Digital Agencies Marketing

Demystifying Google Reviews

As business owners you work hard to deliver a great experience to your customers, and in today’s world using the positive experience of happy customers is a great way to acquire new customers. More Google reviews = more customers. Not surprisingly, it’s frustrating when Google deletes a review you obtained through legitimate methods, and even more so when you don’t know the root cause.

To understand why Google deletes a review, start by thinking of Google not as a person, but as a machine. There is a set of rules that the machine follows, and there are things that it automatically looks for and when the machine comes across review violation criteria, it automatically deletes that review. Google uses the same general algorithms for all businesses and all software platforms, with the algorithms adapting to each business based on review behavior. The machine doesn’t discriminate; it examines a piece of data and makes a decision.

We want to help businesses understand the factors that lead to deleted reviews, reduce the risk of lost reviews by adjusting to those factors, and how BirdEye can help. We started with Google’s published review policy and posted  review violation criteria on Google’s Community forums. We tested* the most common scenarios against our own sample data, and based on these results, came up with guidelines for businesses.  

*Tested with a subset of Google data for BirdEye customers between 11/1/2017 and 12/11/2017

 

Google Reviews Violation #1:

Your listing has received a lot of reviews within a short amount of time.

BirdEye Data Analysis: Our data clearly shows a high correlation to rapid increases in new reviews being tied to review removal. In other words, if a business sees a rapid increase in the number of reviews  received in a relatively short amount of time, this will likely be flagged by Google’s algorithm and potentially cause reviews to be deleted.

BirdEye Guidelines: BirdEye allows you to limit the number of review requests you send over a period of time by setting up drip campaigns. It’s also likely that in the months following the rapid increase, Google may re-calibrate and set a higher threshold for the “normal” number of reviews for your business. Using an automated program to ask all customers to share their feedback on Google is the best bet for maintain consistent volume over time.

Google Reviews Violation #2:

The person reviewing you has a completely blank profile and has no activity on that profile before or after they left a review.

BirdEye Data Analysis: Our data proves a substantial proportion of reviews from inactive/non existing Google Users are deleted by Google. A Google User” is a label used by Google when the Google+ account of the reviewer no longer exists.

BirdEye Guidelines: This is a red flag for Google because of bad practices they have seen from some SEO companies. These companies create Google accounts, use them to post reviews, and then delete the accounts. Google has also modified policies and now requires a Google account to leave a review. A reviewer may want to post the review as anonymous, and the only option to do that is to delete their G+ account. Unfortunately you have limited control over this so our recommendation is to always provide a great service so users feel confident leaving you a review using their name, and not as an anonymous review.

Google Reviews Violation #3:

You hired an agency to get reviews for you, and they’re using methods against the guidelines.

BirdEye Data Analysis: BirdEye will never create reviews for a customer, nor will we ever create fake accounts to use for review posting. If a company offers this to you please do not engage with them.

BirdEye Guidelines: Be very careful of SEO companies or Agencies that claim to create reviews for you. That is much different than a software platform like BirdEye which automates the process of getting authentic reviews from your real customers. We discussed the pitfalls related to SEO companies creating accounts just to post reviews and then deleting those accounts, resulting in what’s referred to as “Google User” Reviewers.

Google Reviews Violation #4:

The person who wrote the review is a manager of your page or works for you.

BirdEye Data Analysis: It’s usually obvious not only to Google when your reviews were written by a biased source–customers can tell, too. Even one review from someone associated with your business diminishes the credibility of all your authentic reviews — before, of course, it’s removed completely. Bottom line: getting your employees to review your business has no benefit.

BirdEye Guidelines: Please ensure your employees do not leave reviews for your business or post reviews that can be considered advertising your services. These will surely be flagged.

Google Reviews Violation #5:

Your reviews appear to be spam.

Here are some reasons your authentic reviews could appear spam-like to Google:

  1. The person wrote the review from the same device and/or IP address that you sign into to manage your local listing.
  2. The person wrote the review from the same device and IP address as other users who left you reviews.
  3. You offer incentives for people to write reviews.

BirdEye Data Analysis: Our data shows that in 90%+ instances the reviews coming from the same device or same IP address get deleted by Google.

These IP address issues could be due to several reasons:

  1. Your business uses a mobile kiosk (onsite review station via business iPad, computer, etc) to collect reviews
  2. You have free WiFi and are asking for reviews before the consumer leaves the premises

Offering incentives could mean offering discounts or coupons in exchange for reviews, paying an agency or person to write reviews for you, or having employees write reviews for your business.

BirdEye Guidelines: BirdEye automates the process of sending review requests via SMS and email so your customers can post using their own devices. BirdEye also lets you delay delivery of the review request to protect you from this possible violation. An on-premise kiosk is a great tool to facilitate customer check-ins but should not be used to submit reviews.

