Best PracticesDealership Marketing

Brand Transition Notes: A Google Timeline

From Suzuki to Subaru

As you might have heard, we’ve been busy here in the land of Oz. On April 1st, 2013, Suzuki of Wichita became Subaru of Wichita, which meant we had a lot of switching to do.

In the digital realm, I was most concerned about our listings across Google properties, and I’ll be the first to admit–I didn’t do everything perfectly. But then again — there’s not a good instruction manual for this. Straight up–changing anything on Google can be a challenge, and I’ll admit I wasn’t very optimistic about what would happen.

At several points in this process, however, Google surprised me.

For the sake of sharing what I learned from this experience, I documented what happened on which days with the hope of gaining some insight into how Google works. Of course, I’m not suggesting that if you do the same things I did, you’ll get the same results–this is just what happened for us. First, here’s what we were working with prior to the transition:

On April 1st, Suzuki of Wichita (at 11610 E. Kellogg, Wichita, KS) would transform into the brand new Subaru of Wichita.

The old Subaru of Wichita (located at 1633 N. Rock Road) would be turning into a second Super Car Guys location to be called Super Car Guys East.

If this wasn’t confusing enough, the old Subaru of Wichita was listed on Google and Bing as “Subaru of Witcha.”

In mid-March, our team moved into place at the old Subaru of Wichita location to start preparing for the transition. Suzuki of Wichita was to stay open right up until March 30th, as we still had a large selection of discounted Suzukis to sell, so we didn’t want to start changing Suzuki of Wichita-branded properties until the time was right, so as to prevent confusion. This whole thing was confusing enough!

So, without further ado, here’s a timeline of what happened (the good, the bad, and the ugly):

 3/25/13: Knowing that it might take a few days, I attempted to update our Suzuki of Wichita Google+ fan page to Subaru of Wichita, but the edit was not accepted. I’d verified our page  through the postcard verification process weeks ago.

Additionally, I updated the old Subaru of Wichita Google Maps listing to Super Car Guys East, using the “Report a Problem” function.

 3/28/13: Subaru of Wichita @ 11610 E. Kellogg started showing up on Google Maps, which was nice, but the Suzuki of Wichita Google+ page still said Suzuki instead of Subaru. Not really knowing what to do, I tried to edit the information a second time to no avail.

4/4/13: The Suzuki of Wichita Google+ Page still said Suzuki, so I went ahead and created a new page for the new Subaru of Wichita. I added some photos, started following some of the same people we’re following on the Suzuki page, and requested the verification postcard to be sent.

4/8/13: The Google postcard arrived for the new Subaru of Wichita G+ page, so I entered the pin number and verified the page successfully. So, we had both a Suzuki of Wichita and a Subaru of Wichita Google+ fan page for the same address here in Wichita.

Google Postcards

4/10/13: I received an email from Google stating that the Suzuki of Wichita Google+ page would in fact be changed to Subaru of Wichita. I was shocked. Google was actually letting us keep our following, page, and reviews for the switch from Suzuki to Subaru. BUT, now there were two listings on Google Maps for Subaru of Wichita at the new address! Confused yet? I edited our website information on our Google+ page, a proposed change which, again, didn’t show immediately to the public. In the screenshot below, notice how the “A” listing still has our old website.

Double Vision

4/11/13: I attempted to edit our category information on our G+ fan page from “Suzuki Dealer” to “Subaru Dealer,” a change that wasn’t accepted immediately either. We had Skyler Livingston, the only Google Trusted Business Photographer in the state of Kansas (who luckily lives in the Wichita area) come out to reshoot the inside of our showroom to show the Subarus on display, and he advised me to delete the new Subaru of Wichita Google+ page that I had created, and keep the original one that had much more content, reviews, and so forth.

4/12/13: Google Inside View went live for Subaru of Wichita at the correct address, looked great, and seemed good to go. Then, I got a phone call that literally shocked me:  A real live Google Maps representative called me to verify the name change from Suzuki to Subaru of Wichita. I was so stunned I forgot to ask some other questions I had for them.   Last year, when we went back and forth with Google about hundreds of our hard-earned reviews disappearing, we were never able to get anyone on the phone to answer questions about the service. But Google Maps was calling us? Incredible.

Also on the 12th, the website information on our G+ fan page reflected the correct URL for our new website:

 4/16/13: Google called again to verify our category change from Suzuki to Subaru. This time, they didn’t identify themselves as being from Google Maps, so they were unable to answer the questions I didn’t get to ask the first time around. If you’ve ever talked to a Google rep on the phone, you know that if what you’re asking about is not in their department, you might as well be dealing with a brick wall. This Google rep also wanted to verify a few of our toll free numbers, which I was happy to help her with.

4/17/18: The Google Postcard for Super Car Guys East arrived, so I verified that page.

