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August 15, 2022

Reasons why you are losing Google reviews - and what to do about it

There are a number of reasons Google reviews may suddenly disappear from your Google Business Profile. Here are a few along with ways to get them back.

We hear from clients all the time, “Why did this Google Business Profile review just disappear?”

It’s confusing. And it’s hard not to assume something below board is going on.

But, it’s very common and there is a long list of non-nefarious reasons local businesses lose Google reviews.

We’ve put together all the common reasons businesses lose reviews and, frankly, there are a lot. 

Reasons why you are losing reviews 

1. The review violates content guidelines

The most simple explanation for sudden review removal is that it contains prohibited and restricted content. In recent years, Google has cracked down on spam and inappropriate content in an effort to keep reviews relevant and helpful. Reviews are automatically scanned for policy violations prior to being publicly visible but if they make it through the initial analysis and get published, it is possible for anybody to flag a review to ask Google to re-evaluate it.

Some general reasons why a review may be removed or reported:

Off topic: Review is not relevant or it’s written for the wrong business.

Spam and fake content: Review doesn’t reflect a real customer experience or it was posted simply to increase or decrease a business’s rating. 

Conflict of interest: Review was posted by a competing business, ex-employee, or someone affiliated with the business.

Profanity: Review contains profane language or details of violence.

Bullying or harassment: Review personally targets a specific person. 

Discrimination or hate speech: Review contains harmful language about a person or a group based on identity. 

Personal information: Review includes an address or a phone number. 

Not helpful: Review doesn’t help others decide on whether or not to choose a business.

The good news is that Google typically sends an email notification to alert you that a review has been removed for violating policy, so if you are the GBP admin, you should not be left guessing where your reviews went in these cases.

TIP: If a review is published on your page that you believe has violated one of these guidelines, click the flag icon next to the review to report it. And share it around your company to have a bunch more people flag it (we do this for clients). The more attention you can draw to the review, the better. Also, be patient. It will likely take a few days for the review to be removed, but generally, we’ve found Google to be good about removing problematic reviews.

ANOTHER TIP: Don’t respond to reviews you flag. Responding works against you in this scenario.

 

2. Your business was involved in a mass spam event

Imagine your business receives a 1-star review. Before you have the chance to respond, you receive 10 (or 100) more 1-star reviews, all making reference to the first. This “spam attack” scenario, while unfortunately very common for businesses, can be extremely stressful and panic-inducing for business owners. 

Luckily, Google’s spam detection algorithm, which works to ensure all reviews represent a genuine customer experience, will quickly recognize a large influx of reviews as spam and remove them. In fact, in most cases, they are removed as soon as 48 hours after the first post. In 2020, this algorithm detected “40 billion spammy pages every day.”

While review removal can save a GBP from any lasting effects of a spam attack, it’s important to note that Google does not differentiate between positive and negative reviews here. If your business receives an uncharacteristic spike in five-star reviews over a short span of time it will potentially raise some red flags and, evidently, lead to an investigation. The content will likely be the deciding factor here. A stream of 5-star, no comment reviews that have language indicating the customer didn’t patronize the business will trip spam filters. This is where paying for a collection of fake reviews can backfire.

3. Google Suspects Review Gating/Selective Soliciting 

Review gating, or not allowing those who’ve had a negative experience to review your business, is a major cause for review removal. While gating may seem like a great way to showcase the voices of your happy customers, we can confirm the victory will be short-lived. 

Review Gating Examples:

  • Customers are asked for feedback but are initially sent to a form that asks if the customer had a good experience or a bad experience. If bad, the customer is routed to an internal feedback form. If good, the customer is routed to a review site.
  • A more clever one - the experience is the same as before, but instead of diverting unhappy customers to an internal feedback form, the technology instead still diverts the customer to the review site, but dramatically slows down the load time, increasing the likelihood that the customer abandons their attempt to leave a review.

 

There is no clear direction on if/how/when your business will be penalized for suppressing negative reviews. Life will be grand until your reviews suddenly disappear, gone forever. 

We’ve heard of businesses’ reviews being wiped out by the thousands, completely up to Google’s discretion. We don’t have hard facts here, but we do strongly recommend your business avoid review gating as a vulnerable long-term strategy. Here at Widewail, we explicitly do not support any gating practices. 

Recently, in addition to review site terms of service, the FTC has begun cracking down on deceptive review practices. Ecommerce fashion brand, Fashion Nova, was fined $4.2 million in early 2022 for deliberately not displaying negative reviews it received on its own website.  

4. You have made structural changes to your GBP

When investigating a case of lost reviews, it’s important to remember that there are countless things going on behind the scenes of your GBP, and sometimes it takes a moment for Google to catch up. 

If you make changes to your GBP, let’s say you switch addresses, you may lose some reviews in the process. 

Similarly, reinstating a suspended account may result in the temporary loss of reviews. While you may get reviews back by giving it some time for Google’s back end to sort everything out or by contacting Google’s customer support team to investigate, it is important to keep your GBP active and representative of your business to avoid suspension or becoming unverified. 

5. A user deleted their Google account.

People delete their accounts for numerous reasons. Maybe they ran out of storage, or maybe they just want a new email address. No matter the reason, when someone deletes their account, their contributions (i.e. photos, reviews, questions) are deleted as well. If you’ve had the same GBP since before the rebrand from Google My Business (or longer) you’re likely to see a small handful of reviews disappear simply because they’re no longer associated with an active Google profile. 

6. Google is experiencing a bug

Although uncommon, bugs happen – and they may be the reason your GBP is missing reviews.

Frankly, software bugs can seem random and unpredictable to the end user, and it’s impossible to list all of the possibilities. One example we’ve seen is Google temporarily displaying invalidated reviews by accident, and eventually removing them. Another instance is the review update function breaking and creating new, additional reviews when users attempt to update an existing one. This complication is typically set right by combining the two reviews days later. Regardless of the source of the bug, issues are usually resolved shortly after these patterns are identified. 

 

Free Interactive Tool  GBP Performance Assessment: See how your review volume and star rating can  improve Get Free Report

What to do about missing reviews

1. Get more reviews

While there’s no quick fix to review loss, there are many things you can do to counter its effects. The best solution for the sudden disappearance of reviews is to get more of them. If you generate reviews frequently and consistently, you’re less likely to be affected by the sudden disappearance of a few.

2. Reach out to Google 

While it’s not likely that you will be able to get your lost reviews back, it never hurts to try. Google has stated that it will not reinstate reviews removed for policy violations. However, if you’re particularly broken up about a lost review, and you can make a case for its validity, you always have the option to contact their support team. 

3. Reach out to your reputation management software provider 

If you work with a reputation management company, hopefully, you can easily get in touch with them to discuss your concerns. At Widewail, we understand the hard work that goes into getting each and every review and pride ourselves on excellent customer service. If you are ever at a loss for how to handle or manage your GBP, we’re here to help you find a solution.

For more information, see our list of 7 types of Google Review Fraud

Free GBP Performance Tool  Analyze Your Google Business Profile Find Your Business on Google

 

Emily Keenan

Originally from Scarborough, Maine, I moved to Vermont this past summer after graduating from St. Lawrence University, where I received my BA in English and Spanish. I have always been interested in writing and communication, which is what initially drew me to the Review Response Specialist position at Widewail. In my spare time, I can be found reading, playing electric guitar, or strolling/biking around one of Burlington’s many scenic trails. I always welcome the opportunity to talk about my work, and invite anyone with questions or comments to reach out or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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