- Late 2019 – a Local Guide reported having lost many reviews and contributions to businesses due to their individual data retention settings. This indicates businesses lost the reviews and contributions as well.
- Mid 2019 – Google tightened their review filters and they seemed to be a bit zealous. The filters have since been relaxed. Not all reviews were restored, but many were. This process took 2-3 months to settle down.
Google’s review filters are finally getting some attention again, and finally appear to be getting periodic updates like the standard website algorithm does. While reviews disappear periodically, 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. 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 get filtered or disappear:
- Reviews added during the COVID-19 pandemic were put on hold.
- The reviewer’s personal data retention settings triggered the content to be removed from Google’s systems.
- Web addresses (URLs) in the comments.
- The reviewer marked the review as private (Facebook or Yelp, not Google).
- The person wrote the review from the same computer/IP address that you sign into to manage your local listing.
- 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).
- 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).
- All the people reviewing you on Yelp are clicking on a link from an email signature.
- The link you’re using pre-populates the review entry form in any way.
- 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.
- 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.
- You’re caught review filtering. This applies to sites that gather a sentiment, then direct people who are unhappy to a separate place (typically a non-public communication) while happy customers go another.
- 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.
- The reviewer’s account has gone dormant (stopped posting reviews), or has been deleted.
- The review was left years ago when Google allowed reviews from people not logged into a Google account (anonymous user).
- 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.
It’s not personal
Remember it’s a machine/program 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.
I have been working with local businesses as a Local SEO specialist since 2010 and as a Google My Business Product Expert (formerly called Top Contributor) since 2016. I write about GMB suitable for most folks, business owners included.
When not working for clients, I volunteer with the local businesswomen’s network, volunteers on Google’s forum, and the Local Search forum.
Away from the keyboard I’m a very busy mother with two boys, nine chickens, two cows, three sheep, a cockatiel and a stupidly happy dog.
Read more about me on the “about” page!