The purpose of this post is to discuss the ins and outs of Google My Business reviews. We will cover best practices, dishonest review removal, and what kind of content is and isn’t allowable by Google’s guidelines.
The reliability of GMB review advice available on the internet ranges from credible to ridiculous. The trustworthiness of any given source is something that has to be gauged on an individual basis and evaluated over time. The only information source that should be truly exempt from skepticism is Google itself.
Google’s guidelines periodically change. It’s important to stay up to date by checking the GMB Help page from time to time. You can find it at https://support.google.com/business. We will be discussing reviews in particular, but rules and best practices that are applicable to numerous aspects of GMB listings can be found on the Google My Business Help page.
Any GMB listing is capable of receiving customer reviews. Although some content is prohibited in Google My Business reviews, honest experience evaluations are generally fair game. If you are a business owner or listing manager and encounter a review that you have misgivings about, there is a mechanism to request its removal.
Spam, fake content, and off-topic reviews are eligible for deletion. If a review contains a link to a landing page, an email address that is not associated with the business, or a promotional offer for a restricted good or service, you will have a strong case with Google if you petition to have the review removed.
Google will also oblige your removal request if a review has any illegal content. Examples of this are copyrighted images, depictions of gratuitous violence, violence promotion, terrorist propaganda, information about human trafficking, illegal products like illicit drugs or endangered animals, and material related to organ harvesting. This is by no measure an exhaustive list of illegal content.
Reviews containing offensive material can also be removed, although Google’s description of how vile something needs to be to qualify is vague. The guidelines simply state: “We will remove content that contain[s] obscene, profane, or offensive language or gestures.”
If a review contains content that is deemed dangerous or derogatory, it can also be ousted. Instances of this are things like threats, harassment, intimidation, and incitement of hatred. Bullying that is being carried out by individuals or groups fits the bill as well.
The overwhelming majority of reviews on Google My Business listings will not contain the content mentioned in the previous few paragraphs, and will thus not be eligible for expunction. Most reviews pertain to the listing where they are posted and contain generally honest accounts of customer experiences.
Google encourages business owners to remind their customers to leave reviews. “Let them know that it’s quick and easy to leave business reviews on their mobile device or computer.” Verified businesses are able to post responses to those reviews.
Replying to reviews is one of Google’s recommended best practices. This is something that builds customer trust. The GMB Help page about reviews states that “your customers will notice that your business values their input.” Customers whose reviews have been responded to are more likely to leave more reviews in the future as well.
Honest and unbiased reviews are considered ideal. Business owners and listing managers are prohibited from incentivizing reviews by offering discounts or promotions to customers in exchange for positive feedback. Leaving a review for a business that you are affiliated with is also a policy violation. So is attempting to manipulate the rankings of a competitor.
If your business has changed its name or location, Google will generally transfer the reviews associated with the old listing. If this does not happen automatically, you should fill out this contact form.
The Local Viking YouTube channel has videos that are relevant to Google My Business reviews:
Review velocity is a term used to describe the rate at which a GMB listing obtains reviews and it is a ranking factor. It can be calculated by sorting a listing’s reviews by date and tallying up the average number of reviews any given listing receives in a typical month.
After calculating the review velocity for your own listing, see how your competitors compare. At a minimum, it is important to at least match the industry average. Striving to outdo them should be your goal though.
This video covers a lot of the material from this post. Google will sometimes remove reviews without being prompted to if there are guideline violations or reviews left from spam accounts.
Spam accounts can be identified by clicking on the profile associated with any given review. The user’s review history will be visible. If, for example, you encounter a user whose profile has 20 reviews for different kitchen remodelers, that is something you should consider a red flag. While there is a remote chance that you’re looking at the most indecisive billionaire on earth, there are overwhelming odds that you’ve uncovered a fake account.
Reviews are considered a ranking signal and business owners and GMB listing managers should make an effort to grow their review counts.
The best way to go about this is to use a reputation management service. Although the industry as a whole is prohibitively expensive, rep.co is a remarkably cost-effective option.
Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional questions about Google My Business reviews. Local Viking subscribers are also encouraged to contact the support team via live chat during business hours. We also urge all readers of this blog post to browse the Local Viking Google My Business Knowledge Base.