Category: Author: Kaycie Smith
2017 was a tough year for Google and its review policies. We saw an increase in spam reviews where fake negative reviews were being placed on businesses as well as crazy stories of how certain businesses were soliciting reviews in mass quantities. Yelp has set a pretty decent bar for trustworthiness of reviews. As complaints have come rolling in on the Google My Business forums about the trustworthiness of Google reviews, they have been trying to do better.
In December 2017, Google updated their review guidelines to help combat the offenders. This update includes more specific points regarding particular aspects of collecting reviews. Let’s explain the new standards.
Google has for a long time prohibited the soliciting of reviews in exchange for something, but the interpretation was twisted by some which led to a bit more definition to this policy. Before the update, the guideline read simply:
- Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor.
Seems fairly clear. However, there was a case of a law firm who was entering people into a contest for free zoo tickets in exchange for writing a five-star review. They got away with this for a while by concealing the offer. They ended up getting caught and Google took down all their reviews but one, and they may have been an influence in Google tightening up the wording in its guidelines and adding a prohibition of ANY bulk solicitation of reviews, whether in exchange for something or not.
Here’s the new wording posted in December by Google:
- Don’t use reviews for advertising purposes. This includes, but is not limited to, posting email addresses, phone numbers, social media links or links to other websites in your reviews.
- Don’t include promotional or commercial content.
- Don’t offer or accept money in exchange for reviews. (The Google My Business Help section broadens this language to exclude the offering of any incentive for leaving reviews.)
- Don’t solicit reviews from customers in bulk.
Google has also recently come out against the filtering of reviews requests. Some companies have provided software that asks for customer feedback and only if the feedback is positive will they follow up with instructions on how to leave reviews. Google ended up removing many reviews solicited through this software, and the companies have since removed this feature.
Google also considers reviews to be fake if they are generated from the same IP address. So dentists who have set up a tablet or station in their office where they ask patients to stop and leave reviews have later found those reviews removed by Google.
The new guidelines also specifically state that reviews by ex-employees are against the guidelines. This can be found on the Prohibited and Restricted Content section of the guidelines, under the Conflict of Interest drop down.
“Map user-contributed content is most valuable when it is honest and unbiased. Examples of disallowed practice include, but are not limited to:
Reviewing your own business.
Posting content about a current or former employment experience.
Posting content about a competitor to manipulate their ratings.”
Are the New Guidelines a Good Thing?
I believe the tightening of the review guidelines is a step in the right direction for Google. I have seen far too many cases of fake reviews both positive and negative. As consumers, we want reviews to be genuine, and I applaud Google’s efforts to try to insure that. I believe that they are on the right track and I predict many review guideline updates throughout 2018. Until then I will keep fighting the fight for fair representation through the use of the Google review system for all of my clients.