Updated - 08/14/2017 Originally Posted - 10/10/2016
As a small business owner, like you, I get excited when I receive that email notification exclaiming that our great new customer has given us a 5 star review on our Google My Business page! It’s a great feeling to know that we’ve done a great job, and our clients loved the service we provided them – and they want to tell everyone how great our business is.
If you’re not getting many online reviews for your business, don’t be afraid to ask customers to leave an honest review on your Google My Business page.
Have you received a great review, only to notice it has disappeared a few weeks later? It’s a major bummer when you visit your Google My Business page to find that a big, beautiful 5 star review has gone missing – but where did it go?!
This post was inspired by a recent email from a client. I had helped him create a direct link to the Google review box. He had been sharing the link with his clients and the Google Reviews were rolling in on a regular basis – because he provides great service. But this day, he awoke to find 6 Google My Business reviews missing from his page. Oh no!
He wanted to know why the Google reviews were missing, how he could get the missing Google reviews back on his page, and what he could do to prevent more Google reviews from being deleted.
Googling Missing Google Reviews
At WebWorks of KC we regularly monitor Google business reviews for clients, so this is a normal process for us.
But there’s a good chance you found this post via Google search – Obviously, the first stop in hunting down the reason for missing Google reviews was to visit Google and do a quick search for “missing Google reviews.” From this simple search, it is quickly obvious that this is a common problem experienced by many, many business owners. The Google search results are full of stories from business owners who have found that their Google My Business reviews have disappeared.
If you’re asking “Why did my Google My Business reviews disappear?” The most common (and broad) answer – Google’s spam detection algorithm has flagged some of your reviews, and they have been removed by Google.
Reasons a Google My Business Review may have Disappeared
While Google doesn’t outline every aspect of their spam detection algorithm, they do provide specific Google review content guidelines. If a Google review has been deleted from your business page, ask yourself the following questions to help narrow down the reason your Google My Business review went missing. Google will remove reviews that violate their review content guidelines.
1. Was there a URL in the review?
If there is a URL in the review, it’s likely spam and will trigger the review for removal. We’re a web design company, so some clients want to show off the awesome site we’ve built – we make a point to ask them not to include the URL, so it doesn’t accidentally get flagged for removal. Instead, we ask for an additional review write-up that we can add to our website.
2. Was there a phone number in the review?
A phone number in the review is a big trigger for possible spam. There’s no need to have a phone number in a review.
3. Do you have reviews in other places online?
If you have tons of reviews on Google My Business, but none on Yelp, Facebook, etc., this could be a cause for the deleted reviews. Simply, it’s not natural and spontaneous if every single customer who reviews you leaves the review on Google My Business. This is a good indicator of spam – or maybe your over-coach your customers about how to leave a review for your business. Instead, mix it up – ask for a review of your business on Facebook half of the time.
4 . Did the review appear elsewhere on the internet?
If the same review appears on Facebook, Yelp, or on a “testimonials” page on your website, the duplicate review on your Google My Business page could be removed. Isn’t it great when your customers love you SO much that they want to tell everyone how great you are?!?! This is the downside – unless the customer writes unique reviews on each review website, you may risk multiple reviews being removed, not just on Google My Business.
5 . Is the reviewer a manager of your Google My Business account or Google+ page?
If a review is written by a manager of the business’s Google accounts, this could be seen as a conflict of interest by Google. Generally, the person managing your Google My Business account is not a customer. They are likely an employee or a service provider. Reviews should be left by customers.
6. Is the reviewer your employee?
When an employee reviews their employer on Google My Business, this can be seen as a conflict of interest – even if the employee has purchased your products or services. This practice is frowned upon because many employers will require that employees leave positive reviews or offer incentives for employees to leave reviews.
7. Was the review written from your physical business location?
What’s important here is the IP address (used to identify the physical location of your computer). If the review was written from an IP address used to manage your Google My Business account, the spam filter could have been triggered.
8. Was the review written from the same IP address as other reviews?
Similar to the previous point, if many reviews are coming from the same IP address outside of your business, the spam filers might be triggered. If this is happening, the reviews are most likely spam or fake. There’s no chance your business received 19 legitimate reviews from the same physical location.
9. Is there a “review station” set up at your business?
Remember what we talked about above – if all the reviews are coming from the IP address, they’ll trigger the spam detector. It’s a better plan to give your customers a short review URL that’s easy to remember and let them leave a review from their own cell phone.
