Reviews play a critical role in the current business economy. A recent Birdeye study shows that: 

  • Over 90% of customers read at least two reviews before choosing a business
  • 87% of customers refrained from engaging with a business that had negative reviews

These numbers might tempt some businesses to only seek reviews from happy customers, reducing the volume of negative reviews on their profiles – a practice known as review gating.

However, Google outlawed review gating in 2018, stating that businesses shouldn’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews and solely collect only positive reviews from customers. 

Birdeye strongly opposes review gating and ensures that all businesses using the platform give every customer a fair chance to post feedback publicly. 

In this blog post, we explore the risks of review gating, Google’ policy against it, and how Birdeye’s review generation process promotes unbiased customer feedback. 

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What is review gating?

Review gating is a review collection process where a company only sends review requests to happy customers. They filter out unhappy customers from the process and prevent negative reviews on popular review sites.

With review gating: 

  • Businesses direct customers, who say they had a positive experience, are redirected to a form so they can easily post an online review. 
  • Businesses direct customers, who say they had a negative experience, to the business’s website to leave a comment privately. 

The result is a deceivingly positive rating for the business that may not represent the actual customer experience.

The trust economy relies on genuine customer feedback to help customers make informed decisions by assessing business reputation and quality of service.

Review gating distorts the accuracy of these reviews, presenting an inflated positive image of a business while suppressing negative feedback.

Image of a review gating example

How do businesses gate reviews?

Here are a few ways There are multiple businesses can “gate” reviews: . Here are a few examples:

  • Using software to preface each review request with a sentiment question, such as: “Were you satisfied with your experience? Yes/No.” Based on the response, they send a review request to those who say “Yes”.
  • Routing survey respondents to review sites based on their responses. Most survey companies allow businesses to set up “skip and display” logic, sending different questions to unhappy and happy customers. This way, businesses can get away with only asking happy customers for reviews. 
  • Asking only those customers they think will leave a positive review to leave a public review and refrain from asking unsatisfied customers for feedback.
  • Offering incentives for positive reviews. This results in biased positive feedback that won’t reflect real customer experiences.

Review gating example

Selectively asking customers for feedback or reviews based on their positive experiences can create a skewed perception of a company’s reputation.

Here’s an example of review gating:

Imagine a newly opened restaurant, “Taste Haven,” which wants to boost its online reputation. They implement a review gating strategy for their online review platforms to achieve this.

The general positive review path:

  • When a customer dines at Taste Haven and has a delightful experience, the staff encourages them to leave a review.
  • The restaurant sends business cards or follow-up emails with links to review sites, specifically requesting positive feedback.
  • If the customer clicks on the link and gives a positive review, they are directed to the respective review platform to share their experience.

Negative review path:

  • If a customer has a negative experience, the staff doesn’t ask for feedback or direct them to review sites.
  • Instead, the restaurant management may reach out to the disgruntled customer to resolve the issue privately without prompting them to post a public review.

The Issue:

While review gating may seem like an effective way to enhance a business’s online image, it has raised ethical concerns and has been against the guidelines of review platforms. 

Why is such review gating controversial? 

Review gating prevents potential customers from knowing the truth about a business’s products or services. It also reduces users’ trust in review sites or platforms. 

Here are a few major reasons for review gating becoming a controversial practice: 

  • Misleading representation: Review gating skews the overall rating of a business, presenting an inflated positive image and hiding genuine customer grievances.
  • Unfair advantage: Businesses engaging in review gating gain an unfair advantage over competitors who don’t employ such practices, leading to an uneven playing field.
  • Trust and credibility: Review gating undermines the trust and credibility of online review platforms as users lose faith in the authenticity of the reviews.
  • Violation of platform policies: As mentioned earlier, review gating violates the guidelines of many review platforms, which can lead to penalties or the removal of the business from the platform.

That is why Birdeye advises businesses to simply request reviews, not specifically “positive” reviews

Why is Google against gating reviews?

Google’s mission is to provide users with relevant, trustworthy information. Google reviews are at the core of the trust Google strives to foster with users who trust the platform to find the best service providers. It is important that these reviews describe authentic experiences from unbiased sources.

Also, reviews play a large role in how Google ranks local businesses. Google strictly prohibits review gating to ensure that the ranking algorithm is not unduly influenced.

Format specific criteria for Google reviews preventing review gating

Does Birdeye allow review gating?

No. Birdeye does not allow review gating. Read Section 5 of our Terms of Service for complete details.

Birdeye collaborated with the Google Maps team and updated Birdeye to comply with the new review gating rules.

We have also launched several new features to crack down on fake reviews. These include:

  • Stricter user authentication for Birdeye reviews using a Google or Facebook login
  • Tighter review content relevance requirements
  • Enhanced spam and slander detection algorithms

Businesses that use Birdeye to collect and manage reviews know all the reviews they receive are authentic and ungated. Thus, they can ensure that their prospective customers see an accurate representation of their business via Google reviews. 

Birdeye’s review generation process to stop review gating

Businesses using Birdeye can get new reviews using three different workflows. These workflows are designed to prohibit review gating and have been validated by Google.

1. Sends review requests to all your customers

Birdeye integrates with 300+ CRMs and customer management software to automate the workflow. After a customer visits a local business, they automatically receive a review request email or text. The customer can write a review on a third-party site. All these options are provided to all customers, regardless of their sentiment (positive or negative).

review request process from Birdeye

2. Combines customer experience and third- party reviews

Many businesses we work with want to measure their Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) at every touchpoint in the customer journey. Most businesses also opt to collect third-party customer reviews during these interactions. 

