Have you had problems with disappearing reviews? You’re not alone.
Sometimes this happens because Google has a very aggressive spam filter when it comes to reviews. However, there are things that you can do to keep your reviews as “Google friendly” as possible.
1. Avoid Reputation Management Companies
Ironically, “reputation management companies” have a bad reputation. They’ve been caught posting lots and lots of false reviews on behalf of their clients.
Some of the more ethical ones try to solicit telephone reviews, which they then translate into online reviews. Those testimonials do come from real customers, but as far as Google’s concerned they’re not valid.
Why? Because they all come from the exact same IP address.
And these days, you have to create a Google profile to post a review. If a reputation management company is posting reviews from multiple profiles none of those profiles represent real people. That’s not something that Google wants to see.
2. Comment Cards are Not Google Reviews
Some companies try to enter comment cards into their reviews. They figure that this is legitimate because, again, these comments came from real customers.
And, again, Google doesn’t care. They all came from the same IP source (your office computer) so Google is going to assume that they are fake reviews posted by you and your employees. They have no way to know or to verify that the reviews came from paper comment cards submitted to your office.
Google’s terms of service also strictly forbid posting reviews “on behalf of a third party.”
3. Don’t Use Your Own Computer or Tablet
Old, outdated review advice used to tell people to keep a “review computer” on site or to hand customers a tablet, asking them to compose a review right on the spot. This is a bad practice.
Even if Google doesn’t catch you doing this one it’s just poor customer service. It’s hard for customers to give you an honest review when you are essentially standing over them, staring at them expectantly.
Google+ Local is already slightly biased against service area providers. Don’t give them a reason to be even more biased.
And if you browse the web on your tablet you collect cookies just like you do on a normal computer. That means it wouldn’t be that hard for Google to figure out that the reviews are all coming from the same computer, even if they aren’t coming from the same IP.
4. Contact the Customer Quickly
You should ask for reviews when the experience of doing business with you is still fresh in the customer’s mind. You can do this with a simple e-mail that asks for customer feedback and sends a link to several different review sites.
5. Keep Your Efforts Consistent Over Time
Google is really suspicious of big, sudden batches of reviews that appear all at once. So if you’re sending out that review e-mail make sure you’re doing it with each customer and after every interaction. You’ll always send out a certain number of them each month, and a certain percentage of customers will always respond.
If you do it this way you might get 4 reviews in January, 2 reviews in February, 3 reviews in March, and so on. If you suddenly have a slow day at the office and decide to email everyone on your customer list then you might get 10 reviews that month when you’ve gotten zero reviews every other month. Google will wonder why that’s happening and may assume that they are looking at review spam.
6. Respond to Reviews
Thank people for giving you good reviews. And respond to the bad ones.
Not all of your bad reviews are fake reviews that come from competitors or disgruntled employees. So responding to genuine bad reviews does two things.
First, it gives you a chance to save that business and sets you up as a business owner who actually cares about customers. Second, if you do come across a faked review from a competitor Google might be more willing to look at it. They’ve seen that you don’t panic and ask them to remove every little bad review.
It helps to use a program that monitors your reputation. That way you can catch the reviews right away. It’s also not a bad idea to copy the reviews and paste them into your own file as soon as you see them. Google has admitted to just downright losing reviews, and sometimes you can’t find them again no matter what technique you use. If you already have copies of them on hand, you can still use them. (See #10).
7. Give Customers Choices
Some customers won’t want to use Google reviews. Google kind of makes it a pain by insisting that everyone create a profile.
They might want to use Yelp. Or even Facebook. All reviews help you no matter where they are, so when you send out your e-mail make sure that you include a link to several different options.
8. Don’t Give Out Review Prizes
Google does not want you to give out “prizes” for reviews. So no $5 Starbucks gift cards, no discounts, no contest entries.
Instead, stress the fact that a customer’s feedback helps you improve your business. It helps you provide better service to all of your customers. And you care about what they think. Many customers are happy to offer reviews on the basis of these things alone.
9. Make Sure You Don’t Have Duplicate Business Listings
Sometimes your reviews “disappear” because they went to a duplicate business listing. Make absolutely sure that there is one listing, and only one listing, for your business.
If this happens you might be able to get Google to merge the listings for you. Or you might just have to delete the incorrect listing in favor of the newer, correct listing.
10. Make The Most of Disappearing Reviews
Disappearing reviews aren’t deleted. They’re just hidden.
So you have a couple of options. You could appeal Google’s decision. Or you can just post the review as a testimonial on your own website, which you control.
First you have to find them. To do that, review this thread on Linda Buquet’s Catalyst Local e-Marketing forum. However, this trick doesn’t always produce the missing reviews, so it’s best to keep copies of them as soon as you see them.
11. Educate Customers About Reviews
Sometimes customers actually do things that trigger Google’s review filters.
For example, you need to let customers know that they should not post the same word-for-word review on two different websites. Google doesn’t like duplicate reviews any more than it likes duplicate content.
Second, tell them that Google sometimes filters reviews. If this happens to their review it does not help for them to attempt to post the review again and again. Ask them to just be patient, or to post a differently-worded review on another site if they experience this problem.
You can do this when you send out the e-mail requesting the review in the first place.
12. Do What You Can, Then Stop Sweating
Taking these steps does not mean that you will never have a disappearing review ever again. It just means that you’ll experience the problem less.
But don’t sweat it.
For one thing, sometimes reviews come back. Google messes with its algorithm all the time. And sometimes that actually works in your favor.
For another, if you’re following these practices you should get enough reviews that the loss of one or two reviews won’t be the end of the world. So do what you can, stop sweating, and get on with doing what you do best: making your customer’s homes look great.