10. Was your review written from a location that is TOO far away from your business location?
If your business sells products locally, but you also ship products across the country or across the world, you need to set up your Google My Business account to recognize this fact. From within your Google My Business account, you need to tell Google where you ship products. Go into the “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location” section and make sure to setup the states and/or countries where you will ships products.. This will stop reviews from across the country (or world) from being flagged by Google.
11. Were there multiple attempts to post the same review?
If a review was flagged and deleted by Google, then the customer adds the same review again – it will be removed again.
12. Did your business recently receive a large number of reviews?
If your Google My Business page receives a rapid influx of a large number of reviews in a short time span, the spam detectors may be triggered. If you’ve read our blog post about getting more Google reviews, make sure to only ask a fraction of your customers at a time for a review. If you have a back-log of 500 customers to reach out to, and your Google My Business page gets hammered with 50 new reviews overnight, you’ll sound some alarms.
13. Do many of your reviews originate from the same online location?
If you have a “Leave us a Review” page on your website, and you send all you customers to that page before they leave a review on your Google My Business page, your reviews may not be spontaneous enough. Google likes reviews that appear naturally “in the wild.” It’s likely that Google records the referring URL and sees that all of your reviews are coming from a central hub. A better strategy is to send your clients an email with your Google review link. This way, their email will be the referrer.
14. Do you have multiple business locations?
Do you have multiple locations and multiple Google My Business pages? Customers are great! They love your service and products and they want to tell the world about you. They love you so much that they visit the Google My Business page for every location your business has in the metro area, eager to leave their review. Unfortunately, if the reviewer left the same review on multiple business locations, the duplicates (or all) will likely be removed.
15. Do you have an abnormally large amount of reviews on your Google My Business page?
If your business has way more reviews than other businesses in your industry and city/area, this could be cause for concern. If your business is in rural a town of 1000 people (just a simple example), but you have 4000 business reviews, don’t be shocked when many of them get removed. I’m sure you make amazing sandwiches, but why does the pizza joint only have 8 Google My Business reviews?
16. Did the reviewer simply remove their review from your Google My Business page?
A reviewer has the ability to remove their reviews at a later date. This one is pretty straight forward, and is one of the most common determinations I come to when monitoring Google My Business reviews for clients (sign up for our newsletter to get more tips about getting great online customer reviews and receive a copy of our Google Review Backup template)
17. Does the reviewer have a completely blank Google+ account?
Fake profiles commonly do not contain a name, photo, or other information. Real accounts are never completely blank. When a business gets tons of reviews from empty accounts, this is a trigger that the reviews were created by bots and are fake or paid.
18. Did the reviewer delete their Google+ account?
A user must have a Google+ account to leave a Google My Business review. When a Google+ account is deleted, the associated reviews are deleted as well. As with a user deleting their review, a user deleting their Google+ account is one of the most common conclusions we come to when monitoring Google reviews for clients.
19. Have you been active on Google My Business lately?
If you have not been active on Google My Business in a 6 month span, it’s possible that your business has been unverified. Make sure to pay attention to your Google My Business page on a regular basis. It doesn’t take a lot to stay active on Google My Business. If nothing else, install the Google My Business app (Android, iPhone) and reply to reviews and thank people when they leave a review of your business.
20. Do all of your reviews look and sound the same?
If all of your reviews are written from accounts with profile images, and all reviews use perfect grammar, perfect capitalization, and all mention your business by name – there’s a very good chance the spam alarms are going to go off. This is a problem I see frequently – and was the problem for the client I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Some business owners are TOO good at coaching their customers on leaving a review for their business – This is what happened with my client. Ask for a Google review, but don’t over-coach your customers how to leave a review and never offer a pre-made review or a pre-made template for them to copy.
21. Was the review written in third person?
A reviewer is only allowed to review their own experience with your business. Reviews are not allowed to retell the experience of a friend, family member, or an story they read elsewhere. Only first person accounts are allowed in reviews. The reviewer cannot leave a review on behalf of another person.
22. Was the review “clean?”
Profanity, hate speech, offensive language and personal attacks are not allowed in reviews. This type of content will definitely trigger the filters and the review will be removed. If there are reviews on your Google My Business page that contains any of this type of language, you should request to have the Google review removed ASAP.
23. Are you offering incentives for customers to leave reviews?
Do not offer discounts, coupons or free products to entice customers to leave you a review. If Google notices, you may lose all of your reviews. When you offer an incentive, you are more likely to receive a positive review, incorrectly skewing the results. Do not offer incentives for reviews.
