Google’s Targeting of Fake User Reviews Leads to Unintended Consequences for SMBs
Showcasing positive user reviews of products and services is a critical element of success in today’s online marketplace. Unfortunately, many SMBs attempted to game the system by purchasing or crafting fake positive user reviews from overseas “review farms” to mislead consumers.
To combat this practice, Google’s introduced an update to target and remove this misleading information. Despite good intentions, the update appears to have unintentionally removed a broad cross-section of legitimate feedback from GMB. Although Google is exploring solutions to reinstate the data, it is likely that it may be permanently lost.
The Critical Role of Positive User Feedback
In today’s marketplace, consumers rely heavily on the reviews left by other users when considering purchasing products or services from local small to medium-sized businesses. These reviews often deliver important feedback such as the:
- Quality of products received
- Value of services provided
- The overall customer service experience and more
Receiving a positive, four- or five-star, review from a customer not only helps inform an SMB that they are on the right track, but can also help them attract new clients. Unfortunately, the integrity of the online feedback system, and user confidence in it, eroded with the introduction of fake reviews.
Google Targets False or Misleading Reviews
To enhance a business’s reputation, attract new customers and boost sales, many SMBs resorted to purchasing positive user reviews from third party “review farms.” These companies, often located overseas, initially delivered poorly written, intentionally misleading reviews which were easy for users to spot and disregard. As these companies’ tactics evolved over time though, it became increasingly difficult for users to determine if a review was fake.
Google’s honed in on this emerging trend and recently pushed an algorithm update seeking to remove these fake and misleading reviews from Google My Business. While it is too early in the process to determine the effectiveness of the update, it appears to have initially stripped many legitimate reviews from SMBs across a wide range of sectors. Some businesses lost all user reviews while others seem to have only noticed a few missing.
Will Google Restore Missing User Reviews?
Although Google appears to be working on a fix to help restore missing reviews, many SEO experts, citing previous wide-scope algorithm updates, believe the data may be lost forever. At this point, SMBs with missing reviews are at the mercy of Google for a resolution to the issue. Moving forward though, startups and small businesses should consider sharing positive feedback via social media pages to ensure that the information is not lost.