Google Plus Local Review Filter

For small businesses, local reputation is king. If a customer was so pleased with your service that they are willing to take time out of their day and write a thoughtful review, the world should know! Good, publically available reviews are a crucial technique to attract the next satisfied customer. In addition, as most SEOs know, a plethora of reviews on a business’ local listings will provide a giant boost towards the top of the search results. The most important of those listings, Google + Local (formerly Google Places, formerly Google Maps) has gone through some major changes recently, placing more and more emphasis on social content, helping Google + compete more directly with Facebook.

Unfortunately, Google + Local is filtering out actual customer reviews, and eliminating reviews that have already been posted; leaving many small business owners begrudgingly scratching their heads.  So, it seems Google is going the way of Yelp and implementing a hardline filter that does a great job of sifting out the spam, but at the cost of often snagging actual reviews.

In Filter Purgatory?

But all might not be lost.  In this Discussion on the Google and Your Business Forum,  Top Contributor Mike Blumenthal has been    Google+ Local                    bravely wrangling all of the complaints into one giant thread for Google staffers to see.  After posting their details of review abductions, some members of the discussion have had luck appealing to the big G and had their reviews released from internet purgatory.  So, if your hard-earned reviews aren’t shining brightly on the monitors of potential customers, be sure to post in this thread, and your reviews might return quicker than just waiting for Google to sort their mess out.

After some testing, a few theories have formed about what will usually get a review trapped in the filter.  If you are missing review(s), you can more than likely conclude it was for one of the reasons explained below.

 

Why Oh Why Filter Me, Uncle G?

The filter is sensitive to IP addresses. For example, if a customer writes a review for a Seattle business but happens to be in San Francisco when they write it, you can bet the review will be filtered. Even if the reviews are written in a different city of the same state, they may also fall prey to the filter. Conversely, if customers are submitting reviews onsite, with a computer owned by the business, the filter will also be triggered.

Along with the physical location, Google will also take into account how customers made it to the review page online. Did they naturally search for the business and make to their G + profile, or did they click a link from an email taking directly to the profile?  If a customer was brought to your Google + profile site from a link in an email, there is a good chance the review will be filtered.

The text of the review can also be possible filter bait. If the review is the same for multiple locations or multiple review platforms (i.e Yelp, Citysearch, UrbanSpoon, etc.) the review will be filtered.  If a URL of the business being reviewed is included, it will probably be flagged. If the review contains too many keywords, it will again probably be flagged.

E.g.: “Joe’s Seattle Car Repair is the fastest and most efficient car repair service in town. I highly recommend this car repair shop over everywhere else in town. I love Joe’s Seattle Car Repair!”

Even though the author’s intentions are good, this review doesn’t stand a chance.

On top of the location, arrival method, and content; frequency of reviews could also alert the filter. In the aforementioned Google thread, Google employee Jade W. explains reviews that come in waves will look suspicious.

“Still looking into this, guys. Soliciting reviews is suspect behavior for our systems, so please please please make sure your reviews are legitimate and left by your customers of their own accord.

What I mean by this is — it’s fine if you reach out to customers to ask them to review, but I do not recommend that you do this in waves. If you want to reach out to legit customers and ask them to review, I recommend you contact them immediately after you have done business with them. “

 So soliciting reviews is okay, just make sure customers follow these easy steps to ensure the survival of your next review.

  1. Naturally search for and find the business’s G + profile
  2. Type the review on a mobile device, or at home
  3. Make sure the review doesn’t have the business URL or include too many key words
  4. If the customer chooses to write the review at home, try to make the customer have a home relatively near your business.

Easy, right?

Google’s filter is far from perfect, but it is a step in the right direction to ensure legitimate reviews and an improved user experience.  In the meantime, if you or someone you know is having review issues, definitely refer to the Google and Your Business thread.

Coming up: “Jailbreak Your Review: How to Get unfiltered!”

Resources 

http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!category-topic/business/technical-issue/mPz5bqu7ViM

http://www.nightlitemedia.com/2011/10/google-places-cracking-down-on-fake-reviews/

http://imprezziomarketing.com/seo-blog/google-maps/a-way-to-avoid-the-google-local-review-spam-filter/

http://blumenthals.com/blog/2012/08/08/what-should-you-tell-a-client-when-google-loses-their-reviews-a-4-part-plan/

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