21 July, 2015

Reviews disappearing? You’re not alone…

Last Update: 31 December, 2017

I enjoy volunteering help to local business owners around the world in the Google My Business support forum. One of the frequent problems reported is when business owners see their reviews disappear.

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.

Google’s review filters are finally getting some attention again (Dec 2017), and I honestly hope they continue to get regular updates like the standard website algorithm does. While many reviews disappear, there are still so very many fake ones out there still alive and kicking.

If you’ve noticed a decrease in the number of reviews 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 reviews disappear or 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 (Facebook or Yelp, not Google).
  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 link you’re using pre-populates the review entry form in any way.
  9. 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).
  10. You hired an SEO company to post reviews for you.
  11. You’re asking for reviews “in bulk”.  What exactly is meant by bulk Google will not say, so take it as a vague quantity in relation to historical volume.
  12. You’re caught offering incentives. It’s okay to let patrons know you appreciate reviews, not OK to bribe for them.  Remember the law of the land you live in overrides the search engine guidelines. In a number of countries incentives for reviews are a no-no that come with legal consequences.
  13. You moved. Google does not automatically transfer reviews when a business address changes. Details about when and how removes can be moved or removed are in this Google Support Document.
  14. The reviewer’s account has gone dormant (stopped posting reviews).
  15. 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.
  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 forever. Yes, it’s going to make mistakes and filter out good reviews. Yes, that stinks. I feel your pain. Let’s move on.

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

As new criteria emerge (either directly or by observation), this post will be updated.

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