SCG Google Maps Listings

I had deleted all of the Suzuki-themed photos from our Subaru of Wichita G+ page, but Suzuki photos were still showing up on our G+ Local listing. When I clicked on these photos, I discovered that they were being hosted on a Google+ page called “Local photos,” with thousands of albums of other business photos as well. I brought this up in the DealerRefresh forum and flagged these photos as being “unwanted commercial content or spam.”

Subaru with Suzuki stuff

4/18/13: The photos I flagged the day before were actually removed! Talk about efficient.

4/21/13:  New photos and points of interest from our latest Google Inside view were added to the “Local photos” page, and our category was finally changed to “Subaru Dealer.”

Overall, I was impressed with how Google worked. Those of you who followed Suzuki of Wichita’s story about losing hundreds of Google Reviews last year know that I was outspoken in my criticism of how they handled the whole incident, but here, I must give credit where it’s due. Google came across as not only a responsible company dedicated to correct information, but they conducted themselves like a human company as well.

What didn’t work as well? Bing Maps. Utterly terrible. Here’s the timeline:

4/4/13: I verified and attempted to update the Subaru of Wichita listing on Bing Maps and made a note to myself to check back.

Bing Maps
Boo for Bing.

After repeated verification and editing attempts, the SERP is still a mess.

Bing Maps 4-25-13
No Wonder Bing’s a Joke.

Takeaway? Be more patient with Google than I was. If you have to change brand names, give yourself plenty of time and they just might surprise you. Though I still wish we could have changed our YouTube channel URL, it was a nice touch to let us keep our Google+ fan page, content, and reviews.

Have you embarked on similar adventures with the murky beast that is Google?

Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments box below!

Aaron Wirtz is the Media & Marketing Manager for Subaru of Wichita (formerly Suzuki of Wichita) and Super Car Guys, where his innovative social me...
  • B
    Bill Simmons
  • May 17, 2013
Aaron, great post and I applaud your diligence on seeing this through. It pays to keep great notes as you did! Do you follow Mike Blumenthal's blog? He writes on all things Google Places, G+ Local etc. He posted this help article today that deals with the issue of business changing names and brands. There may something in here that could help you? Just wanted to pass it on.
  • A
    Aaron Wirtz
  • May 17, 2013
@Bill Simmons Thanks for the response, Bill. Yes, I love Mike Blumenthal's blog (it was and is a great go-to place for info on Google reviews) but I haven't read this one yet. Thanks for passing it along!
Great post Aaron, we'll be going through a name change at one of our smaller stores in a few months and its a comfort to have this type of info on hand!
  • A
    Aaron Wirtz
  • May 18, 2013
Mitch Gallant Thanks, Mitch. I'd be interested to hear about your experience with Google and wish you all the best for your transition. Do you have reviews and Google+ fan page content that you'll be trying to save?
  • A
    Aaron Wirtz
  • May 18, 2013
@Bill Simmons What's most interesting about the Google announcement that Blumenthal's post references is how it presents reviews as a burden that most businesses are looking to get rid of. For example, all of these scenarios deal only with review removal:
"Change of ownership
If you are the new owner or manager of an existing business that hasn't changed it's name, reviews will not be removed. You can use owner responses to respond to previous reviews and clarify any changes/improvements to the services your business is providing.
Change in name
If you are the new owner or manager of an existing business that has changed its name, reviews may be removed if your business meets specific criteria.Rebrand: Reviews can be removed from the listing if there's been a significant change in well known, distinct brand name changes. Hotels or fast food establishment that switch franchise affiliations or car dealers that specialize in a different makes of cars would qualify for review removal.Name changes related to change in underlying services: For instance, a business that switches from Jade’s Chinese Garden Restaurant to India Palace Restaurant, or Al’s Sporting Goods Store to Performance Bike Repair, would qualify for review removalPartners or other business affiliations that disassociate: For example, if Perkins and Rogers, Attorneys at Law becomes Perkins, Attorney at Law because Rogers has left the practice to form his own, all reviews would be detached. Note that all reviews would be removed, not just the ones that refer to a particular practitioner
Name changes that don't reflect core changes to the business's services aren't eligible for review removal. For example, if Dasha’s Dry Cleaner becomes Dasha’s Super Dry Cleaner, or JFK Limo Service becomes Super JFK Limo, reviews will remain in place."
Speaking of the hypothetical "Dasha's Dry Cleaner" example, I wonder how many businesses have tried to get reviews removed by making a minor name change like this? Would Google even mention such a thing if this practice was uncommon?
 Our complaint with Google reviews has always been that the ones we've earned don't stay on the page, not the other way around.
Great post Aaron. I too applaud your diligence in tracking this all the way through. Name changes are never fun. I worked closely with a dealer that is going through this now and so far, it has been quite a mess up to this point.
  • A
    Aaron Wirtz
  • June 2, 2013
dealerrefresh Thanks, Jeff. Good luck to the dealer you're working with--the process sure can be grueling!