In recent days a couple of clients and others have told me of increased filtering of Google reviews – as in they see fewer reviews by the day on their Google Business Profiles, and for no clear reason.
Google has filtered reviews for many years, to one degree or another. About 10 years ago Google filtered reviews even more aggressively than Yelp did (after having done basically no filtering). In March of 2020 Google temporarily froze all new reviews from going up. Most of the time, Google alternates between long stretches of filtering far too reviews and brief blasts of filtering too many.
If this isn’t another bug, then it seems to be the start of one of Google’s more-aggressive filtering periods. Here is what a few business owners have described, and what I’ve observed so far:
- Google removes multiple reviews at once – sometimes many or most of them (rather than the standard nibbling off of 1 or 2 here and there).
- Reviews vanish over the course of several days, rather than all at once. One day you might lose 3, the next day another 3, the next day 5, and so on.
- Both new reviews and old reviews are getting voted off the island. (As I’ve long said, Google reviews are never completely gone and are never completely safe.)
- The (apparently) increased filtering isn’t limited to one industry.
- Some detailed reviews written by Local Guides are getting tossed. It’s not just the eBay-style one-liner from the customer who had never written a Google review.
What can you do about it? Well, besides let me know so that I can put my bird brain on the case and maybe observe something that helps you and others, consider my recommendations for dealing with Google’s filter:
1. Don’t waste a lot of energy on contacting Google, unless you accidentally deleted or created a Google Business Profile page – in which case maybe the reviews are misplaced and can be transferred. Unless the reviews are on the wrong page(s), there’s nothing Google will do – whether the reviews are gone because of a bug or a new policy. It’s fine to contact Google simply to ping them. Just don’t expect any action. As usual, your survival depends on you.
2. Know that the reviews may come back, all at once or in dribs and drabs, without your needing to do anything. In the past, when there’s been a bug, many reviews just trickled back. For that reason I don’t suggest making BIG moves, like asking everyone whose review was filtered to re-review you, or asking a lot of people who hadn’t review you to take the plunge and get your review count back up in a hurry. Not only might those reviews also get filtered, but Google may find more of a problem with your reaction than with whatever you did or did not do that may or may not have gotten your other reviews thrown in the van in the first place. If a swimmer seems to be drowning in a pond, you don’t help anyone by jumping in if you don’t know how to swim or if you have no way to get back.
3. If you monitor your competitors closely, see what their Google review counts are. If theirs are noticeably lower, too, then it’s less likely Google has a big problem with whatever you or your customers are doing. In this case, the other good news is that you haven’t lost any ground relative to your competitors: they’re losing reviews, too.
4. Diversify where you get reviews – as in not just on Google Maps. Not only is it wise to hedge in case Google filters your reviews or suspends your GBP page, but it’s also possible that Google factors in where else you’ve got reviews to determine whether your Google reviews are kosher. If it’s clear you can get reviews from multiple sources, your Google reviews probably won’t look incentivized, forced, or fake.
5. Avoid asking more than a few customers at once for reviews: Spread out your requests as much as possible, so as to avoid a sudden spike in the number of reviews. Google filters more aggressively when it notices a surge in reviews out of the blue.
6. Encourage customers to review you at home, rather than on an iPad or computer in your office. It’s fine to ask customers in-person in the office; just don’t have them all review you on the spot.
7. Encourage customers to go into a little detail in their reviews, even if that means some people won’t go to the trouble to review you at all. At the same time, don’t urge them to use specific keywords or phrases in their reviews. That can look fake to Google and (worse) to would-be customers, and it’s unnecessary, because people who go into detail will usually weave in good search terms anyway. Quality over quantity.
8. At least for now, don’t encourage reviewers to upload photos with their reviews. If Google has a problem with the content of the photos, customers’ reviews may get gobbled up with the photos. Eliminate photos as a potential problem, so you isolate whatever’s going on with the reviews.
