Google Review Changes Impact Businesses
July 16, 2018
Google has been working hard to make changes under the scrutiny of the privacy crisis and fake user scandals plaguing social media accounts across the web. The search engine giant has taken the initiative to remove anonymous reviews from their business pages, much to the dismay of the businesses that use the tool.
While this sets the stage for a more honest user experience, which is something Google has been long known for, it undermines many businesses that have come to depend on these comments for ratings.
The Problem with Anonymous Reviews
Anonymous reviews allow a user to leave a comment without the fear of responses from an aggravated company, but they also run the risk of fakes and spammers. The problem Google faced was in not knowing how genuine many of these comments and ratings were. Businesses were receiving positive feedback from nobody in particular, which could, in fact, be data left by the business themselves. This made it difficult for Google to determine the validity of the comments, whether the companies were receiving true positive critiques, or if there was some sort of foul play at hand.
Google is notorious for being the “strict nanny” when it comes to monitoring user data on the internet. The crawler bots sent out by Google regularly monitor websites and offer feedback to the search engine on ranking, collect information on businesses, websites, and users, and utilize this information to create a well-informed placement process through which query results are defined.
If Google can’t determine the validity of a commenter, they can’t count that comment toward the popularity of a site, business, or user. This makes the comment moot, and therefore of little value to the business to begin with. Unfortunately, many businesses depended on these comments, whether they were fake or not, to help float the positive feedback of their products, services, and ethics. Now, businesses will be left to their own devices to come up with ways to increase popularity and user satisfaction and prove their worth in the ranking system.
When the Change Occurred
The anonymous comments, which were noted as being left by “a Google user” began going missing in May of 2018. This is when businesses first noticed the theft of positive feedback on their business pages, leaving them with more negative ratings, and in some cases bare of any ratings at all. There’s been no official word from Google on the why or how of it, but the changes are noticeable and obvious to the average user.
Other Changes to Reviews
For some users it wasn’t just the anonymous ratings which have gone missing. Some businesses have complained that genuine reviews left by real accounts have been deleted as well. Speculation from Google experts determined that these other changes could be due to paid reviews, too many reviews being left at similar times, restricted content or URLs being left with the comment, or past employees being linked to the comment or rating.
It seems like madness, but there is a real method to the Google madness which users can check out through the Google review guidelines on their official website. Any removals have been done with purpose and users shouldn’t hope to see any of the removed comments and ratings revived for the time being.
No More Anonymous Reviews
While anonymous reviews are no longer accounted for on any Google business page, this doesn’t exactly deter hecklers and trolls from posting negative feedback anonymously. There’s always a way for online users to create fake accounts and leave as much negative feedback as they like. This is an unfortunate downfall of the online ranking and review system, which businesses must deal with.
Fortunately, if you’re a business who is dealing with trolling comments left by users you suspect to be on a fake account, you can report the actions to Google and apply to have said comments and reviews removed. Google is pretty active in their efforts to get rid of online spam, and have been known to intervene when necessary, even on the behalf of a business.
These recent changes have left many Google users wondering what they should do moving forward regarding review strategies, and it seems like the answer is to not change anything. There’s not much that can be done in terms of retrieving lost positive reviews, but online businesses can continue to encourage users to leave feedback.
For many businesses, the problem is simply that online users don’t think about the concept of rating an experience online. The more apt a business is to suggest that a client leave feedback, the more likely it will be that a positive review will take place. In fact, many brick and mortar businesses have begun including their Facebook, Google, and other online presences as part of their sales strategies. From billboards and in-house signage to business cards, companies are trying harder than ever to encourage consumers to follow them online and leave feedback.
If you’ve suffered from the recent changes to the Google review strategy, marketing experts recommend incentivized reviews for a short period of time. Consumers are more likely to leave feedback if there is some form of prize to be gained. Whether this is an entry into a contest or a coupon for a product or service, it stands to reason that businesses will gain more advancement in the review arena when trying to catch flies with honey rather than vinegar. Facebook has shown this strategy to be true time and again, with many business users creating Facebook contests which always include the need to like, share, and comment to be entered.