21 July, 2015

Reviews disappearing? You’re not alone…

online reviewsI enjoy volunteering help to local business owners around the world in the Google My Business support forum. Tip: It’s a great place to get assistance and is one of the key places any DIYer should have bookmarked!

Last Friday I noticed a marked increase in the number of business owners complaining about a noticeable number of reviews disappearing from their Google pages. Other volunteers in the forum have confirmed the same. While there has been no announcement, there’s very likely been a change to the programs that run the filters.  The filters are there to help prevent legit businesses from getting spammed and prevent cheaters from gaming the system with fake reviews.

So if you’ve noticed a decrease in the number showing, check the following list for reasons why they might be vanishing. Some of the reasons are explicitly stated by Google or Yelp, others are based on observed behaviour.

The toughest filters to get through are undoubtedly Yelp and Google.  This list is written to cover both, and is noted where specific to that service.  If you keep on the good side of the following list, you stand a much better chance of getting them seen.

Reasons why your reviews might get filtered:

  1. Web addresses (URLs) in the comments.
  2. The person who wrote the review is you, a manager of your page or works for you.
  3. The reviewer marked the review as private.
  4. The person wrote the review from the same computer/IP address that you sign into to manage your local listing.
  5. The person wrote the review from the same IP address or device as another user who left a review.  This is common with kiosks or review stations (a dedicated PC or tablet for collecting reviews).
  6. The person tried to post a review for you several times on different dates (for example: they wrote one Jan 15 and it got filtered so they tried again on Feb 10).
  7. All the people reviewing you on Yelp are clicking on a link from an email signature
  8. The person reviewing you has also reviewed multiple other businesses with the same name (if you have several locations and they reviewed all of them). If the reviews aren’t specific & unique to the location, they may be filtered. This can also happen if you have two pages for the same location (duplicate page/s).
  9. You hired an SEO company to post reviews for you.
  10. You’re caught offering incentives. It’s okay to let patrons know you appreciate reviews, not OK to bribe for them.
  11. You moved. Google does not automatically transfer reviews when a business address changes. Contact support if you need your reviews transferred to your new location.
  12. The reviewer’s account has gone dormant (stopped posting reviews).
  13. Staff being over-zealous in asking for reviews. The programs look for patterns in reviews. For example – If staff are asking to be named in the review and Fred Nerk is particularly committed to getting mentioned, then a run of reviews containing Fred N or Fred Nerk could get filtered.
  14. Review/s super short with very few details. On Google, this does not seem to apply retrospectively, meaning reviews 2 or 3 years old with nothing but a rating continue to display.
  15. Reviews which seem as though the reviewer has not personally visited the business.
  16. Yelp may be in the stage of automatically filtering out the first batch of reviews. They may appear after a threshold has been reached and reviews continue to be written about your business.

Remember – it’s a machine making the decision about whether reviews by your customers get seen or disappear into digital purgatory. Yes, it’s going to make mistakes and filter out good reviews. Yes, that stinks. Move on.

Stay the course, stick to your review strategy and you will succeed over time.  Slow and steady wins the race…

h/t hat tipJoy Hawkins for starting this list and Mike Blumenthal for helping get it updated.