Real Names Not Needed for Google+ Reviews: Smart or Stupid Move?

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Google no longer requires reviewers to use their real names when reviewing businesses on Google+.

This is a complete turnaround of the policy Google has had for the last few years.  It’s the latest step in Google’s long push to get more Plus users, mostly for data-mining purposes.

As you can tell from the comments on Google’s announcement, people are torn on whether this is good or bad.  There’s also a good discussion at Linda’s forum.

Is it good or bad to be able to leave an anonymous Google+ review?  Overall, I think it’s bad.  But I’d like to lay my thinking out piece by piece.

Here are what I see as the pros and cons:

Pros

1.  It makes it simpler to write reviews of people / businesses who offer sensitive services: divorce lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers, psychotherapists, exterminators, bakers of adult-themed cakes, etc.

Many other sites have allowed anonymous or semi-anonymous reviews; now Google’s one of them.  This is the main “pro” by far, in my opinion.

2.  Full-name reviews will gain value: They’ll be seen as more credible because, in general, they are.  Score one for the business owners who’ve already worked out a strategy for earning those reviews.

Cons

1.  Google is making life easier for spammers, scammers, and miscreants of all stripes.

2.  People will trust Google reviews less, for better or worse.

3.  Fake reviews will be harder to spot.

4.  It encourages one-time reviews.  Writing a review as “John Doe” makes sense when you’re reviewing (say) a divorce attorney.  Not so much if you’re reviewing a hotel.  With this change, Google is encouraging more reviews, but not more reviewers.

5.  Many people still don’t like Google+, and still won’t want to use it.  To the extent those people are your customers, Google’s new policy probably won’t change their minds.

6.  Business owners’ responses to anonymous reviews won’t be as helpful or specific, if they don’t know whom they’re even addressing.

7.  Does this mean reviewers’ profile pictures don’t have to be of them, either?

8.  The sentiment snippets showing in the knowledge graph will become even more of a problem.

Other considerations

Now Yelp looks like the only site that gives a hoot about quality-control.  Not that Yelp is particularly good about QC;  it’s just always been two steps ahead of Google.

I wouldn’t rule out another filter crackdown, once even Google determines there’s too much junk coming through.

Your thoughts?  Any pros or cons you’d add? Leave a comment!

Comments

  1. I know someone who’ll be pleased by this news… Someone recently commented on my How To Remove Slanderous Google Reviews post saying that a) businesses shouldn’t be allowed to get reviews removed, and b) people (G+ users) should be allowed to leave anonymous reviews – this was because she wanted to leave a bad review for a company, but was intimidated by the business owner and didn’t want the stress involved, but still wanted to show them up.

    Personally, I think it’s a potential nightmare. If an employee of a company reviews their own company and gives them 5 stars, it’s really obvious if their real name is attached to it and therefore really easy to report them. What’s stopping people creating fake profiles with fake names to leave reviews? …I guess they could’ve done that already, but I can see it being even more tempting and prevalent now…

  2. Thanks for linking to my post at the forum Phil. Heading over to link to your post now to circle everyone in.

  3. I think it’s a terrible move by Google. There are a lot of unscrupulous competitors out there who think nothing of posting fake reviews on the competition. For example, before YELP put in the filter, my business was subject to tons of fake reviews. Now that Google allows fake names, it will be easy for anyone to write anything they want. On wedding wire, a person has to actually prove they visited the business before a review is posted. I just think all of these review sites need to change their policies.

    • Very true, Frank. It certainly was possible to post fake reviews before, but Google shouldn’t make it easier. It’s like with speed limits. If 35 is posted, most people will drive 45-50. If it’s 65, most people will do 75+. To post an 85-mph speed limit and expect people not to drive even faster would be foolish. But that’s what Google has done here.

  4. Wow. I just about sent out an email telling people that they have to leave their full name on a Google review. Glad I caught this post!!!

    • They still should leave their full names, if at all possible. It’s not required, but that’s precisely the point; it looks more credible.

  5. Totally agree with all the negativity that is looming over the new relaxed code of conduct for reviewers. Will there be a point to look for someone’s opinion on some business on G+? Only for some studies on psychological and sociological behavior of an individual.
    Verdict: Google is taking step back in providing helpful online experience for businesses and theirs potential customers.

  6. It’s not an easy answer. Sensitive topics / services deserve positive reviews and feedback but at the same time anything done to open to doors to abuse is a challenge. It’s easy to say, “good businesses shouldn’t be afraid of posting customer names and confident people shouldn’t be worried about attaching their name to a review.” BUT, what about those cases where the business owner is a bit nuts – threatening abuse or retaliation? Wouldn’t it be nice to know about that kind of person and to avoid them? And wouldn’t it be nice to let people know without risk of reprisal? How about mental health issues? It would be nice to think we are all so aware and educated to know that depression is no different than a physically treatable illness. BUT, we’re not! People love to judge. Would you think twice about leaving your child with someone who publicly left a review for their therapist thanking them for the help with those suicidal thoughts? Maybe, maybe not. In the end this is not an easy black and white discussion or are there easy solutions. Let’s hope Google and others keep working on it.

  7. avatar Shirley Dunmall says:

    I think anyone leaving a bad review should a) have the courage of their convictions and leave their name and b) have to say the day they had the bad service and name the member(s) of staff about whom they are complaining. I have a client who gets tons of excellent reviews and then some un-named person (possibly a competitor or someone with a particular grudge) can leave an outrageously bad review that is obviously fake to myself and my client but yet leaves no name, no details of the staff member(s) she/ he is complaining about, no details of date of visit, just very bad, potentially damaging comments to which the business owner has no way to reply. If you have ever looked for a review on a particular restaurant/hotel etc and read 10 good reviews it is the one bad review that sticks in memory and generally influences your decision whether or not to use that particular place. I cannot leave this comment without leaving my name and email address. Business’s should be afforded the same courtesy and have a right to respond.

    • I agree, Shirley, but some business owners are not reasonable. I don’t like the idea of anonymous reviews, either, but they have their place in the world – either when dealing with bad people, or perhaps if you’re someone who got services of a sensitive nature (think psychotherapy).

Trackbacks

  1. Google drops its ‘real name’ policy for Google+ – Could Help with Google Reviews

    Phil just did a great post with some of the pros and cons. Real Names N…

  2. […] Turns out that was only the beginning of the 180-flip.  Throughout 2013 Google pushed customers to leave reviews and pushed business owners to ask for them.  This past July, Google even OK’d pseudonyms. […]

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