Google Reviews Violation #6:

The person tried to post a review for you several times on different dates.

For example, a customer wrote a review on August 5 and it got filtered so they tried again on October 10.

BirdEye Data Analysis: This could happen if you ask a customer to review you instantly after a service or transaction, then a few weeks later, you ask them again.

BirdEye Guidelines: Managing your online reputation requires an understanding of best practices on how often you should solicit reviews from your consumers. BirdEye businesses can set limits on how often review requests are sent to each customer. As a best practice we recommend review requests are limited to one time in 30 days and only after the service has been provided.

Google Reviews Violation #7:

The person reviewing you has also reviewed multiple other businesses with the same name.

BirdEye Data Analysis: This can happen if your business has several locations and a customer reviews all of them. If the reviews aren’t specific and unique to the location, they may be filtered. This can also happen if you have two pages for the same location.

BirdEye Guidelines: It is always a best practice to only ask customers that have actually  done business with you for reviews. If the consumer visited one of your locations, do not also send them a review request for a different location. With BirdEye, each location has a custom check-in URL and location-specific review request flow to ensure customers review the correct location.

Google Reviews Violation #8:

The reviews link you’re providing customers pre-populates the review form in any way.

BirdEye Data Analysis: This could mean pre-populating star ratings or review text for customers, which can lead to a review bias such as a falsely inflated star rating.

BirdEye Guidelines: BirdEye does not pre-populate review requests with ratings or content and does not offer this option. Rather, BirdEye makes it easy for your customers to reach your business’ profile on Google and write their own authentic feedback.

Google Reviews Violation #9:

Your address has changed.

You can’t take it for granted that Google will transfer reviews when a business address changes. See more here.

BirdEye Data Analysis: This can happen if your business moves and you don’t update your address online. Your online presence is priceless and should be managed with great care. It is critical that your business information, particularly your Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) in Google and across the internet is always up-to-date and accurate, or you risk moving down in search results and losing great customer reviews.

BirdEye Guidelines: BirdEye keeps your business listings consistent on 50+ sites automatically. If you’re not utilizing the BirdEye Online Presence feature to ensure your business listings are accurate, contact us and we’ll show you how this can help you ensure your online listings are up-to-date.

Review generation & review marketing FAQs

We get these questions a lot from our customers, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to clear things up for everyone.

Does Google penalize a business that has a BirdEye profile, i.e. an enhanced micro-site that has that business’ information, rich content, social media posts and reviews (organically collected on BirdEye as well as aggregated from from different internet sites)?

 

BirdEye Data Analysis: BirdEye allows businesses the option to enable or disable SEO for BirdEye profiles. Based on our findings, having the BirdEye SEO option enabled vs. disabled does not yield significant difference in the % of reviews deleted.

BirdEye Guidelines: BirdEye profiles rank high on Google searches and are a great way for your customers to discover you and engage with you (e.g book an appointment). In 2018, we will continue to add more rich content to the profiles – e.g. integrating your Twitter and Facebook posts and photos that may not be discoverable by search engines today. We will also enhance engagement via direct messaging between your customers and you.

 

Does Google penalize businesses that send review requests only to a subset of their customers? For example, is a business allowed to only ask promoters for reviews?

 

BirdEye Data Analysis: We do not have any data to suggest that Google penalizes businesses that send review invitations to only promoters, nor do we believe it’s possible for Google to track that. E.g. imagine you use “Gmail” to manually send a review request invite to a few of your happy customers. That said, we have checked with Google’s product team, and they did confirm that they discourage businesses from using sentiment pre-checks.

BirdEye Guidelines: BirdEye’s default platform configuration is to disable sentiment pre-check. Starting in 2018, we will educate all our businesses to move away from sending review requests to promoters only. We will also be launching “customer experience workflows” that will remove the need to prequalify sentiment – it will allow businesses to provide a great experience to all customers and address customer issues quickly, such that there is no need to restrict review invites to only a subset of customers.

In summary, Google has its own review policies that all businesses and all software platforms need to comply with, but there are still many factors about your online reputation that you control. While there is still the possibility that Google – or some other review site that you use – may delete your reviews if they are deemed to be in violation of their policies, following the above guidelines will certainly help you retain most of your hard-earned authentic reviews.

BirdEye will continue to innovate and enhance the platform to help protect you from potential violations, but you can and should take proactive measures on your end to minimize the chance of any review site violations. Following these best practices will help you get more reviews, dominate local competition, and most importantly, learn from valuable customer feedback while building a great business. Please contact us at support@birdeye.com if you would like further information on these guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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