Changes to Google Reviews


Google has been fighting on the “reviews front” for a long time now, with its biggest competitors in the US always having been Yelp and Trip Advisor. In the last few months the battle tightened with Google removing the third-party reviews from the Changes to Google Reviewsoverall count of reviews for a Google Places page, then completely removing the Yelp reviews from all Google Places listings, an antitrust hearing against Google at which Yelp’s CEO vigorously attacked the giant for anti-competitive practices and abuse of power, followed by Google’s acquisition of Zagat and other minor spars. During all that time Google continued its attempts to attract users to leave reviews directly on Places rather than on any other competitor’s website. Indeed, I agree that there was good room for improvement – a few weeks ago I wrote an article on the review posting guidelines, expressing my opinion on what should be changed and how things for Google as a review zone could improve. However, it seems that they are still missing something.

Since then I have noticed some movement in the area. The “Review Posting Guidelines” page in the Google Places Help center was renamed to “Review Removals” and a whole section was deleted. That section was the one giving advice on how to write good reviews. Moreover, lately there have been many reports in the Google Places Help forum about disappearing Google reviews – an important signal for changes in the reviews anti-spam algorithm. The final drop that made me believe something big was happening were a few reports on problems with people trying to post reviews.

Brian Pasch party confirmed my thoughts with yesterday’s article on a rumored end of the requirement for users to be logged in to their Google account to be able to post a review. This would be a huge boost for Google Places as only about 200 million people are reported to have and regularly use Google accounts. Considering the 350 million users Hotmail has and Yahoo! Mail’s own 300 million, you can see that such a move could have an incredibly positive impact on Google’s review count. Another aspect supporting the idea of such a move – a few months ago Google stopped branding Hotpot as a separate product.

Yet another factor in defense of the possible change – Google’s review anti-spam algorithm seems to like regular contributors (similar to Yelp’s one). If you make a non-Google user to create a Google account for the sole purpose of leaving a review, you cannot expect them to return and leave another review via the same account. They’d rather abandon it forever. Therefore such a change would have positive effect on all sides involved:

- for businesses and marketers – easier Google reviews gathering
- for customers/users – easier Google reviews writing and better involvement in the “Hotpot” community
- for Google – more reviews, new contributing reviewers, fresh content

Let’s stay tight and watch what Google’s move would be.

  1. Jo Shaer
    Jo Shaer11-29-2011

    This is huge! I had a couple of people complain last week that they couldn’t leave reviews and it’s always the ones who don’t normally use gmail, so I just assumed that they had made a mistake somewhere. Fingers crossed, Google will now let them post without having to log in to gmail! Keep us posted, Nyagoslav :)

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov12-02-2011

      Yep, that would be a great step by them and quite a tough decision I believe. I just hope they would not make the incredible mistake to allow EVERYONE to post reviews. That would be worse than as it is now.

  2. Lynn

    Thanks for the alert! Just sent a note to my clients about this – those yellow stars certainly make a listing stand out in Google search results. They’ll just have to encourage their followers to leave separate reviews if they want that bonus.

    One client had people refuse to vote in a Citysearch A*List Best-Of competition because they had to create a Citysearch account. It’s great that Google is removing one block – which Yelp and many other review sites have yet to do. Perhaps they’ll follow suit.

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov12-02-2011

      Yes, it is a good thing, especially when having in mind that creating a Google account does not take just a few seconds and is not such a straight-forward process. However, as I said in my previous comment – I really hope they will not make the mistake to allow everyone to be able to post reviews. I hope they decided to let Hotmail, Y! Mail and (probably) Facebook users to directly sign in to be able to post reviews. Fingers crossed here.

  3. Jo Shaer
    Jo Shaer12-02-2011

    You think they’ll allow Facebook logins over gmail/gplus which they’re trying to promote? I’m not so sure. And Im also not sure I’d want to encourage hotmail and the rest because the free accounts are surely the ones that are most likely to be used for scam reviews…? Difficult choices for Google methinks :)

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov12-04-2011

      Yep, the choice is difficult. However, I am really interested to see what they chose. Yes, maybe using Facebook accounts to post reviews might be too much over the line for their liberality, but I don’t see the problem with Y! Mail for example. Overall, it’s sad that Google is making rivals on all fronts… That’s what happens when you try to conquer the world I guess. lol

  4. Jo Shaer
    Jo Shaer12-04-2011

    From my affiliate marketing experience, I know that people who set up fake accounts tend to use the free ones, although they are now putting in place lots of barriers to help prevent this.

    And, lol, you’re right! History has shown that you don’t get many dictators with lots of bosom buddies :)

  5. Nyagoslav Zhekov
    Nyagoslav Zhekov12-05-2011

    Actually I heard from a couple more places the same rumors. I’m not sure if the source is the same, but they all claim its a trusted source and that the change is coming soon. Hmmm…

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