How Google Business Profile Reviews are Collected and Filtered for Spam
Have any of your customers submitted reviews on Google but you can't see them? There's a possibility that Google filtered out those reviews from your profile, believing those reviews were spam. The giant search engine has in the recent past been making their filter policy much stricter.
Google policies require business profile reviews to be based on genuine experiences with the company being reviewed. When Google detects a review that it deems as irrelevant or containing a conflict of interest, it will filter the review off your business profile. Of course, Google employees cannot feasibly moderate the astonishing number of reviews posted every day, and, as a result, they utilize automated systems to handle the process.
Table of Contents
- How Does Google Use Automated Spam Detection?
- What Makes a Review on a Google Business Profile Classified as Authentic vs. Spam?
- How to Boost Your Google Business Profile’s Authenticity
How Does Google Use Automated Spam Detection?
Google bots scan all the contents of a review to ascertain whether it or not it contains offensive or irrelevant content. If the account posting the review has a history of submitting fraudulent reviews, their review about your business likely won't make it to your profile.
However, on occasion, Google’s spam filter may erroneously detect spam, causing some genuine reviews to get removed also. Even after a review is live, Google constantly scrutinizes the pattern of reviews on your business profile to rule out any suspicious patterns.
Learn more about how Google Business Profile Reviews works in the video below:
What Makes a Review on a Google Business Profile Classified as Authentic vs. Spam?
Authentic reviews do not contain deceptive content, fake engagement, mature content, spam, profanity, harassment or hate speech, confidential information, or conflicts of interest. While most of the above requirements are straightforward, “conflict of interest” tends to be a bit more confusing. To make this clearer, examples of “conflicts of interest” based on our experience include the following:
- Reviews left by the business owner or employees
- Reviews left by individuals who are incentivized (either monetary compensation or other incentive) for the review. This directly violates Google’s policies on review collection.
- Reviews by friends or family that did not use the service or product
Ultimately, the reviews must be genuine and on-topic since the goal of Google’s policies is to ensure that all reviews are genuine and reliable for all. You can read Google’s full Prohibited and Restricted Content Policy online which pertains to reviews and use of other Google tools.
How Does Google Figure Out Which Content is Spam?
The short answer is that it depends. Google’s spam detection system is quite robust, and it is, thankfully, getting better every year. That said, in our experience, their review system does automatic checks on various aspects based on:
- The content of the review itself
- The reviewer’s credibility and history
- The method in which the review was provided.
While we do not want to give away all that we have learned for the sake of not helping spammers thwart the system further, we have included an example of each type below:
- Content of a Review – A straightforward example is if the review content contained a link or a phone number which leads to automatic removal. If the content is suspected to not be relevant to the services you provide, it can be removed.
- Reviewer’s Credibility – For example, if the reviewer has gone on a rampage and is leaving numerous hateful reviews on a bunch of businesses with which they have never had legitimate dealings, that account can be flagged, and its reviews removed.
- Method of Review – If Google suspects that the method of collecting reviews is against their policies, they will remove the review. For example, if all reviews come from a single IP address (even if it is your business’ legitimate location), Google may suspect that these are being maliciously created or that your incentivizing reviewers to leave a review while they are at your office.
How Do I Know If My Company’s Reviews are Flagged as Spam or Hidden?
First, was the review legitimate? If not, move on and choose to adopt legitimate review collection practices that abide by Google’s policies.
Even if your review was legitimate, unfortunately, Google does not send you a notification if a review is filtered out during publishing or removed at a later time. However, if a customer notifies you that they left a review, but you cannot see it online, do not assume the customer did something wrong. Wait a few days to see if the review appears.
If the review still does not appear after the wait period, it may have been filtered out by Google’s review spam detection system.
What Can I Do if Legitimate Reviews are Being Marked as Spam?
You can reach out to Google Business Profile support, but they will often state that review removals are final and that nothing can be done at this point. While that is the default canned response, we have found this to be slightly less than true.
Interestingly, even if the review is filtered out, the reviewer can usually see the review on your listing via the account from which the review was created. If you can get the customer to capture a screenshot of the review (including their public name on the review) and send it to you, this can be greatly helpful in troubleshooting.
If the customer legitimately did something wrong within their review (e.g. included a link, wrote seemingly spammy content, included confidential information, etc.), you can ask them to edit their review and repost it. This may cause the review to be re-evaluated and get published after a few days.
If the review looks legitimate and you cannot determine why it is being filtered out, you can use Google's Help form. Via the form, complete the following steps:
- Ensure you're logged into a Google account which has access to the business profile you are troubleshooting.
- Select your business in the dropdown (if you're a multi-location business, be sure to select the correct location).
- Under the "tell us what we can help with field," enter "missing review" and select next.
- Under the best description of this issue section, select "review missing."
- Select Next Step (you may have to do this twice to get passed default help articles).
- Under contact options, click "Email" which will trigger the missing review form fields.
- Fill in all required fields and as many optional fields as possible. The more thorough your response, the higher your chance that the review will be reinstated.
- If you are a marketing/SEO agency, selecting the "I own/work for an agency..." option will allow you to upload the image of the review which helps expedite the process.
- Submit the form and record the Case ID for future reference.
What If the Google Support Form Does Not Help?
If after 2 weeks, you have not heard back from Google support, create a post on the Google Business Profile Help Forum. This forum is moderated by third-party product experts. If you have a legitimate case with solid proof, they may be able to escalate your case to Google support for resolution. It is best if you can include the following in your forum post:
- The case ID provided by submitting the form
- Your Business name and associated Google Maps URL
- Image of the review(s) if possible which you can gather from the review. This part is of course not always possible, but it drastically helps your chances of the review being reinstated.
Using this method, we have personally seen legitimate reviews reinstated successfully on numerous occasions.
How to Boost Your Google Business Profile’s Authenticity
Apart from knowing how to adhere to Google’s guidelines, it is also essential to understand and accept that there will be both positive and negative reviews for your business. Google anticipates a mix of reviews on profiles.
However, the authenticity of your Google Business Profile does not stop there. At Igniting Business, we recommend our clients focus on improving the overall Google Business Profile health which includes reviews as one part. Some review collection and SEO tools, like BrightLocal, make it easy to request, monitor, and respond to genuine reviews – both the good and bad.
Alternatively, working with a reputation management service, like Igniting Business offers, helps to monitor all the conversations about your business and address the negative reviews that might hurt your brand and its online reputation. If you are interested in implementing reputation management for your small business, contact our team of SEO experts today.
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