As of April 12, 2018 Google has updated the review guidelines to clarify that review-gating is not allowed. They added the following to their guidelines:
“Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
What is review-gating?
Review-gating is the process of filtering candidates before asking them to leave you a review. Normally this is done by sending all customers an email template and first asking them if they had a positive or negative experience. If they had a positive experience, they are asked to leave a review on Google but if they had a negative experience, they are prompted to leave private feedback and are never sent the option to leave a review publicly.
Business owners historically have loved this feature because they are terrified of negative reviews and would love the opportunity to only have 5-star reviews. For more on why this is a bad strategy, read this study.
What should business owners do?
If you are using a review-soliciting platform that does this, you need to turn the gating function off ASAP. Luckily, I use a company that is super-connected with Google My Business and had already been working on removing this as a feature because they had a feeling it was something Google didn’t like. Get Five Stars currently offers a few different ways to collect reviews and although most of them were already in compliance with this rule, a couple were not. I was sitting next to Aaron Weiche from Get Five Stars on Thursday at LocalU when this change happened. He instantly made some calls and their tool is already updated so that it no longer offers this as an option. Just one of the reasons why I love working with them.
What risks are you taking by review-gating?
If you decide to review-gate regardless of this guideline, you risk Google taking action and removing all your reviews. Since the rule was only clarified a few days ago, I’m assuming Google won’t penalize businesses for doing this prior to April 12th. However, if a business continues to review-gate and someone reports them, Google will likely remove the reviews from that date on. That is currently how they enforce the guideline that prohibits offering incentives for reviews. If a business offers incentives and is reported, Google removes all the reviews that were left from the date when the business started the incentives.