Birdeye allows businesses to set up 2-in-1 customer experience templates to measure satisfaction internally while simultaneously soliciting reviews on third-party sites.

The key distinction here is that if the business decides to include third-party review requests in its customer experience template, they must be sent to all customers, regardless of how they score the business on NPS or CSAT.

Image shows how Birdeye prevents review gating

3. Combines surveys and third-party reviews

Most local businesses leverage Birdeye Surveys to gain in-depth insights into customer experience. Birdeye allows these businesses to include a review request for third-party review sites to boost their online reputation. 

However, Birdeye ensures there is no review gating in these surveys. In other words, if a business adds a third-party review request to any survey templates, all customers taking that survey will be given the option to write a third-party review, regardless of the answers they provide in the survey.

Birdeye Surveys example

Why is review gating bad for businesses?

Here are three reasons why you should avoid review gating.

1. You will lose the trust of your customers and prospective customers

Your customers will only trust your reviews if it’s clear they are authentic and represent an unbiased view of your business. Customers often suspect that perfect 5-star reviews might be fake, so businesses should focus on showcasing authentic reviews, including both positive and negative feedback. 

Gating reviews defeats that purpose by leading to disproportionately positive reviews that customers view as less credible, especially when their experience doesn’t match what they read about.

2. Companies like Google are unlikely to publish your reviews if you use gating

If you gate your reviews, Google can likely detect this. They may remove your reviews and/or penalize your business in search rankings. Instead of the newly live positive Google reviews boosting your online presence or reputation, it leads to a loss of trust and removal of your listings from prominent review sites. 

Customers can also report reviews if they know they are untrue. Too many reports can cause Google and other review sites to block your profile. 

3. Review gating doesn’t help you get ahead

Birdeye has accumulated review data for 150,000+ businesses over the past several years.

We looked at review ratings and conversion data for businesses that used Review Gating (prior to Google releasing their policy on review gating in April 2018) vs. businesses that did not use Review Gating (or subsequently turned it off after the Google policy change).

We observed that businesses not using review gating increased their review count without any meaningful dent on their ratings. Your best action is to build customer trust by collecting reviews for all customer interactions. Understanding all points of view about your business can help you improve aspects of your operations that you may not have even considered hadn’t even thought of before.

Besides, negative reviews aren’t a bad thing. They help prove to prospective customers that your reviews represent real experiences, making them trust the positive ones even more.

Pro Tip: You can improve customer trust in your business by always responding to negative reviews and working on the highlighted issues. Birdeye enables businesses to manage negative reviews with our AI-powered review management systems and auto-create tickets for negative reviews so that the team can work on improving customer experience. 

Birdeye and Google partnership to combat review gating

Birdeye has partnered with Google and has API integrations for each step of the review process. That means a private API integration for getting new reviews, automated review response, and displaying maps and reviews on your business profile.

The private API integration simplifies the review process and verifies that the users leaving the reviews are genuine.

In addition, Birdeye also integrates with CRM software such as Salesforce, HubSpot ServiceTitan, and Yardi to seamlessly automate review request solicitation and generate new reviews in one place. 

If you’re a channel partner or reseller, review gating is still bad

If you have chosen Birdeye as your trusted partner for reputation management or customer experience management, it’s our responsibility to ensure that you and your businesses are compliant with the policies of all third-party platforms— be it Google, Facebook, or any vertical-specific review site. Review gating is harmful to you and your customers for the same reasons listed above.

The review process remains the same for channel partners and reseller forms too, avoiding any possibility of review gating.

FAQs on review gating

What is review gating?

Review gating is a practice where businesses filter customer feedback or reviews before publicly posting them. It involves soliciting customer feedback and selectively displaying only positive reviews while suppressing negative ones.

Is review gating considered ethical?

Review gating is generally considered unethical and against the guidelines of most review platforms, including Google and Yelp. These platforms discourage businesses from selectively displaying reviews, as they can mislead consumers and compromise the authenticity of the review process.

Why is review gating frowned upon?

Review gating is frowned upon because it distorts the overall perception of a business’s reputation by hiding negative feedback. This can mislead potential customers and undermine the trust and transparency that online reviews are meant to provide.

What are the potential consequences of using review gating?

If a business is caught using review gating, review platforms may take various actions, including removing its reviews, penalizing its visibility, or even suspending its account. This can significantly impact the business’s online presence and credibility.

What are some alternatives to review gating?

Instead of review gating, businesses can focus on:
– providing exceptional products and services to encourage genuine positive reviews from satisfied customers. 
– respond professionally to negative feedback
– demonstrate a commitment to customer satisfaction
– addressing any concerns

Is there a difference between review gating and soliciting reviews?

Yes, there is a difference. Soliciting reviews is the practice of actively encouraging customers to leave feedback, both positive and negative, about their experiences with a business. It becomes review gating when businesses selectively display only positive reviews and suppress negative ones.

How can businesses improve their online reputation without review gating?

Businesses can improve their online reputation by providing excellent products and services, offering exceptional customer support, engaging with customers through social media and other channels, and actively responding to positive and negative reviews transparently and constructively.

Preserving the trust economy with Birdeye

Trustworthy reviews benefit both businesses and customers. That’s why preserving an authentic review ecosystem is the core mission of both Google and Birdeye.

By giving existing customers an outlet to share their experiences, businesses can acquire new customers while gaining insights into the customer experience. When comparing local businesses, customers consult reviews for reliable, unbiased information so they’re confident in their selections.

Work with the leading name in reputation and customer experience management. With Birdeye, you can embed transparency in your review management, acquire authentic customer feedback, and become a trustworthy name in your industry. Our partnership with Google is a testament to our commitment to helping businesses put their true selves forward and reach their target customers.

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