What local businesses need to know about Google’s review guidelines
Most local businesses are affected by Google searches. Google is the most popular search engine, so understanding and following Google’s review guidelines is essential to boost your business profile.
What are Google’s review guidelines?
Google’s review guidelines are a set of instructions businesses must follow to have their reviews appear on Google. Google’s review guidelines constantly evolve, and business owners must stay updated on changes.
Observing the guidelines ensures the integrity of Google reviews and star ratings for other users. Following the guidelines helps business owners avoid having their customer reviews removed or penalized by Google.
Free Guide: How To Optimize Your Google Business Profile
Review gating policy
As the name suggests, review gating is the practice of setting up a review “gate,” which only allows positive reviews. For example, a business might only prompt happy customers who report having a positive experience to write a review.
Through review gating, businesses attempt to limit the number of negative reviews and increase positive reviews. Google explicitly prohibits review gating of any form.
Prohibited or restricted content
The following content is not allowed in Google local business reviews:
- Personal attacks, insults or profanity: Google does not tolerate this type of review. For example, a review that attacks a business owner based on their race or gender will not be allowed.
- Spam: Reviews must be genuine and cannot be promotional. Businesses can ask customers to write a review, but cannot incentivize only positive reviews or post fake reviews.
- Off-topic content: Customer reviews should be focused on the business being reviewed. Reviewers should not use the review section for personal rants about unrelated topics, such as their views on a social issue.
- Fake or duplicate content: Google does not allow businesses to post fake or duplicate reviews copied from other sources.
- Illegal content: Reviews must comply with Google’s Terms of Service and Content Policy. This means businesses cannot post reviews containing unlawful content, such as information about pirating software or copyrighted material.
- Sexually explicit remarks: Sexually explicit remarks are prohibited to ensure a safe space for communication between customers and business owners.
- Comments left by those with a conflict of interest: People with a potential conflict of interest include current or former employees, friends, family or people leaving reviews for their own business.
You cannot remove a Google review simply because you do not like it. However, you can flag inappropriate content, and Google will evaluate your request.
What happens if you violate a Google review guideline?
Google strives to maintain the integrity of its review platform, so it can be a trustworthy source for all users of its search engine. If you violate Google’s review guidelines, the following actions may be taken:
- Removal of Google local business reviews from your business page: This might result in the removal of all reviews, not only the non-compliant reviews.
- Banning your Google business profile page: This means that your business listing will no longer be visible on Google search or Google Maps. Additionally, you will not be able to create a new page with the same business name in the future.
- Banning of Google services: This is usually done after repeated violations of terms of service. Your account might be banned from all Google services, such as Google Chrome, YouTube, Google Plus, Google Pay, Gmail, AdSense and PlayStore.
Who is allowed to write Google local business reviews?
Per Google’s policy, only real customers can write a review. The following ways of getting customer reviews are prohibited:
- Asking an employee or friend to write a review on your behalf
- Paying someone to write a positive review for you
- Offering incentives (e.g., discounts, free meals) in exchange for positive reviews
- Buying reviews from a company
- Setting up a bot for leaving reviews
- Exchanging reviews with other business owners
Why Google local business reviews are important
While any positive online review on a review site is valuable, very little beats a positive Google local business review. Google is the largest search engine, with billions of daily searches. A customer leaving a positive Google review can significantly affect your business.
Do Google local business reviews help SEO?
Google reviews are one of the many factors that Google considers when ranking websites, particularly for local search. Businesses that use Google local business reviews improve the chances of potential customers seeing their business before a competing company.
Here are some of the key reasons Google reviews are valuable:
- Increased reach: Google local business reviews are prominently displayed in search results and help your small business reach a larger audience.
- Higher conversion rates: Research shows that customers are more likely to contact a business with a good rating and positive reviews on Google. Companies with product reviews have 3.5 times higher conversion rates than pages without reviews.
- More sales: A study by BrightLocal found that eight out of ten customers are influenced by customer reviews when deciding whether to purchase a product or service. Positive customer reviews can boost sales for your small business.
- Increased brand trust: Online reviews are a reliable source of information for customers. When they see many positive reviews on Google local business review sites, it builds trust and credibility.
What can local businesses do to encourage customers to leave Google reviews?
There are a few things that businesses can do to get Google reviews:
- Make it easy for customers to find your business on Google: Add your business to Google Maps and ensure all your information is up-to-date. You can also create a Google review link and embed it on your website. Your goal should be to make the process of writing a review as straightforward as possible.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews: You can do this by sending follow-up emails. The best time to do this is right after the customer has made a purchase and the experience is fresh in their mind.
Should you respond to reviews on Google?
- Respond to all reviews: This shows that you value your customer’s opinions. It’s also essential to address negative business reviews and show customers you stand by your work. Through this, you can improve the customer experience and boost your business profile in the future.
- Give customers an incentive: You can offer customers a small discount or freebie for leaving a review. Just make sure you don’t violate Google’s guidelines. For example, don’t offer an incentive only for a positive review.
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Grappling with Google’s review policy can be challenging for your business. The guidelines are constantly changing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to avoid costly mistakes.
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