Google Reviews: What Businesses Can and Cannot Do with Andy Simpson @ndyjsimpson #vcbuzz

Getting reviewed is key to local SEO.

Customer reviews impact local rankings, and help make buying decisions.

But how much control are business allowed to have over their reviews? Let’s discuss!

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About Andy Simpson

Andy Simpson @ndyjsimpson is Senior SEO Specialist at Digital Law Marketing, Inc. @DLMarketingInc where he provides advanced SEO techniques for high-end clients.

Connect to Andy on Linkedin!

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital marketer? Please share your career story!

How did I “become” a digital marketer? I had an interest of “the Internet” since 1996 when I built my first web pages using nothing more than notepad and CorelDRAW for the graphics.

Then over the years as a web developer, part-time college courses (my sports science degree wasn’t going to help) and self-taught SEO skills via trial and error. I started my own web design company some 10 years later in 2006.

Ran that company until 2014, then moved over to the States and since then I started to focus more on SEO, particularly #localseo. I guess I became a digital marketer somewhere during this time, probably when I ran my own company.

Q2 Why are reviews so important these days? Please list any case studies you are aware of!

Let’s start with the BIG one, reviews are a ranking factor when it comes to ranking well in the three pack and on Google maps.

A new post from @TheSocialDude on @semrush “Do Reviews Impact Local SEO Rankings? New Study” highlights the fact “the number of reviews a listing had correlates with its position”

Great blog from @brightlocal “The Best Niche Review Sites by Business Category – Updated 2021”, some great review stats e.g. 82% of consumers read online reviews when searching for local businesses

It’s well documented that reviews influence search rankings and, more importantly, consumer decision-making. From local restaurants to locksmiths and luxury hotels, reviews dominate “local conversion factors”

According to the most recent edition of the Local Search Ranking Factors survey (2021 survey published soon from @Whitespark)

Q3 What can and cannot businesses do to get reviewed more on Google Local?

There are a lot of do’s and don’ts, or cans and cannots, when it comes to what businesses can do to get reviews. A good place to start looking is Google own review policies

Most of these policies are explicit about what is allowed in a business review, who can make them, and what businesses can do if they don’t meet these policies.

Can a business ask customers for reviews? Yes, you can ask customers to submit reviews, but Google review guidelines forbid “soliciting reviews from customers in bulk.”

Can a business stop customers from writing bad reviews? No, Google review policies expressly forbid “selectively solicit(ing) positive reviews from customers.”

Can a business pay customers for reviews? No, Google and most other review sites state in their terms of service that paying for reviews is not allowed.

Can employees post reviews? No, the Google review policy prohibits reviewing your own business as it causes a conflict of interest.

Will Google delete a fake review? Google uses automated spam detection to remove reviews that are likely spam. However, if you find a review that violates Google’s policies, you should flag the review.

What are the consequences of not following Google review policies? Google can remove reviews and ban users or businesses from their services.

Q4 How much control do businesses have over Google Local reviews? How are they protected from competitors’ attacks? Can they get their local listing removed from Google Maps?

I have to thank my friend Amy Toman, @BubblesUp, for the answers on this one. Amy is a Google product expert for Google My Business, so her expertise is appreciated.

#1 SMBs have little control over their reviews. They can request them from clients, but once the client submits it, it’s up to Google whether it gets published.

Most times it does, but when times it doesn’t, no reason is given and often the missing review is never mentioned. Review text may be totally benign but still rejected.

Neither the reviewer or the business owner is notified. This is frustrating because it’s hard enough to get a client to commit to leaving a review, and then to be asked to rewrite it.

This situation has been in place for the past six months or so since Google appears to have increased the strength of their filters.

There is some but not a lot of protection against review attacks, and usually action is only taken after the attack is reported to Google.

Unusual activity like increased review activity (many one-star reviews in a short time) or many reviews from fake accounts (new or with little activity) are not picked up by Google as they probably could be if their filters can pick up other signals in review text, why can’t they pick up review attacks? When reported to Google, there is often substantial proof needed to prove the situation. But in Google’s favor, I know that some businesses who are affected by review attacks can get the questionable reviews removed.

This doesn’t take into consideration malicious attacks on the listing that include incorrect edits or attempts to take over listings.

It doesn’t help that phone support has been nonexistent since the pandemic started, so almost two years. Most folks can only use the support forum, which is “staffed” by volunteers.

Q5 What are your favorite local marketing tools?

I like free and easy tools to use, so when I talk about them I know most users, SEOs, small business owners can also use them as well without having to pay for access. But there are some you have to pay for as a local seo.

Free, I love “GS Location Changer” from Valentin Pletzer, @VorticonCmdr, I probably use this every day!

Free/paid – @EverywhereGmb Audit, lets you find GMB Categories, do basic audits, do review audits, do post-audits, and many other crucial Local SEO audit tasks.

We all love the offerings from the following paid tools @LocaFalcon – register and get 100 scan credits free, geo-grid ranking tool @PlacesScout, agency level, it can get expensive if you’re not careful BUT it’s awesome

@Brightlocal and @Whitespark you gotta love these two, for their tools and outstanding blogs!

Our previous local marketing chats:

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