Small business owners understand the importance of their Google My Business reviews. When you have great ratings, you want your customers to know. So it can be super frustrating when some of your five-star reviews randomly disappear. What’s up, Google? The truth is, Google hates you. Just kidding! But, their filter may not like some of your reviews. Here’s why.
Google uses a review filter to try and cut down on the number of fake and paid reviews that are being constantly churned out online these days. It’s not the greatest at doing this, unfortunately, but it’s what we have to work with. So, what does this filter do? And how does this affect your reviews? Let’s take a look.
Understanding Google’s Review Filter
Unlike some online filters, this one does not continuously run. For reasons only Google knows (all hail the Google gods), a switch will be flipped periodically to activate this filter, which uses criteria to determine if a review seems legitimate. If it is deemed less than, they will remove it.
This periodic filtering results in many of your reviews disappearing all at once, including some that posted to your business weeks or even months ago. When this happens, it can leave you wondering what’s up. So, what gets a review flagged for removal?
Sometime in May of 2018, Google started targeting and removing reviews left by anonymous users. These reviews usually come from “A Google User.” While Google made no official announcement regarding this shift, it seems to be part of their effort to encourage transparency among reviewers. If you aren’t willing to leave your name, should we trust your review? That kind of thing.
Paid reviewers or bots often leave anonymous reviews, so removing all of them was likely a necessary step for Google to improve the quality of all of the reviews remaining online. If your business lost reviews due to this wholesale sweep to remove anonymous reviews, you likely know how that can affect your overall rating.
Google removes many reviews because of IP address issues. For example, if you have a lot of clients that share an IP address, Google sees this as a red flag and will remove reviews from most or all of them. If your business does work for a larger company, for example, and several of their employees try to review you, this can happen. When a bunch of reviews connects to the same IP address, this looks like a review mill. And Google doesn’t allow that.
If your business offers WiFi to the public and you have also logged into that network to access your Google My Business account, then your reviews are likely being filtered. When customers log into your network to leave a review, Google sees the IP address as one that is owned by the business, so it thinks you are reviewing yourself. See, I told you Google hates you.
If you set up a computer or tablet at your business for people to use to leave online reviews, chances are very high that these will be deleted. Since all of these reviews will come from the same IP address, the filter will assume this is a review mill of some sort that you paid to review your business. Don’t do that. It’s bad.
Don’t ask employees to rate you, either. Most of the time, this raises flags because you share the same IP address with them. It goes without saying (or maybe we need to say it)…. don’t rate yourself, either.
Violations of Review Guidelines
Google has guidelines for reviews, and they remove any rating that violates these. For example, reviews cannot contain a URL. This is a way to ensure people aren’t using reviews to boost their own SEO efforts or promote their own business on your company’s page.
You can’t use profane or racist language in a review, either (ahhh… c’mon!). This is to protect you as the business owner, naturally, so trust us when we say this is a good thing. And if you include a curse word in the name of your business, this is likely to get most of your reviews removed. So, think carefully about how you name yourself.
There are a few other red flags that will get reviews removed, and most are the result of paying others to leave you positive reviews. So, don’t do that, either.
How Will Disappearing Reviews Affect My Business?
How disappearing reviews influence your overall rating and sales depends mostly on the reviews that were deleted and what is left. If all of your deleted reviews were positive and your remaining ones are negative, then you have a problem. If the deleted ones were neutral or negative, their removal will likely improve your overall rating, which is great for you! So… yeah. How will it affect you? It depends.
What Can You Do if Some of My Reviews Disappeared?
Well, the short answer is, “Not much.” The longer answer is, while you can’t change Google’s filter algorithm, you can ensure IP issues are not a reason for deletions, and you can check for bugs, which do occur.
If you have recently lost many reviews, the first thing you should do is investigate the possibility of a bug. Look at your reviews and check to see that the number of reviews at the top matches how many are displayed. If these are not the same number, you may have a bug. Check in with the Google My Business forum to see if anyone else is experiencing similar issues and to find out how to report a possible bug.
The other proactive thing you can do to help stop filtering of some of your reviews is to find out if you can get a dynamic IP address. If you offer WiFi to your customers, regularly resetting your IP address helps alleviate the IP issues discussed above and ensures more of your reviews stick around.
For the most part, though, there’s not much you can do to recover deleted reviews. Google believes its algorithm for filtering reviews is the best option for ensuring honesty and transparency, and they don’t usually respond favorably to request to un-filter or restore reviews.