by Joy Hawkins
If you are a business that is frustrated by Google not publishing your reviews, you are not alone. We are seeing more and more reports of businesses that are complaining about missing Google reviews or reviews not publishing when customers post them. In this example from the forum people describe getting told by their customers that they left a review but it simply never shows up live on Google.
Why are Google Reviews Missing?
If your reviews are missing from your Google Business Profile, one of two things are happening. The first option is that Google removed them manually because they violated the guidelines. This is unlikely and doens’t happen often. The second option is that Google’s automated review filter is catching them and removing them. Google’s review filter looks for patterns that are unnatural and removes reviews that fall into those patterns. When reviews are filtered, usually the individual that left the review can still see it, but only if they are logged in while viewing the busines profile.
Google’s Review Filter is Getting Stricter
Mike Blumenthal of Near Media has been tracking this trend and the following graph shows the increase in threads over at the Google Business Profile forum in 2021 for the topic of missing reviews.
A recent study done by Uberall found that of the four platforms examined, Google had the highest average percentage of inauthentic reviews across business categories (10.7%). Next in descending order were Yelp (7.1%), Tripadvisor (5.2%) and Facebook (4.9%). While tightening the review filter might be Google’s attempt to solve their problem of fake reviews, it is clearly missing the mark. Jason Brown from Review Fraud agrees:
“The Buffalo Wild Wings in San Jose has been getting prank reviews mentioning beans. The prank was initiated on TikTok and the poster asked people to ask for beans for their meal. Several reviews started pouring in mentioning beans. While this case was privately escalated to Google, the reviews team wasn’t able to remove all of the bogus reviews.
The same is the case for Deal’s Plumbing. They received 18 1-star reviews within 36 hours. This case too was privately escalated to the reviews team. Yep, you guessed it, no abuse was found so the reviews won’t be removed. A similar incident happened to Precision Driveline and Diesel Emissions Service in Portland. Both business profiles received negative reviews from the same 4 profiles. Again, Google didn’t see any abuse, and the reviews remain.
Google also can’t seem to spot and identify review networks either. Curtis Boyd created the Transparency Report Chrome extension which can find and detect review pods. An independent tool is able to see that these reviews are fake, yet Google can not.”
What Causes Google to Filter a Review?
I have personally analyzed a lot of cases of missing reviews and have found some patterns that often lead to reviews not showing up. Here are the top 3 most common reasons:
- Your business offers free wifi to guests. If Google sees connections between the IP address that you manage your Google listing from and the IP addresses your guests have connected to, it often causes reviews to not show up. Almost every review I have left for a hotel or Starbucks location has not shown up publicly. It’s important to note that I didn’t leave the review while connected to their wifi, but I did connect to the wifi while I was there and then leave the review some time in the future after that. Because previous reviews had been left by others that were also connected to their wifi, Google saw my review as spammy and filtered it. This is also why onsite review stations don’t work.
- The users who left you reviews aren’t located anywhere near you or haven’t travelled there recently. This is the trend I’m seeing the most this year. In this example, a user from Canada reviewed a business in India and then noticed that not only did that review not show up, but several reviews he left after, for local businesses, didn’t show up either.
- You are using an edcuation or school category on your Google Business Profile. Certain countries (United States and United Kingdom) & school categories stopped being able to get new reviews & photos from customers as of 2019. The user leaving the review doesn’t get an error message but after posting the review, it simply doesn’t show up anywhere. Google confirmed that this is working as intended (they disabled reviews for educational institutions) but haven’t shared more about if the functionality will return in the future.
If none of those reasons apply, Google simply doesn’t have enough information about the user or they think the review violates their guidelines. They don’t always make it super clear as to why reviews get filtered.
Can Google Publish the Missing Reviews?
If you have legit customer reviews that are being filtered, it’s worth asking on the Google Business Profile forum to see if Google can reinstate them. When you post a thread, make sure you include the details of your business along with the following information:
The exact number of reviews that have gone missing.
The date they were left
The names of the people (as appears on Google) that left reviews.
Screenshots of the missing reviews (the customers can grab these while logged into their accounts as referenced above).
While Google doesn’t reinstate every case that we send through there, I am seeing them reinstate some.
Contact Sterling Sky Inc.
If you’re a local business that needs help with your Google My Business listing, review strategy, or online presence on Google and other search engines, at Sterling Sky we can help. We offer SEO audits, consulting, or monthly local SEO services. Contact our office today for more information.