24. Are there multiple businesses located at the same address as your business?
It’s not uncommon that one person may operate multiple businesses from the same address, however, Google sees this as a red flag – especially if you own multiple businesses that are in closely related industries. If your businesses are both real registered businesses, you can try to get help from Google by scrolling all the way to the bottom of your Google My Business dashboard and clicking the “Help” link. If nothing else, you may want to use a suite number for each business, so they appear as separate businesses to Google. NOTE – This may not the best or the correct strategy for your specific business(es).
Is your Google My Business Review missing because of a Google Error?
These are situations that can happen, but are rare occurrences. If you’re missing reviews on your Google My Business page, one of the reasons above is much more likely to be the reason for your missing Google reviews.
25. Your Google My Business account may be affected by a Google Maps bug
Your Google My Business reviews may not be missing at all! You may simply be experiencing a bug. Many small business owners have reported experiencing this bug off and on for nearly a decade. To check if your Google My Business page is experiencing this bug – Log into your Google My Business account at http://business.google.com. Select your business location that is having issues (if you have multiple locations). Click “Manage Location.” Click “Edit” at the top right. Click “Google Maps” in the “Published On” section. This will open Google Maps. In the panel on the left, click “Suggest an edit.” Grab the map marker on the map at the right and wiggle it around just a little bit. Click “Submit.” If your Google My Business page is experiencing the Google Maps bug, the wiggle will force Google to clear the cache and “update” your location. It sounds silly, but give it a shot!
26. Google had a glitch when updating or backing up software
Yes, it is possible that even a company as big as Google can have a glitch. Glitches are possible with every size of system, no matter how big or how small.
27. A Google employee accidentally deleted your Google My Business review
This one is super-unlikely, but yes, humans still need to be able to manually access systems that are designed to run autonomously. Why would an employee access your Google My Business page manually? I don’t know. It’s probably unlikely a Google employee would ever need to access your specific Google My Business page. Can you think of any reason? No? That’s why this scenario is very unlikely.
The “Google Deleted My Reviews” Conspiracy Theories
I want to say upfront – I do not subscribe to a single one of these conspiracy theories. Simply, I get a ton of emails from people claiming to have “proof” Google intentionally targets specific small businesses and deletes their 5-star reviews. Of course, not a single one of these conspiracy theorists has actually shared the proof with me, nor provided a step-by-step tutorial about how they collected their “proof.”
- Google deletes reviews of businesses who do not use Adwords to promote their business in Google search. The theory is that Google hopes these businesses will start paying to use Google Adwords
- Google deletes reviews of the competition of businesses who do use Adwords to promote their business. As above, the theory is that Google wants to force a small business to use Adwords
- Google deletes reviews of businesses who are in direct competition with an area of their business
- Google deletes reviews of businesses who are in competition with their own business partners
Again, I do not believe any of these theories, and not a single person has provided “proof” to back up a fraction of these theories.
If you’ve come to one of these conclusions, it may be time to take a step back and hire someone to run the digital marketing aspects of your business. Trust me, you’ll be much happier running the day-to-day operations of your business and letting someone else take care of your brand’s online reputation – and your business will be better for it.
Helpful and Trustworthy Reviews
Google aims to provide “recommendations that are helpful and trustworthy.” Google’s spam algorithm helps to ensure they can provide the best information possible. Unfortunately, sometimes real and honest reviews get swept up and disappear – and other times, it seems like it’s nearly impossible to get Google to remove a fake or spam review.
Can I get the Missing Google My Business Reviews Back?
Unfortunately, once Google has removed a review from your Google My Business page, it is gone for good. There is no getting it back. Instead of worrying about getting missing reviews back, focus on getting new 5 star reviews! That’s time better spent.
Before you give up, however, check out tip #25 above to check if your Google My Business page is experiencing a bug.
Make a Backup of Your Google My Business Reviews
Make it part of your regular business process and start backing up your reviews, so you can analyze the reviews and to discover the reason a review is removed in the future. When you get that notification email of a new Google My Business review, copy the review and the details. When you notice a drop in your number of reviews, take a look through your reviews to figure out which one(s) was deleted.
Sign up for our email newsletter, and we’ll give you a copy of our Google My Business review backup template – along with many more great tips for getting great online reviews from your customers.
You shouldn’t worry too much if few of your Google My Business reviews disappear. Focus on running your business and providing great service and products, then ask happy customers to leave a review of your business. It’s good practice to backup and monitor your reviews, then perform an audit when reviews go missing, but don’t lose any sleep over it. Just go out there and get another great review to replace the one that disappeared. It should be pretty simple – you’re great at what you do! Keep doing it. Let the little stuff take care of itself.
Have you lost reviews on your Google My Business page?
Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.