Skip to Content

Google+ Local Reviews Disappeared? Join Mike Blumenthal's Business Forum Coalition!

Summary: To business owners actively maintaining their Google+ Local profile, it's no secret that missing reviews have been an ongoing problem. Google reps are always happy to tell users that they're "aware" of the problem and researching long-term solutions, but we still haven't seen any. Now, Mike Blumenthal has opened a Google Group thread to compile a massive list of users experiencing this issue in hopes that the strength in numbers approach will help get results. Get proactive and join Blumenthal in the forum..... or wallow is pessimism with me! Google's problems with reviews for local businesses disappearing are as old as their local directory itself (Local Business Center/Places/+ Local), and I wrote about them at length several months ago (even before the Google+ Local transition). Basically Google has a habit of telling business owners that they're aware of the review issue, warning what not to do to avoid further problems  and then kicking you back to their canned answers about legitimate reviews. Oh, did I mention there's nothing you can do to recover lost reviews and you may have never violated any rules in the first place? Google simply may or may not reactivate them at some future date. So, what's changed? Well, nothing as far as Google taking action on the matter is concerned... But master of Google Local Mike Blumenthal is trying to turn up the heat by posting a group forum for business owners to sort of form a coalition. As Miriam Ellis writes at SEOMoz:
I now present to you: the #1 link you need to have if you've lost your reviews! This will take you to a thread in the Google and Your Business Forum in which Mike Blumenthal is attempting to have all lost review complaints consolidated into one place. It is suspected that Google has either implemented a new filter or done an upgrade to an old one, causing many reviews (including totally legitimate ones) to be lost. Mike states:

"Let's consolidate the issues into this ONE huge post and see if we can get someone from Google to monitor all of these cases... If you are in, I will do what I can to get more Google eyes looking at this issue."

Obviously the idea here is that if the squeaky wheel gets the grease, maybe if we can finally get some attention if we create a traffic jam in front of Google with enough squeaky wheeled vehicles. This certainly can't hurt, and if anyone knows how to get answers out of Google, it's Blumenthal. Still, I'm not overly optimistic that this will resolve anything. As Ellis notes in her post, we're talking about 6 years of review issues. We've just had the entire local system overhauled and turned into Google+ Local, we've got ongoing issues with merging listings, it's almost Sept. and the "Business Builder" hasn't launched (was scheduled for July), Google may be dropping the Zagat review system, etc. etc. As is often my complaint, things are moving at such lightning speed that making sure things "work" seems to take a backseat for the folks at the Big G. My point is, I'm glad to see Blumenthal organizing this Google forum flash mob, but I'm not that confident it will get us anywhere. Especially when you consider the disorganization that has led to things like this other point Ellis highlighted:
As I understand it, Jade W. is indicating that the majority of reviews being removed are for 'suspicious behavior' and she mentions types of solicitations of reviews and also 'waves' of reviews. Local SEOs and business owners who have been following the review issue for years will almost certainly recall that Google has not only solicited reviews in the past, but also authorized the use of review stations in December 2011. It would appear that if you followed Google's lead on this and ran a contest to solicit reviews (thereby generating a wave of incoming reviews) or set up a review station in your shop to solicit reviews, you could be in danger of losing those reviews. Not trying to be a smart aleck here, but I honestly don't believe I will be alone in seeing a bit of irony in this scenario. If Google has now decided that legitimate reviews don't come in waves, I hope they will read the comment in the same forum thread from Top Contributor Linda Buquet of Catalyst eMarketing. Here is an excerpt:

"Here's a common example that I think often happens and is totally legit. This could be a local store, restaurant, Dentist, or whatever...Monthly email newsletter goes out. At bottom it says "Check out all our great reviews on Google and please leave us one if you have any feedback to share"...Then due to that newsletter going out to all customers, they may get a bunch of reviews all at once. Then next month another big rush."

I don't expect Google to answer this question, because there is no way for them to answer. They're blatantly contradicting themselves while enforcing a guideline that doesn't make any logical sense. Sometimes I wish I was like Adam Sandler in Click so I could just fast-forward past all of this crap to the day when everything with Google local is fixed and working as it should. Then again, I don't want to wind up fat and alone, and I'm not that confident Google will ever get their stuff together. So where does that leave us? Well, sadly there's nothing any of us can do about lost reviews and there's no guarantee they'll ever pop back up. And it may be cliche, but the best defense is a good offense, so you should continue working on building more positive reviews. Obviously it's hard to justify spending the time if there's a chance Google will dump them again, but what other choice do we have? Is there a new up and coming search engine/local directory that is going to scare Google into fixing this issue? C'mon. For now I'll refer back to my recommendations from my post the last time we discussed missing Google reviews:
Long story short, at the moment Google is long on explanations but short on solutions. There’s some indication that many reviews, if they weren’t spam, should eventually show up in your listing again. In the meantime, it seems like the best thing you can do is get more legitimate reviews. Google provides detailed criteria explaining why reviews may be removed or considered spam as a guide for what not to do, but there’s nothing wrong with encouraging customers to leave you reviews. Just the other day kconti at Mednet Tech wrote a post about getting more Google Places reviews specifically for Medical Practices, but the techniques generally apply universally, especially #4 and #5:

4) Reach out on Social Media

If you’re active on social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, reach out to your fans and followers. Post links to your Google Places listing encouraging patients to post reviews.

5) Send an Email Blast

Do you currently ask for an email address on patient forms? If not, this is a great opportunity to reach all patients at once with practice news or information. Send out an email blast, with a link to your Google Places listing, asking satisfied patients to post reviews.