Google has been filtering positive and negative reviews since the beginning, but it comes up from time to time when more people notice it. If you use Google for your business, you have likely encountered the fact that they filter online reviews. You also know how important they can be to your company’s success. It’s their ball and game, so you must play by their rules.
In March of 2020, Google temporarily froze all new reviews from being posted after reducing the size of their team during the pandemic. Since then, the pace of filtering has fluctuated unpredictably. Most of the time, Google alternates between no filtering at all as opposed to brief blasts of frantic filtering. If you’re looking for reasons, keep looking because, in many cases, it’s just part of the Google Universe, a hybrid place that’s half Nirvana and half Neverland.
Lately, Google hasn’t been afraid to remove multiple reviews simultaneously as opposed to the normal way of doing it in ones and twos. Like a ghost fading into the fog, some reviews disappear over several days rather than all at once. You might lose two today and three tomorrow; of course, it never comes with an explanation.
This can be very frustrating if you rely on reviews or manage them for your company. You worked hard to get a five-star review from an initially reluctant customer, and now it doesn’t matter because no one will get to read it anyway. It makes the situation even more tricky because every Google veteran knows that Google reviews never completely disappear. One-star reviews can pop up like a zit in the middle of your forehead while five-star ones can come back like an old favorite song to remind you of the good times.
So how do you respond to a world of Google reviews that is upside down and highly unpredictable? Here are five things we gleaned from reading “insider” blogs about Google’s filtering habits. I was going to call them “strategies,” but that doesn’t seem to apply here.
1. You are on your own.
There’s a lot of useful information available from Google, so access it and of course—there’s always YouTube. Google reviews are like a two-year-old child–you can’t control them. So don’t even try to reach out to Google unless you want to wait two weeks for a standard response.
2. Don’t try to fix something that’s likely unfixable.
Some people panic and ask their clients to re-review them when a review is nixed. This can often lead to more issues and confusion down the road. Give it a few days and circle back because, in many cases, they’ll return like a prodigal son (or daughter).
3. Make sure you’re playing by the rules.
If any review looks incentivized, forced, or fake, Google will usually find out, so be transparent and don’t hire writers to write reviews. Once Google sees that you’re trying to punk the system they might start withholding the love.
4. Nest is best.
Encourage customers to review your business at home instead of doing it on an iPad or computer in your office. It’s okay to ask customers in-person in the office; just don’t have them all review you on the spot. Google knows where the reviews come from and attach more value to those written at home. (Please note: A new tool that we’re developing at Stratosphere Studio will automatically prompt the customer to leave a review 2-3 days after they pick up their vehicle with a direct link to the Google My Business page. Stay tuned, we will keep everyone updated about this exciting new product here on our blog very soon.)
5. Don’t make it a photo moment.
Don’t ever encourage reviewers to upload photos with their reviews if possible. If Google has any problems with the content of any photos, reviews can get gobbled up along with them. So, keep Pandora’s Box closed and steer clear of photos, especially when Google is going through an aggressive filtering period.