Major Google Local Review Improvements! Better Algo = More Reviews

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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14,440
Google has been hard at work over the past few months trying to fix and improve the review piece of the local puzzle. Contrary to the problems you've seen with reviews on the front end, much effort has been going on behind the scenes and I'm excited to be able to share that now things will be much better and you'll start seeing a visible improvement on the review front.

For several months now the review spam filter was wound so tight, that many totally legit reviews could not even see the light of day.

Google has now re-tweaked the review spam filters. This 'should' result in better filtering of spammy reviews while letting more legit reviews through.

Dasha, from Google, just posted the following at the Google and your Business Forum.

PLEASE READ THE TIPS for avoiding review problems. They are now VERY clearly spelled out. (Including the fact review stations are not allowed.)

Reviews Update

We’ve made some recent improvements to our spam detection algorithms that have increased the number of reviews that appear on some local Google+ pages.
We hope this improves your local experience!


Online reviews have been in the news a lot recently, and we at Google are committed to helping people to get ratings, reviews, and recommendations that are relevant, helpful, and trustworthy. To protect both business owners and customers from spam reviews, we have systems in place that may remove individual reviews.

No one likes spam, and we’d like to talk about what you can do to make sure all of the reviews on Google+ Local are useful, honest, and written by real people!

For reviewers:
Make sure you’ve taken a look at our review content guidelines.

Sometimes you may want to review multiple locations of the same business, such as your favorite fast food chain. Just remember to tailor each review to the specific location. Others will want to know what sets that location apart - be it the super friendly drive thru person, or maybe the unexpectedly awesome lake views.

Don’t write reviews for your current employer. We don’t allow reviews from current owners or employees.

Spam bots use URLs to redirect to other sites or potentially spread malware. We won’t show reviews with links, so, don’t put URLs in the text of your reviews

For business owners:
Be wary of an SEO or reputation management service that promises to generate reviews for your business. We’ve seen companies make up fake glowing testimonies -- and we’ll take them down.

We don’t take down negative reviews for simply being negative for anyone, regardless of any other relationships with Google. Instead, we encourage you to utilize the owner response functionality to respond to the review and address the user’s concerns.

If a third party claims that they know how to remove reviews from Google, don’t believe them. Google does not work with any third party reputation management companies and we certainly don’t remove reviews unless they violate our guidelines.

Don’t set up a computer or tablet device in your place of business for customers to leave reviews on site. Consider printing out a QR code or sending a reminder e-mail so customers can review on their own time.

Remember, we don’t allow you to give customers free gifts or discounts for leaving reviews.

For SEOs:
If a business accepts paper comment cards it might be tempting to collect them and “digitize” them by posting the reviews on Google+ Local. We ask that all reviews come from first hand experience and do not allow posting reviews on behalf of others.

For everyone:
If you see a review that violates our policy guidelines, you can report the review to us by clicking on the gray flag icon next to the review in question. You’ll be taken to a form where you can tell us why you’re flagging that review. Please note that we won’t follow up with you individually, but we do review every piece of content that is flagged.
The "improvements" part of the post, that I bolded, was VERY under-stated. They have done a lot of work and put a ton of effort into testing & tweaking this new algo, so I believe we'll see a marked improvement.

THANKS GOOGLE and special thanks to Dasha who has been working so hard on this front
for the benefit of all - business owners AND consumers who deserve to see the legit reviews!


Isn't the clarity refreshing?

What do you guys think?
 
Joined
Aug 9, 2012
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Great news! I find this part particularly interesting:
"Consider printing out a QR code or sending a reminder e-mail so customers can review on their own time."

Surprised their encouraging emailing to solicit reviews. I figured they'd frown upon that.
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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14,440
Hey Darren,

I don't think they mind at all if you ASK for reviews or suggest clients review you. I think they WANT more reviews.

They just don't want there to be pressure (like there could be if they reviewed on-site w/ a review station) OR any incentive tied to the request.

But I believe it's fine to say "We'd love to have you share feedback about your experience with our service".
 

JoyHawkins

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Jul 18, 2012
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I am out skiing this week so I haven't looked too deeply but I just checked a few businesses who lost a ton and I don't see any count change :(
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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Joy, have fun skiing!!! :)

I have not checked yet, but I'm not sure how many previously filtered reviews will actually be restored.
The announcement from Google above did not come right out and say that. I think the important issue is that more NEW legit reviews going forward will get through and not be blocked to begin with.
 

Dave

Member
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Nov 19, 2012
Messages
255
Nice clarity on the message. Hope it all works.

Couple of quick comments re reviews:

Below I posted something I noticed yesterday: I was signed into google looking for restaurants in my area, and as I reviewed both the 7 pac and then the first 10 results in google Places...it was so strange--EVERY RECORD said I had given them an EXCELLENT REVIEW.

Ha ha. I hadn't. I had reviewed 2 of them and hadn't referenced any others. There was a glitch showing (or maybe something done on purpose by Google ( who knows).

here is the gist of my message on google + from this morning:

Is Google Over Showing//Over Emphasizing MY plus/excellent reviews??? You WOULD KNOW.

