading it

      Well, if you had a bad review, that’s written anywhere, not true and you can prove it, others are reading it, then write me personally.

      James Mendelson took it upon himself to tell the world of his bad experience and when vrbo didn’t post it, well he became irate and fought for his right to tell the world and get a victory over vrbo. He won! It’s now time for us owners and managers, the masses, to start doing the same.

      Yes we can use the do not rent list or guests checker. However these are closed forums and you have to join. It’s not fair for us owners and managers to be publicly reviewed and for the guest to not be publicly reviewed.

      It’s not fair for guests to take advantage of an already bad system that VRBO has in place with very bad guidelines. Guidelines which are so poor it leaves nothing for the owners and managers to do but to respond and then we can’t even say the truth in our response because sometimes VRBO will not post it.

      Is everybody’s right to leave their comments and their opinions which could be a bad review some owners or managers of that property. However when the guest includes false statements or when this guessed trashes a house there is no recourse. VRBO tells us go get an attorney and cease-and-desist letter.

      The attorney tells us save money and go ahead and try to contact the guest yourself. You Reach Out and contact the guest and they don’t want to talk to you or perhaps they are requesting money perhaps it’s their security deposit that you kept because the guest did something wrong in the house. Some guess you you have used a bad review as an extortion scheme to get their vacation refunded. When their husband or wife has alternately reported to you the owner or manager in an email that they had a wonderful time and everything was perfect.

      The guest can write a negative comment fine if the guests write negative comment that is not true then let’s put those negative comments public with their names, as they have done to us.

      I would like to petition to VRBO that the guest create a profile that will be similar to eBay. EBay has a system in place where as the buyer and the seller can rate each other. For use of the VRBO system the owners or managers would be able to rate their guests. In this way the guest would be less motivated to trash a house or to try to extort from us. And they would think twice before writing a bad review with false statements.

      Question: If you had a voice, or someone in your corner that would try to petition this to VRBO then would you be apart of it?

      In order to have a claim for “libel” , you need to prove the following in court:
      1) the defendant said or wrote the statements against you
      2) the statements are not true
      3) the statements caused harm to you, by damaging your reputation
      4) other people heard or read the statements against you

      Yes, it’s a fact, that the biggest hurdle will be the truth of the statements. While people are entitled to opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

  8. Thanks for the heads up on this.

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