Last year I tweeted my disapproval of Citysearch’s ridiculous “Best of Portland” restaurant lists. There was a pizza parlor in Camas, Washington which was supposedly up for Best Pizza PDX, Best Italian PDX, Best Restaurant PDX, Best City View Dining, and Best Family dining, Best Clam Chowder, Best Wine List, Best People Watching (Camas!!), Best Cheesesteak, Best Chicken Wings….and the list goes on….I was flabbergasted that a hole in the wall restaurant could stuff a PDX ballot box, especially when it was fairly new. But, by then I had already come to distrust the once reliable Citysearch. Once I tweeted about it, I was contacted by Citysearch’s management and asked if I would serve on an advisory board to “help make Citysearch better…” I agreed, and never heard from them again. I think they just wanted me to stop tweeting negatively. Too bad, because, as a once upon a time fan, and a long time user of Citysearch, I would’ve loved sharing my insights with them.
In 2000, Citysearch was my go to search engine to find the best of local food and services. They led me to countless salons, restuarants, spas, and photographers. The consumer feedback feature was a great plus….took most of the guesswork out of the screening process. Fast forward 10 years, and I hardly recognize the site. It has all of the flash, and none of the substance that it started with.
Case in point: when searching for a dentist today, the top rated dentist, with over 70 reviews and a stellar 5 star rating was Gentech in Hillsboro. Sounds like an easy choice, right? But upon further inspection, it is clear that 69 of the reviews were made within 24 hours of each other, and each of the reviewers were also new, and had never reviewed anything before or since. If you do a Portland Metro-wide search for a dentist on Citysearch, you will find that four of the top ten are, you guessed it, Gentech franchises, each with similar feedback. I didn’t look close enough, but I would bet they copied and pasted the reviews from one Gentech to another!!
As a person who dabbles in PR and social media, my clients will often ask me which search engines they should subscribe to. Citysearch always comes up, but I steer them clear. I had a client once who was an existing Citysearch client. Whenever someone posted a negative review, this person just had to call his sales rep, and the negative review would disappear. At one point the sales rep told them that, for the right price, they could assure my client that he would NEVER see a negative review. I advised this client to leave Citysearch a.s.a.p. and save the advertising budget for more reputable social media outlets.