9. Send up a weather balloon, in the form of asking one customer with a recently-filtered review to edit (or rewrite) and re-post the review. Maybe ask the customer to dial down the “keywords” or super-emphatic praise. Sometimes that resolves whatever issue Google had with it, and the review sees the light of day. If that works, wait a few days and ask another couple of customers to do the same. That won’t always work to un-filter a review, of course, but sometimes all it takes is a second whack.
Have you noticed more Google reviews go missing lately?
Have you noticed any patterns as to which reviews get filtered, or do you have any theories as to what’s going on?
Any actions that have helped?
Leave a comment!
Amy Toman says
Another option is to post in the Google Business Profile help forum. The PE’s have had good results getting reviews back. If you do post, remember to mention your listing title, the location, and make sure you have screenshots of the missing reviews. If you don’t have those, take screenshots of the email notification you received about it, or a copy of what clients can see on their end. This process works more often than not.
Thanks, Amy. I agree, in that that is great SOP in case the reviews disappeared because of a bug. If they got snatched by the filter, though, I suspect it won’t make a difference.
I have a customer with a new listing, not a single one of her nine reviews have appeared yet. They are all genuine reviews from people she has helped to buy or sell a house. In review, there was one that would contravened the guidelines, as her customer cut/paste it from an existing review she’d done for her elsewhere. Others should have no problem. But after reading this article, I think I see the problem. Her revues, while genuine, may be too good for Google’s liking. I contacted Google, they are are friendly and want to be helpful, but they don’t know why anything has happened, and advise that we can do nothing but wait and hope. Pray, even. In short … “computer says no”.
“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
That’s a tough one, Tamhas. If I’m reading between the lines correctly, then the 9 reviews are all pretty recent. If that’s the case, one thing I’d suggest is spreading out the requests a bit. Some reviews probably will still get filtered, but fewer.
By the way, I haven’t found that cross-posting (i.e. reusing content from reviews on other sites) is a problem. On Google or on Yelp.
David Hutchins says
I know reviews have been disappearing, but not which ones, I’ll take a look at that. I see when people leave a second review, Google posts it with our response from the previous review which we delete and write a new response. Maybe those previous reviews are the ones being deleted.
Interesting, David. So you’re saying that you ask customers whose reviews were filtered to re-post, and that eventually either the initial review or the 2nd review goes up? (I assume that’s what “second review” refers to.)
Fortunately for us we had only 1 review removed. It was a 3 star review so I guess it’s working in my favor so far, lol.
Hey now. That’s not a bad outcome!
This may be a good time if you haven’t already to download your data from your GBP profile. From your dashboard go to Takeout. https://takeout.google.com/?pli=1. From here you can download all or what content you choose, including gmail, photos and yes, reviews. This way if you have the option to reinstate your reviews you can send this back to Google for reinstatement.
That’s an excellent idea, Ted. Thanks!
Caroline Phillips says
That sounds like a good idea in my opinion too! I will try that. I didn’t know this existed.
Andy Kuiper says
Phil, you’ve touched a nerve… this is a way bigger problem than most people think. It really frustrates people too.
It sure is a stubborn burr in the saddle, Andy.
Jim Allen says
I work as a Notary and a number of my Notary friends have been complaining about losing reviews and this article is being forwarded to them!
Thanks for the great info!
Any time, Jim. I’d be interested to hear how things shake out, particularly if some of your friends try the SOPs I’ve recommended.
Ashla Amber says
I wrote 8 google reviews, 7 positive and 1 negative, in a review writing spree one night. I reviewed home services that I’ve contracted over the past year. (flooring, tree trimming, blind installation, electrical services, deck staining) 3/7 have been posted, the others, not showing up, including the negative review for the Property Management Company. None of this seems equal or fair. Some businesses have hundreds of reviews. Small businesses ask for reviews, people write the, and they are not showing up.
There’s a good chance more of those reviews will show up over time. You may need to make the review-writing a habit, and do it in dribs and drabs rather than in bursts. That’s how it is in Yelp.
Google filters more of a business’s reviews when they appear in a blast, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens at the other end of the quill.
Reviews are merely one unfair area of Google. At best the rules are applied inconsistently.