An Overview of Google Maps Reviews

Ah Overview of Google Maps Reviews

Google Maps has become an integral part of life and one of the most important tools from the tech giant. Where would we be without the omnipresent GPS data that guides us wherever we go?  Not only does Google Maps offer unparalleled convenience since we no longer have to carry Maps or to ask people for directions, but it’s also an important and powerful marketing tool. It allows businesses/places to be easily found both online and offline, it allows businesses/places to reach targeted, local customers, it is good for SEO, and it is free of charge.

To make Google Maps work for you, you need to do more than create an account. Google My Business listing optimization is the greatest factor that affects ranking in SERPs (search engine results pages), but equally important is Google Maps review optimization. Below are tips to help you achieve success with Google Maps reviews.

How to write useful Google Maps Reviews in 2020

When encouraging your customers to write reviews, ensure they are writing genuine and useful reviews.

  • The reviews should only provide information that is relevant to the place/business being reviewed. Encourage reviewers to only include such details as date and time visited, product purchased/order placed, service received, and their overall experience.
  • Reviewers should not get overly personal no matter how much they like your service/product. Reviews should be unbiased and there should be no mention of individuals’ names. You should not shy away from negative reviews since these are expected and people will actually be skeptical if all reviews are singing your praises.
  • The reviews should be credible and coherent. Proper grammar and punctuation should be used.
  • The review will only be useful if it abides by the Local Guides content policy.

How to Leave a Google Maps Review on Mobile

Leaving a review on a desktop computer is pretty straightforward. You simply have to sign into Google, open Google Maps, search for the business/place you want to review, and then scroll down to write the review and to rate the business/place. More and more people are leaving Google Maps reviews on mobile devices. The Google Maps App is available on Apple and Android devices and it works almost the same way on both. You need to be logged into your Google account via the app on your mobile device for this. To leave a review on a mobile device:

  • Look at the ‘hotdog icon’ (the 3 parallel lines located on the lower left-hand side) and click on them to open the admin section.
  • Click on “settings”
  • Once on the login screen, enter your Google ID and password
  • Use the search feature to locate the business you want to review
  • Once on the listing, just scroll down and you will find the option to leave a review
  • Leave your review and save. Note there is an “edit your review” option that you can use at any time.

How to Ask Customers to Leave Google Maps Reviews

Most businesses ask customers to leave Google Maps reviews, so this is nothing to be ashamed of. So, how do you do this?

  1. You could send a review URL to your customers via email and ask them to click on the URL to leave a review. To do this:
    • Use Google search to search for your company by name
    • Click on the “Write a review” button to get the Google review box
    • Copy the URL from the address bar – this will be a long URL
    • Shorten the URL to make it more presentable/user-friendly using a URL shortening service such as Google’s URL shortener https://goo.gl/.
    • Past the long URL into the shortener’s text box and click on “shorten URL” for a shorter URL that will look like https://goo.gl/krPtpk
  2. You can ask visitors who come to your premises to leave reviews by word-of-mouth. Let them know it is easy and quick to do so. You should, however, ask them to do so once they leave the premises if you have public Wi-Fi because Google algorithms delete reviews that come from the same IP address.

How to ensure your Reviews are not Deleted

Google removes reviews that do not follow Google’s review policies. When asking clients for reviews, ensure they understand what is acceptable to Google and the public and what is not. Examples of such reviews are:

  • Reviews that directly advertise something else, including phone numbers and links to other websites
  • Spam and fake content such as the same bad review from the same office building
  • Commercial/promotional content
  • Reviews that have been posting multiple times or in other forums
  • Reviews that are off-topic and those that are not in first person (you should only review your own experience)
  • Profane, obscene, or otherwise offensive language and personal attacks on others
  • Conflict of interest (accepting money to write a positive review or reviewing your direct competitor)
  • Hate speech (reviews advocating against people based on disability, race, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identify, or veteran status)

How to Respond to Google Maps Reviews

It is a good practice to respond to reviews as it helps build trust and create a personal connection. When responding to reviews:

  • Do not get personal since it is difficult to win an argument with a frustrated customer. Getting personal also means you will be burning bridges. Your responses should be useful, courteous, and readable and they should be in compliance with Google’s local content policy.
  • Keep the responses short and sweet – readers can be overwhelmed by overly long responses.
  • Always remember to thank your reviewers, even those who leave negative reviews. Note you do not need to thank every reviewer – look for reviews that can reach multiple customers at a time.
  • Do not take review responses as an opportunity to be a salesman – this is a time to be a friend and not for advertisements and incentives. You could, however, share something new about your business.
  • Even when accepting negative reviews with an open heart, you have the right to flag reviews that you feel are inappropriate.

