Many industries are propelled, if not digitally driven, by user comments and reviews. Insurance, Legal, and perhaps most notably, the Automotive industry, have always urged customers to leave reviews
(ideally positive) of their customer service, competency and propensity to recommend their service to a friend. A recent Google algorithm adjustment has thrown a wrench in this system.
This past July, Google removed third-party review snippets from its omnipotent search engine. This included Yelp, DealerRater, Yahoo, Edmunds, AngiesList, and the like. Looking back, without Google+ Local in place, it would have been difficult to predict Google’s ultimate plan to centralize its many services.
Simply put, Google has devised an algorithm to remove/moderate user reviews. Without getting technical, the algorithm sweeps thousands of reviews at a time and removes those suspect of a “spammy” nature. This is the single reason for the majority of the reviews that were previously on your profile, and are no longer there.
Specific instances when the algorithm might target your reviews include:
- Duplicates are a big no-no with Google. The rule is one review per business, per person. Duplication here automatically flags the account. “Copy and pasting” is not allowed, either. So resist the temptation to propagate that glowing review of your brand across multiple profiles.
- URLs in the review are automatically flagged as spam. This is unfortunate, as it can be a very grey area. Many users may want to denote the exact service they received with a URL, but this still, under the new algorithm, will be flagged.
- As it is set up right now, a user that posts a lone review, then goes dormant, may be flagged. This has not been substantiated by Google, but “experts” across the web that I’ve come to trust are inferring that Google, like Yelp, may question the validity of the “one-review-quitter.” (Easy to see how this all has become very controversial.)
A few thoughts on how to deal with this issue while Google refines the algorithm:
- Know that everyone is in the same boat. If it offers any consolation, know that the algorithm is nondiscriminatory… which is actually part of its problem. It doesn’t read grey situations well; it rules with a broad stick, so be assured your competition is dealing with the same issue.
- An on-site terminal is NOT a good idea. Too many accounts launched/created from the same IP address could be very easy to spot. An IP address, alone, is not usually an indicator of spam, as many places offer public computers for public use, but amongst other variables, you could be creating a perfect storm for a problem.
- Google may have “misplaced” your review. When transferring reviews/photos/data, it’s possible for an error to occur at this point, though it is rare. User-error is a most likely the cause if the admin accidentally marked “private” by mistake. This is one example where the user would have the power to correct some issues the account might be having.
- Urge customers to submit “testimonials”. These can be received via a digital form-feed system, dedicated email address, or even the old-fashion drop box. Testimonials are distinct and separate from reviews in one important way: they never lived on a Google-owned site. Testimonials live independently on your site, just make sure to NOT copy any “reviews” from your Google+ Local page.
Above all, stay calm. Google is infamous for rushing releases, partly because testing these algorithms are near impossible at the scale to which they operate when live. Google has assured us that refinement is coming. It’s important to note, too, that this moderation of comments/reviews will also block overtly disgruntled customers. Again, no one is being singled out here.
Tier10lab will continue to follow and report developments. This link, http://bit.ly/NLy9QY, will take you to a forum where you can submit complaints for lost/missing reviews. It is moderated by Mike Blumenthal, an expert in this field and one that communicates directly with Google on this specific issue. All other questions and comments are welcome here on the Lab.