Reviews can make or break a business. Negative reviews will influence people to avoid the business. On the other hand, positive reviews will encourage people to become customers or clients.
In the past, you used to be able to leave reviews anonymously as an “A Google User”. That has recently ended. As a matter of fact, Mike Blumenthal reported that Google is even removing anonymous reviews that were posted previously. Here’s anonymous Google reviews used to look like:
Consequences of Removing Reviews
Will businesses be happy with the removal of anonymous reviews? Here’s the answer: It depends. It depends what type of reviews were written. For example, a business owner will rejoice if the removed anonymous reviews are negative. A business may have learned some lessons from the negative reviews and changed their ways.
Not all business owners will be happy with the removal of anonymous reviews, however. Mike Blumenthal writes “while the aggregate impact of removing anonymous reviews is likely not large, the distribution of that impact is not even. Barbara Oliver, who started engaging her clients with Google reviews in 2009 lost 18% of her reviews. She felt like she worked hard both earning those reviews and in reaching out to customers. Way too hard to just lose them on a moments notice.”
Business owners like Barbara are missing out on more than likely positive reviews. They’re also losing the time they put into responding to reviews. The responses might be helpful for potential customers, which is one of the reasons why business owners publicly respond to comments.
Mike continues “from her pov, and I agree, if Google has good reason to remove anonymous reviews then the least is that Google owes her an alert and hopefully an explanation.” This is a great point. It’s one thing to be notified of the impending action and it’s another to not even be notified at all.
Why Google is Removing Anonymous Reviews
Google doesn’t always share why they do something, at least not right away. For example, Google often announces a major new search algorithm update only after it goes live. It’s the same way with this current action. We can hypothesize, however.
Anonymous reviews are reviews that are less transparent. Would a competitor leave a negative review at the competing business publicly? Probably not! Sure, it’s a dirty move to leave fake reviews. On the other side of the coin, what if the business owner leaves fake, positive reviews for their own business? Common sense would advise Google doesn’t like either of these scenarios.
Now that anonymous reviews are gone, can competitors still write negative reviews at a competing business? Yes. Can business owners still write fake, positive reviews for their own business? The answer is also yes; however, these people will have to take at least one extra step: They’ll have to create a fake “real” profile before they leave these reviews.
Local Reviews and Search Engines
The impact of reviews extends further than potential customers or clients. They impact your rankings in local search results! Google treats reviews as a Ranking Signal. Here’s how it works: If you have a large number of positive reviews, your business will rank higher. If you have a large number of negative reviews, your business will rank lower.
Google and other search engines look to your cumulative review score to determine how popular your business is. Search engines have a vested interest in showing the best or the most accurate results to searchers. Google is the most popular search engine for a reason: they display the best and most accurate information to the person searching for something. It comes down to this: If you want to rank highly in local search results, you should focus on obtaining positive reviews.
Did you have any anonymous reviews? Double check to see if they’re still there (there’s probably gone). Google wants to service both the business and the customer. Keep in mind that they won’t always communicate why they do things as they work towards this goal.
Near the end of his article, Mike writes Google has “a huge impact on the lives of small businesses folks and those folks, by virtue of embracing Google, deserve timely and honest communications.” He also credits them for the great work they do with connecting customers and clients with the right businesses. And I have no doubt they’ll continue to improve their algorithms and provide a better service to customers and businesses alike.
Featured photo is a screenshot of Google Reviews by Gain Local
Star reviews photo is by CC0 Creative Commons on Pixabay