There has been a lot of talk lately about the issue that businesses are facing on Google + Local with reviews. Business owners are enraged and are threatening lawsuits against Google and are starting to compare their platform to the review filter that has been commonly hated at Yelp.
We decided to try and test a few things for business owners we work with to see if there are any ways they can still solicit reviews and not have to worry that their hard-earned reviews will disappear a week or day later.
One of our employees had a review they posted disappear recently and so we used this to experiment and see if we could get it to show.
As Mike Blumenthal has stated, “Usually Google will admit to technical errors and bugs but in this case, it appears to me that this is just a new spam abatement algo”. What this means for business owners is that unlike usual, the reviews will probably not return (like in the past) unless Google changes this algorithm. Convincing Google to change an algorithm definitely sounds like a harder task than getting them to fix a bug in their system that simply “lost” reviews.
Here are some of the theories I’ve heard of that might explain why reviews are disappearing:
- It has something to do with the IP address the review was posted from. Example: If you have a location where 50 different Google accounts have been created and reviews were all posted from this location, the reviews would get filtered and seen as SPAM. If this is true, it would be nice for Google to confirm it since in the past they have said that onsite review stations are okay.
- Referencing a person’s name in the review. A few people were commenting that they noticed the reviews that weren’t showing were ones that contained people’s names in them. When they removed the person’s full name from the review, the review showed again.
- Repetition of words in a review. Having the same words repeated could be a signal of spam.
- Having the same review on Google as other sites. Google states in their review guidelines: “Don’t use reviews for advertising or post the same or similar reviews across multiple places. I would think this means you shouldn’t post the same review for more than 1 business but some are interpreting that it means you can get the review removed if the same wording also appears elsewhere on other review sites (like Yelp, TripAdvisor etc).
- Solicited reviews are more likely to disappear. Yelp has been known for its nasty review filter and it looks like Google is about to join that list. Jade from Google commented recently that “soliciting reviews is suspect behavior for our systems”.
- Review frequency. Posting tons of reviews out of the blue all at once might get your profile flagged and your reviews pulled.
- How the person arrived at your G+ Local page. We’re noticing that businesses that have links to their G+ Local page in their email signature or on their website may be more likely to experience their reviews disappearing vs businesses that collect them via a person searching on Google and finding the business listing that way.
In our testing, we were able to find a way to get 2 different reviews posted from 2 different profiles to show (these reviews previously didn’t show no matter how many time they were edited. All we did was login using a mobile device (in 1 case it was an Ipad and the other it was an Android phone) and repost the review using the Google Local (formerly Google Places) app.
It’s interesting to note that all these reviews that are “missing” are always visible to the person who left them when they are logged into their account. They are just not visible to anyone else when viewed publicly. However, in both cases we tested, the reviews did not show at ALL when we logged in on the mobile device, even if we were logged in. If we logged into the same accounts using a desktop or laptop, the reviews would show.
Our advice? If you are asking someone to review your business, see if they can post the review from a mobile device (if they have one). It appears like this might be the safest thing to do at the moment if you don’t want the review disappearing into the eternal abyss.