Tips for Responding to Negative Google Maps Reviews

The way you respond to negative reviews could make or break you since readers pay more attention to- and make purchasing decisions based on negative reviews than they do positive ones. You can turn negative feedback into positive engagement by:

  • Do not take the negative feedback as a personal attack and do not be defensive. Accept the negative feedback with gratitude and openness.
  • Do not spend a lot of time trying to prove the reviewer wrong as this leaves you close-minded to any useful information that you could get from the engagement.
  • Ask questions so you do not appear to be defensive
  • Ask for time to make any corrective steps that may be necessary. Resolve issues quickly and update the reviewer once done.
  • Apologize if you were in the wrong, but do not over-apologize.

How to move Google Maps Reviews across Listings

It is sometimes necessary to move across listings depending on your situation. If the change to the business is such that reviews will not help, then you can remove them. You can transfer the reviews from the old listing to the new one under below circumstances:

  • Change of physical address: If you have only changed the physical location of the business, but everything else remains the same, Google will generally move your old reviews to the new location. However, this is not possible for businesses that are heavily tied to their locations such as scenic attractions, golf courses, and hotels.
  • Change of ownership: If the management has changed with no change in name, Google will not remove the reviews. You can use responses to inform customers of the change in management and to make any other clarification you feel is necessary.
  • Rebrand: Reviews will be removed in the case of well known, distinct brand names.
  • Change in name due to change in underlying services: Such reviews will be removed.
  • Disassociation of partnerships and business affiliations: All reviews will be removed, not just those about the particular practitioner who has left.
  • Name change with no change in the core business: If there is a name change but the core business does not change, Google will not remove the reviews.

Has Google Deleted my Reviews?

There are three possible reasons why your reviews would be deleted by Google. It is important that you ascertain the reason for the disappearance as this will ensure you do not lose even more reviews.

  1. If you cannot find Google reviews, more often than not it is because they have been marked as spam by Google’s algorithm. The algorithm sometimes gets things wrong, so this is not to say that all deleted reviews are spammy.
  2. Another possible reason, albeit less likely, is that there might be a problem with your Google My Business listing or your website might have a problem which causes Google to flag your entire business as being potentially malicious and consequently deleting reviews.
  3. Finally, the deletion could be as a result of Google making a technical error or experiencing glitches.

So, why would Google’s algorithm flag a valid review as spam by mistake?

1) Most reviews are deleted due to IP address issues. As an example, if someone leaves a review and shares the same IP address with someone else who also leaves a review, the algorithm could filter the review. Note this is very common, such as when a wife leaves a review and a husband does the same too, or in an office setting through the company’s intranet.

2) If you have public Wi-Fi at your business premises and your customers connect while you have logged into your Google My Business account through the Wi-Fi, this will leave a trail that could lead to filtering. In this scenario, encourage customers to leave reviews once they’ve disconnected from the Wi-Fi.

3) Reviews that contain URLs are not allowed in Google reviews and usually lead to immediate filtering, even when coming from trusted reviewers. Most customers do not know this and you should take it upon yourself to sensitize them.

4) If a review contains a word that Google does not like, such a racial slur, offensive language, personal attacks or profanity, it will be immediately filtered. Note on editing such a review to remove the bad word, the review will immediately become visible to the public.

5) It is against Google’s guidelines to get reviews and ratings from your employees. This is hard to determine, but one way Google can determine if a review is from an employee is by checking if the IP address used is the same one used to log into Google My Business.

6) Another trigger for possible spam is a phone number in the review. Again, ask customers not to leave their phone numbers and offer alternative ways for them to contact you.

7) Having tons of Google My Business reviews and having none on Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, and other places customers would normally leave reviews could cause deletion. Google knows such reviews are not natural and spontaneous and they are either spam or you have over-coached your customers. To counter this, ask customers to leave reviews on your different platforms.

8) Google does not allow for duplicate reviews. Even when reviewers are leaving reviews on your “testimonials” page, directories and your social media pages, ask them to ensure the reviews are not copy-and-paste. Google algorithm picks on copy-and-paste reviews and removes them, as do social media sites and directories.

9) Google sees reviews by managers of businesses’ Google accounts to be a conflict of interest. Even if the person is a service provider who uses your service, Google will not accept such reviews. Reviews should only be left by customers who have no vested interest. You should only engage service providers to do Google My Business review optimization.

10) Google does not accept reviews from locations that are too far away from the location of your business. Google expects, as an example, if you are a roofing contractor in New York, you will not be getting reviews from people in Kenya. If you run an online marketplace, which is very common nowadays, visit the “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location” section on your Google My Business account and ensure you specify the countries and/or states where you ship your products. This prevents Google from flagging reviews from far away locations.

11) If a review is posted and rejected by Google and subsequent attempts are made to post the same review, the review will be flagged and deleted each subsequent time. After the first rejection, advise clients to ascertain the cause for the flagging and make necessary corrections before attempting to make another review.

