It’s no secret how important reviews can be for your business, especially when it comes to Google Reviews. It’s a major element of any successful marketing campaign that you simply can’t ignore. According to Search Engine Land, 88% of customers trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation, and 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more than one without them.
So what’s really allowed when it comes to Google reviews? While Google may remain fairly ambiguous when it comes to algorithm updates and ever-changing rankings, it has established clear-cut guidelines as to what kind of content can be posted and shared within reviews. If you’re a local business with a Google My Business listing (which you 100% need), then you want to familiarize yourself with these policies.
Going against these policies – whether you’re aware of it or not – is never a good idea. Google can penalize a business for actions like this, and, if we know one thing for SEO, it’s that you always want to stay on Google’s good side.
So: What Violates Google’s Review Policy?
Reviewing Your Own Business
Why not get employees to review your business saying how great of an establishment it is? While you may be lucky enough to have happy staff who are willing to do so, this directly violates Google policy.
If you think you need internal personnel writing reviews for you, then you’re not doing your due diligence asking customers to share their own experiences. Don’t take shortcuts – it’s a conflict of interest and the risk isn’t worth the reward. The same thing goes for friends and family – just don’t do it.
This is a rule Google recently put into place, and it refers to when a business uses a third-party platform to filter out negative reviews. Say John Doe had a bad experience, goes to your website, finds a link to review you and chooses a 1-star rating. Businesses used to be able to deter this user from leaving a review by taking them to a different screen where they would be unable to post their 1-star review. This is now a thing of the past.
Businesses should steer clear of this practice. And, if a customer is truly set on leaving a bad review, they’ll likely find a way around your “gate” anyway.
This would seem like a no-brainer to most, but it cannot be said enough. Never review your competitors with the intention of saying something negative to harm their business. This is considered black-hat SEO and can get you in serious trouble.
Think you can create a new account with a different name and post a bad review on your competitor’s Google My Business listing? You could certainly try, but if you’re caught by Google then you are in for a serious penalty that you may never fully recover from. It’s always better to play it safe and keep it white-hat.
Asking Google to Remove a Bad Review from a Potential Non-Customer
All too often I see businesses request to have a review removed by someone who “was never a customer.” While Google policy explicitly states that users can’t post fake content, which would apply if they truly were never a customer, it’s extremely hard to prove this to Google and get a review removed. Trying to jump through hoops to get a review like this taken down will almost always end unsuccessfully.
Maybe you missed something internally and the reviewer was indeed a customer at some point. It’s better to respond directly and positively to the review and ask the user to reach out to you directly. If you’re able to get in touch with them and remedy the situation, they may even return and edit their review, sharing that you went out of your way to make sure they were taken care of. This is a perfect example of turning a negative into a positive and showing other potential customers that you truly care.
Don’t Let a Bad Review Stop You from Asking Customers for More
All the scenarios outlined above just begin to scratch the surface of what is and isn’t allowed with Google reviews. Some practices may seem more straightforward than others, but the bottom line is that it’s important to always follow Google’s guidelines.
Have a question about your GMB listing or whether or not a review might violate Google policy? You can always visit the Google My Business Community online and post your question. This forum is constantly utilized by business owners and high-level GMB support staff who can help assist you.
If you get a negative review, don’t feel like your whole world is crashing down. Always do your best to reach out and remedy the situation. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can choose how you react to the situation. And always continue asking customers to leave reviews - the more good reviews you get, the more you’ll bury that one bad one. Does your business need help managing your online reputation? It's extremely important to make sure your online reviews are as impressive as possible, and Page 1 Solutions can help you achieve this. Give us a call at (303) 233-3886 today to see how we can help you get more reviews and better manage your online reputation.