Google Maps is a powerful tool that can potentially increase online visibility for local businesses. It is one of Google’s most prominent features allowing consumers to post images and commentaries about places they have visited, including reviews describing their experience.
Recently, Google published an explainer offering insights into its process of handling reviews on Maps. Business owners need to stay informed of current policies and guidelines to keep their brand reputation management strategies compliant and effective.
This article discusses the multiple steps Google takes to publish relevant and accurate reviews that people find helpful when making buying decisions.
How Reviews Work on Google Maps
Google exercises the utmost care to maintain the integrity of reviews on its platform. This guarantees that all content found on Google Maps mirrors real-life experiences and is free from offensive and irrelevant comments.
1. Content Policies
Google’s content policies serve as the backbone of its review monitoring. According to the search engine, its strict Google review policy is made to keep offensive and irrelevant comments off Google Business Profiles.
The following are prohibited and restricted content for Google product reviews:
- Spam and fake content: An example of this is Google Map reviews posted for the same place from multiple accounts to influence a specific business’s rating.
- Off-topic: This refers to political and social commentary and personal rants.
- Restricted content: Google ratings and reviews on Maps should not include offerings for products or services that are subject to local legal regulations. Gambling, tobacco, alcohol, guns and regulated pharmaceuticals are just some examples.
- Illegal content: Any search Google reviews that depict unlawful activity are not accepted.
- Terrorist content: This refers to any content on Google Maps reviews that promotes or celebrates terrorist attacks.
- Sexually explicit content: The company doesn’t permit sexually explicit material on Google product reviews.
- Offensive content: These depict obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures.
- Dangerous and derogatory content: There is zero tolerance for content that contains harassment, hatred, discrimination and intimidation.
- Impersonation: This refers to deceptive content as well as false representations.
- Conflict of interest: Examples include but are not limited to leaving search Google reviews for your own business, posting fake reviews on Google to manipulate competitor’s ratings and leaving comments about current or former employment experience.
Other Practices To Avoid
Brand owners need to adhere to the following practices to prevent their business’s reviews and local citations from being flagged by the platform.
Review gating is when businesses only ask their happy customers for Google product reviews for their local business listing. The Google review policy states that brands “should not discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.” All clients should have equal opportunities to leave a review regardless of their experience.
A quick search informs you that there are “5-star review services” promising realistic comments and testimonials for your business. However, Google’s policy strictly prohibits purchasing fake Google reviews. Gathering high-quality reviews takes a lot of work but getting the immediate results from fraudulent practices is not worth it since it can cost you your local business listing.
Google’s review policy states that brands should not “offer or accept money in exchange for reviews.” Although this doesn’t specifically mention gifts or giveaways, the company has previously taken action against businesses that offered non-monetary rewards in exchange for local citations and Google product reviews.
Seek the advice of professionals if you have doubts surrounding Google review content policies and local search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines. A seasoned local SEO specialist can create business reputation management strategies that align with Google’s standards.
2. Integration of the Google Review Policy Into Machine Learning
When Google ratings and reviews are posted for a local business listing, they are immediately sent to their moderation systems to ensure they don’t violate any policies. The search engine identifies its automated machine learning systems as the first defense against fake reviews on Google or unrelated and offensive content. These systems search for signals to determine if the review is legitimate. Machines are highly effective in doing this because they can immediately identify patterns. As a result, the automated system removes most fake Google reviews before anyone sees them.
3. Monitoring Carried Out by Humans
Search engines receive a large number of local business reviews daily. Although machine learning can filter out most fake reviews on Google, human attention is still required. That is why human operators regularly run quality tests on Google Maps reviews to remove the biases with automated learning models. Once the system detects no violations, local business reviews go live within seconds.
However, Google’s review monitoring continues after the content is posted. Its systems analyze the user-generated content (UGC) and watch for suspicious patterns. Examples of these questionable activities are a group of people leaving reviews on the same cluster of Business Profiles or a business receiving a high number of 5-star search Google reviews nearly instantly.
4. Community Moderation
Google encourages businesses and consumers to keep reporting fraud and abuse. For example, if you spot Google Maps reviews violating its content policies, you should immediately flag and report them.
A team of human operators is reviewing flagged content round the clock. Once the Google ratings and reviews are confirmed to be violations, they are promptly removed. In some cases, Google takes it further by suspending the user and even pursuing litigation if the situation warrants it.
Review Monitoring Best Practices for Businesses
Online reviews are essential elements that influence a brand’s reputation. According to Trustpilot, 9 out of 10 customers read reviews buying a product or service. In addition, Podium reports that 58 percent of online consumers are willing to pay more if a business has a positive brand image.
So business owners have everything to gain from actively monitoring all conversations surrounding their brand. It allows them to identify any negative experiences, create solutions that sufficiently address these and rebuild customer trust and reputation.
Business reputation management for review monitoring includes these best practices:
- Acknowledge positive reviews: Thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave your business a review. This simple gesture makes consumers feel valued.
- Appropriately respond to negative feedback: Responding to positive reviews is easy – negative ones need more forethought. The best thing you can do is apologize and offer to rectify the problem.
- Allocate time to manage business reviews: Set aside time in your day for review monitoring, even if it’s just a couple of minutes.
Busy business owners can hire reputation management consultants to handle review generation, monitoring and response. These consultants have an online reputation management software tool at their disposal to carry out tasks more accurately and efficiently.
5. Proactive Measures
The company shares that it is proactive in preparing for events that lead to fake Google reviews. For example, when there’s a significant event, like an election, Google implements heightened surveillance of the places associated with the occasion that people might look for on Maps. It strictly monitors the areas and businesses concerned until the risk of abuse has abated.
By taking extra steps in observing local business reviews, Google dramatically reduces the chances of spam and fake content on the platform.
Google’s emphasis on combining machine learning and human judgment is the best formula in keeping Google Maps reviews accurate and relevant to the end-user. Business owners seeking to gain visibility on the platform can use the information provided in this article to formulate holistic brand reputation management strategies that adhere to Google’s standards.
Rize Reviews is a done-for-you service that generates and monitors reviews and local citations for your business. We utilize our state-of-the-art online reputation management software to manage customer feedback across multiple platforms. Whether you need a local SEO specialist to boost your visibility or reputation management consultants to protect your brand’s credibility, Rize is happy to assist. Call us at 866-325-0303 or fill out our online form to get in touch with us!