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:
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.
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.
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!