May 112012

Hamish McKenzie noted that Google displays wrong reviews counts for Google reviews in the local search results. The counts displayed are many times higher than the actual number of reviews for the business. He received the following answer to the issue from Google:

We’re currently experiencing a technical error in which the total number of Google reviews is accurately appearing in the Places listing, but only some of the reviews are appearing on the corresponding Place page. We’re aware of this error affecting a limited number of Google Places listings, and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible.

I dug a little deeper into the issue and investigated two hypotheses of what the number of reviews displayed might mean.

1) These are the Google reviews + reviews from other websites.

This was my initial thought. In this example Google tells us that the restaurant has “844 Google reviews”. However, if you sum up all reviews the count for which is shown (Google reviews + top 4 third-party sites), the count is over 1,000. So this hypothesis seems to be wrong.

2) These are Google reviews that are currently “active” + reviews that have been filtered out.

For the test, I took the case of Flower Power Davenport, FL, who expressed their problem with disappeared reviews here. They currently have 13 reviews in their listing, and the same number of reviews shows up in the search results.

None of these two hypotheses seems to be true. However, this erroneous review count seems too natural not to be caused by a random bug.

What do you think might be causing it?

  3 Responses to “Google Displaying Wrong Reviews Counts”

Comments (3)
  1. Hey Nyagoslav,

    That’s really weird. I just typed in Topolobampo, and the review count that used to say 844 now says 755. Which is *almost* the sum of the Yahoo/TripAdvisor/UrbanSpoon reviews listed at the bottom of the page: 418, 286, and 52, respectively. The weird thing is those add up to 756. Too close to 755 to be a coincidence, though.

    Then just a minute ago I looked at an example from Hamish’s post, the restaurant Gracias Madre in San Francisco. There the “total” count is 177, but in this case the third-party reviews at the bottom PLUS the Google reviews add up to 178. Again, one unaccounted-for review. Topolobampo isn’t having its Google reviews counted, but Gracias Madre is. Plus, the “total” number for Topolobampo changed.

    This really seems like just another bug, rather than some new way of tallying the reviews. I also say this because another odd thing happened a week or two ago: for one of my clients, the “Respond as owner” option disappeared from his dashboard. His listing has always been claimed by one Google account – his. Plus, I logged into my other clients’ dashboards to see if their “response” options were missing, but they were there just fine.

    Methinks Google is just performing more “housekeeping,” and in so doing left the windows open and let in a bunch of bugs.

    • Hey Phil,

      Thanks for the comment!

      I checked some other cases, and I think these counts are rather caused by chance. However, as I said, the counts overall are just too random to be simply a bug. It is definitely a problem on Google’s side, but imho, these numbers tell some “true story”, i.e. they show some actual review counts. If it was simply a bug, it was most probably going to just produce something like multiplied number of the actual number of reviews, or maybe add/subtract some particular constant number of reviews for all the listings.

      Whatever the reason, I completely agree that there is something going on at the back end. I’m not sure if that’s caused by the recent changes in the bulk upload mechanisms, and offers, or something even bigger is coming up.

  2. I have 40 Google reviews currently and it fluctuates on a monthly basis. I’ve never figured out out what the fluctuation is attributable to. Either way, it’s better than Yelp, I think.

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