What Is Review Gating?
All businesses want great reviews but unfortunately, the reality is at some point in time you’re likely to receive a negative review. Review-gating is the process of filtering candidates before asking them to leave your business a review on Google, Facebook, or some other review platform. Normally review gating is done by sending customers an email template that first asks them if they had a positive or negative experience. If they had a positive experience, they are then directed to leave a review on Google, Facebook, etc. But, if they had a negative experience, they are prompted to leave private feedback for the business and are never given the option to leave a public review. In this way, businesses can ‘rig the system’ reducing the number of negative reviews that appear on the public-facing platforms.
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, however, review gating is directly prohibited in Google My Businesses guidelines. For more on why this is a bad strategy, read this study.
What Does Google Do If They Catch You Review Gating?
There are risks involved with review gating and hoping that Google just won’t catch on. I have been looking for examples on the Google My Business forum where users reported businesses who were review gating. We’ve now seen several over the last few months and I’m going to highlight 2 cases.
In the first case, the business was review gating on a widget on their website. The business had over 400 reviews and when they were reported, over 80% of them were removed. Here is the kicker – the reviews that were removed dated back 2 years. Google updated its guidelines in April 2018 to make it more clear that review gating on Google My Business is restricted but they removed reviews that were left way before this date. We saw something similar with virtual offices (they were against the guidelines long before the guidelines actually mentioned the specific wording “virtual offices”).
In this case, the average rating of the business dropped by 0.2 which also helps illustrate how review gating can lead to biased reviews.
Before: 464 reviews, average rating of 4.1
After: 78 reviews, average rating of 3.9
In the second case, the business was caught review gating via a 3rd party tool. They had 30+ reviews on their listing and after being reported, Google removed them all.
What Changed on April 12, 2018?
On April 12, 2018, Google updated its 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 Should Business Owners Do About Review Gating?
If you are using a review-soliciting platform that filters how you get reviews, 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. Review gathering platforms like GatherUp currently offer a few different ways to collect reviews and although most of them are already in compliance with this rule, a couple are not. If your business uses a widget or 3rd-party platform make sure to check how they go about gathering reviews and confirm that all reviews, whether positive or negative are being captured.
What Risks Are You Taking By Review-Gating?
If you decide to review-gate regardless of whether you were unaware of this guideline or not, you risk Google taking action and removing all your reviews. Don’t Do It.
Contact The Google My Business SEO Experts At Sterling Sky Inc.
If you’re a local business that needs help with their Google My Business listing or their business’s online presence on Google and other search engines, at Sterling Sky we can help. We offer SEO audits, consulting, or monthly local SEO services. Contact our office today for more information.
And See These Other Articles Covering Important SEO Topics:
- When Can Service-Based Businesses Have Multiple Google My Business Listings?
- Does Optimizing for “Near Me” Work?
- How do I Contact Google My Business?
- How to Get Help on the Google Business Profile community
- And More