Google Updates Guidelines to Ban “Review Filtering”
Last month, Google updated its online review guidelines. The main reason for this update was to tighten the rules regarding how businesses solicit reviews from customers – specifically to stop the practice of filtering reviews based on sentiment. Asking for reviews is allowed. However, suppressing negative reviews while only sharing positive ones is not.
Below is from their website. You can read the section on reviews here.
“Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
With the rise in importance that reviews play in influencing purchase decisions, most local businesses target reviews as a key part of their marketing strategy. A recent study showed that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more.
Even with all the attention online reviews get, still only a fraction of consumers write reviews. And, the number of reviews posted can vary widely depending on the industry. However, the importance of having reviews is critical regardless of the business you are in. The bottom line is that businesses need reviews to succeed. For most, this means proactively collecting reviews from their customers is a must.
The Growth of Review Solicitation
The concept of generating reviews is not new and is generally an accepted best practice for improving your reputation and growing sales. The methods for generating online reviews are many. Businesses solicit reviews using signage in their stores or by simply asking at the point of sale. Sending emails and text messages to customers are now the popular method for collecting reviews.
There are a couple of factors at play regarding review solicitation. On the one hand, are the aforementioned statistics regarding the important role reviews play in the purchase process. The second is that getting customer reviews is like free market research. It is valuable information that can help businesses know what they are doing well and where they can improve. Generating reviews is a recommended method for businesses to get steady feedback over time and monitor performance on a day-to-day basis.
What is Review Filtering?
The targets of Google’s policy change are companies that filter reviews based on sentiment (also called “review-gating”). The way review filtering works is a business sends an email or text to their customer asking them for feedback regarding their experience. Customers agreeing to leave comments are sent to a landing page. If their feedback is negative, a representative from the business contacts them to resolve the issue and their negative review is suppressed. If it’s a positive review, they are asked to share it to a popular review site.
The truth is that businesses do not want to get negative reviews. They believe having all 5 star reviews is the best strategy – despite the evidence to the contrary. That’s why collecting reviews in this manner is so popular. Now, this practice is banned by Google.
What are the Consequences?
While it’s not clear when Google will start enforcing this policy update, you should take this seriously. Because of Google’s algorithms and their ability to detect patterns in review activity, ignoring this policy change can lead to the removal of all your reviews and even being banned from Google My Business altogether. All that hard work you took to build your reputation on the largest search engine over time will be wiped out. Businesses cannot afford to let this happen.
In light of the policy changes by Google, you should review your review collection strategy to make sure it complies with the updated guidelines. If you are filtering your reviews based on sentiment, you should stop immediately. If you use a third party software to manage your online reputation, contact them to make sure they are taking steps to cease review filtering as well.
At ReviewIgnite, clients have the choice to either send customers directly to review sites or check the sentiment before sharing. We are working to update our software to eliminate the ability for clients to filter reviews.
While you should take these changes seriously, don’t let it stop you from asking for reviews. Not only do consumers want to read reviews, they also want to see recent feedback from your customers. Which is more reason you should solicit reviews from your customers every day. If you have any questions regarding online reputation management or would like to see our system in action, contact us or request a demo using the link below.