If we are mutually following one another it would be an interesting test. When I search for Arlington (that is Virginia not Texas)) restaurants or some subsets such as Arlington Courthouse Restaurants or Arlington Clarendon Restaurants....I see that I've reviewed A LOT of restaurants on that list...and said they WERE ALL EXCELLENT.

Well I haven't reviewed all the restaurants in a 7 Pac or in the top 10 in Google Maps. Far from it. I've only reviewed 2.

When signed in I see that "I've Reviewed A LOT of restaurants and reviewed them all as excellent".

NOT SO. What are you seeing if you do that search. Do you see a lot of restaurants with a big google+ from me??

Just curious.
I wonder if anyone else is seeing that.

Back to the message from Google. Seems clear. Hope it works. With regard to one reference point in the message, we have a couple of smb's with hundreds or thousands of written reviews. We have not digitized them and posted them on behalf of customers. We've seen it all over the web done by other smb's.

I'd like to see google enforce that.

Nice announcement.
 

Phil Rozek

Local Search Expert
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Jul 26, 2012
Messages
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As Dave says, I guess we'll see what happens. But dare I say this is great news. I haven't had too many clients get their old reviews thrown out, but rather have new ones never see the light of day.

On the flipside...

Is it just me, or has Google still not clarified its distinction between "asking" for reviews and "soliciting" them? I'm with Darren. This is still murkier than the ingredients label on a bottle of Cheez Whiz.

Also, I can't help but think Google is aping Yelp on the "real people" language: see end of paragraph 3 in the announcement :)
 

steven

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Jan 31, 2013
Messages
81
I'd like to know more about the QR code pointing to G+ local reviews. I can't seem to make it work. I can get to a posts page of the reviews, but it doesn't look like I can actually create a review...
 

lvpc

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Feb 1, 2013
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3
Google Review Finally Showing

After months of complaints by business owners, Google has finally revamped their filtering system. Great news by business owners due to positive reviews no longer being aggressively filtered, leaving only negative reviews.

30+ Page Thread with over 750 replies that sparked extreme dismay,
Google Groups

Google's update long awaited update,
Google Groups
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Linda Buquet

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Thanks so much for sharing lvpc.

I'd already made a big announcement here in the REVIEW section of the forum, so moved your post here to keep the convo all in one place.

Great news, eh?
 

lvpc

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Feb 1, 2013
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3
Doh, missed this thread. Thanks :)

Very good news. We had several customers tell us they left us a review, but never saw them! Even better news for the companies who only had bad reviews showing up!

Good to see customers' time not being wasted.
 
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Phil Rozek

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Jul 26, 2012
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I can now say from first-hand experience that Google HAS resurrected reviews that had been filtered.

As I commented on Mike's blog, I saw 5 of them return overnight for one client.

Now, Google, I have this glass of water...any chance we could make it a wine?
 

Linda Buquet

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Yep I'm seeing lots of reports of reviews being restored and showing up.
So that's AWESOME!
 

Colan Nielsen

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I can also report a client who has had reviews come back from the netherworld. In this particular case, the client had lost all his reviews except for a stinky negative review. He was pretty upset. Now the reviews that have come back have pushed the negative review back down :D
 
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You know what's interesting in this update is that some of the bathwater is coming back with the baby. There's a reputation management company that utilizes a "demand force" -esque review engine, and then propagates it across lots of different sites (including Google). Somehow these reviews are making it live. As an example, Linda, check out this search for a reviewed phrase and look how many sites the same review shows up on.

Glad the reviews are back, just hope Google turns the screw on the rep management companies that work outside of the guidelines.
 

Phil Rozek

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Great find, Carleton. I?m not sure that Google has changed its policies on duplicate reviews / re-posting. I think its enforcement of the rules is still Swiss cheese, but my understanding is that Google mostly has eased up on first-time reviewers ? as in not filtering the review of anyone who hasn?t already written a bunch of reviews. But I could be wrong, and maybe Google has even eased up on copy-and-pasters (AKA most ?reputation management? companies).
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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You know what's interesting in this update is that some of the bathwater is coming back with the baby.
Carleton, did you say some of the 'dirty' old bathwater?

Good catch and yep I see that review even though it's duplicated all over still made it through the filter to the G+ L page.

BUT that review was placed 3 months ago on the G+L page, so hopefully this new improved version of the algo would catch it if a new one were placed today? :confused:

FYI I know these guys are playing heavily right in your market so if you want to research some more of their Dental reviews here's a URL string that will get you to a bunch of them.
 
Joined
Jul 20, 2012
Messages
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Hey Linda et al!

Yeah, it's that company. The basic premise is that the software they've built allows people to review in the office, and then propagate them all over the place. Clever for sure, but it makes it particularly easy to "pay for reviews" as it occurs through a third party. I'd think that Google would inherently quell such. Until the recent algo change, the software didn't work. Now, voila . . .

So here are two search strings here and here that will show you reviews left in the last two weeks that are making it past the filter.
 

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