Jan 8, 2018 Update: Google now clarifies that all reviews from competitors & employees are against guidelines.
- Before, it stated that posting negative content about a current/former employment experience wasn’t allowed and on January 5 they removed the word “negative”.
- Before, it stated that posting negative content about a competitor to manipulate their rankings wasn’t allowed and on January 5, they removed the word “negative”.
On December 14, 2017 Google made a change to the review guidelines. I’ve outlined all the changes below.
- The review guidelines are now a part of the Maps User section of the Help Center, not Google My Business.
- The policies now apply to all types of Google content – not just reviews. They also apply to ratings, images, videos, Q&A, captions, tags, links and metadata.
- They added a section on restricted goods clarifying “the content you upload may not facilitate the sale of alcohol, gambling, tobacco, guns, health and medical devices, regulated pharmaceuticals, adult services, financial services and any other product or service subject to local regulations”.
- They added examples of illegal content including:
- Things that infringe on copyright
- Sexual abuse images
- Content on dangerous or illegal acts (rape, human trafficking etc)
- Illegal products and services
- Graphic images that promote violence
- Content related to terrorists.
- They removed the section under offensive content that used to say “We’ll also remove reviews that represent personal attacks on others”. This doesn’t surprise me given the number of people that quote this to get rid of negative reviews.
- They added a section about harassment and bullying: “We don’t allow individuals to use Google Maps to harass, bully, or attack other individuals”.
- They added a section under Impersonation that says “Google reserves the right to remove content, suspend accounts, or pursue other legal action against contributors who falsely claim that they represent or are employed by Google”.
- They added a line under “Conflict of Interest” clarifying that it’s finally against guidelines for ex-employees to leave negative reviews. They put that “posting negative content about a current or former employment experience” is not allowed. I have an upcoming article on Search Engine Land that will be more in-depth on this topic.
- In the additional guidelines on reviews they clarified that you are not supposed to post links to social media profiles in reviews (previously it just said “other websites”).
- They added a line that says you shouldn’t solicit reviews from customers in bulk.
- They removed the section at the top of the review section that said “Make sure that the reviews on your business listing, or those that you leave at a business you’ve visited, are honest representations of the customer experience. Those that aren’t may be removed”. This seems to be an oversight since this was the guideline that most people would quote to get peer-to-peer reviews removed. I’m going to ask Google to clarify on this one and update this article when I hear back.
- Previously it mentioned that you weren’t supposed to offer or accept money, products, or services for a review. Currently, it only says money. Google clarified that offering incentives is still against the guidelines and they mention it in a different Help Center article you can see here.
- Google removed the section that said “If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business”. I’m not entirely sure why but I still wouldn’t do it unless you want all your reviews to get filtered.
- Under the privacy section they added medical records as another example of something that is confidential and private, thus not allowed.
Some of these changes provide more clarity and some of the things they omitted make me more confused. What changes do you think are the most important? Leave your feedback in the comments.
For reference, here is a screenshot of the old review guidelines.