12) Google expects that you will receive reviews naturally. If you get a rapid influx of many reviews over a short period, the filtering algorithm will be filtered. When asking for reviews from customers, ask for a fraction of reviews at a time.

13) Although this has not been proven, it is likely that Google records the referring URL. If you send requests for reviews from a “Leave us a Review” page, Google will see the referring URL is not spontaneous enough and will penalize for it. A better strategy would be to email clients your Google review link, this way the referring URL will be the computer hosting your customers’ emails.

14) If you have multiple business locations, all with different Google My Business pages, over-enthusiastic clients may visit the different pages and leave the same review. This is duplication according to Google and the duplicates, sometimes all reviews, will be removed.

15) You should be realistic with the number of reviews you have. If, as an example, you run a small business in a rural town of 1,000, and you have 5,000 reviews, you should not be shocked if Google removes most of them. This is particularly so if neighboring businesses of similar sizes have way fewer reviews.

16) If the reviewer’s Google account is completely blank, this warns Google for possible spamming. A normal Google account will have a name, a photo, and other information. Google is also on the lookout for other suspicious account behavior such as possible hacking, abusive messaging or content elsewhere on Google, and engagement in other content that is in violation of Google’s terms of service.

17) If a reviewer deletes his/her Google account, associated reviews are also deleted. This is actually one of the most common causes of missing reviews.

18) If you stay inactive on your Google My Business for a continuous 6 months, your business will be unverified. Reviews are not posted on unverified Google My Business pages. A simple way of staying active is installing the Android or iPhone Google My Business app and regularly logging in to reply to reviews and to thank reviewers.

19) Reviews that look too perfect will attract Google filtering. In a large sample population, you do not expect reviews from accounts that all have profile images, that use perfect capitalization and grammar, and that mention your business by name. This is a sign of over-coaching or the use of a pre-made template for them to use in the reviews.

20) Google only allows customers to write about their specific experiences and not to retell the experience of a relative, friend, or a story they have heard or read somewhere. For this reason, only reviews in first-person (I, we) are allowed.

21) You cannot offer discounts, free products, coupons or other incentives for reviews. If Google discovers you are offering incentives to customers to leave reviews, not only do you stand to lose the solicited reviews, but all reviews.

22) It is not uncommon to have multiple businesses operating from the same business address. As an example, your law firm location could be leasing space to other businesses. Unfortunately, Google will see this as a red flag, especially if the businesses are in related industries. In such a case, consider having different suite numbers for the different businesses as a way of separating them.

23) Someone can flag your review by clicking on the little gray flag icon if they believe it is inappropriate, misleading, or fraudulent. This type of flagging is, however, usually done by mistake when visitors are going through reviews and by disgruntled ex-employees. If you feel you do not deserve the flagging, the review team at Google will determine if the flag is justified and take appropriate action.

24) Although Google is not out here to be the grammar police, it will not accept reviews that verge on incomprehensible.

25) Reviews that include personal information such as the name of an individual involved in a sensitive or confidential matter are not allowed. This is particularly so for law firm reviews where client-lawyer privilege is sacred.

Google Maps Bug and Google Glitches

There is a likelihood that your Google My Business reviews are not missing, but you may be facing a Google Maps bug. This bug affects businesses on and off and has been around for over a decade now. To determine if this is the cause of the missing reviews and to sort the issue:

  • Visit http://business.google.com and log into your account
  • Select the business location that has an issue,
  • Click on “Manage Location” then “Edit”
  • Click on “Google Maps” on the “Published On” section and then “Suggest an edit.”
  • Get the map marker and wiggle it around a little bit and then click “Submit.”

The wriggling forces Google to clear the cache and to update your location. Google technical glitches and human error are less common, but they are possible. These can only be sorted out from Google’s side.

Problem with your Google My Business Listing or Website

Your Google reviews could disappear because your Google My Business account or website is not sending the right signals. As an example, if Google suspects hacking or malware, it will not actively direct them to your business as this may put them in danger.

Can I Regain my Deleted/Missing Google Reviews?

The simple answer is; No. You may write to Google, but you should not have your hopes up. Your best bet is to go through the list above to ascertain why the review might have been deleted and to then take corrective action where applicable.

The only time you can get your reviews back is if there was a technical glitch on Google’s end and this is rectified.

Hire a pro for Google Maps review optimization

There is a lot to be done if your reviews are to have the desired effect. Hiring a digital marketing agency ensures your reviews are optimized for maximum benefits. Keeping track of Google Maps reviews can be time and energy consuming – hiring a pro ensures you can concentrate on running your business. As a digital marketing agency, we also offer a similar service with reviews in other forums and with comments in forums like Facebook and blogs. We are also offering comprehensive digital marketing solutions for optimum online visibility.

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