Do a search for a restaurant in your city of choice. Let’s say for Fior D’Italia in San Francisco. What results do you get?
For me, the restaurant’s Website tops the results list. Under the Website title and link, I find that Google Places has helpfully included some contextual details on America’s oldest Italian restaurant. It gives me the address and the phone number, and it provides links to Menus, Directions, Reservations, and History. And it also tells me there are “124 Google reviews.”
The assumption would be that Google Places carries 124 reviews of the restaurant, right? Not so right. Clicking through, I found that there’s actually just 15 reviews. What the what?
I repeated the test with several other random examples and got the same results (for the record: Commonwealth, Lung Shan, Gracias Madre, Iggies Baltimore, Dumpling House NYC, Green Mesquite Austin). In each case, the purported number of reviews at the Search and Overview level were much higher than the actual number of reviews.
This is either an anomaly or a straight-up lie (Update: or, as a commenter suggests, just all reviews except those from Yelp). I’ve reached out to Google by email for comment, so I’ll update this post if they get back to me. In the meantime, you can enjoy our plush screencaps and read Sarah Lacy’s previous coverage of Google’s apparent meddling with its search results, curiously in a way that tends to favor its own products.
Update: A response from a Google spokesperson:
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.