Why Did Google Remove Some of My Reviews?

If you’re a small business owner who actively gets reviews, it’s likely that you’ve ran into a case where some of your reviews on your Google My Business listing randomly vanished. Google has an active algorithmic filter in place to remove reviews that violate their policies.

Google’s Review Filter Does Not Catch All Fake/Paid Reviews

Before you get all excited thinking this filter is going to help remove the dozens of fake reviews you see on your competitor’s listings, it’s important to know this filter does a horrific job at catching fake reviews. In addition to Mike Blumenthal’s and Jessie Low’s recent coverage of fake Google My Business reviews, here is a current example:

How likely is it that this “person” hired a tree service company in Indiana, an aquarium service in Florida, sold their car to a buyer in Louisiana and got some landscaping in Colorado? Also, Google must think that the fact that they just “happen” to be left on listings that are named as keywords is just a coincidence right? I come across cases like this every day and they are not hard to find.

What Does the Review Filter do?

The review filter runs periodically and takes down tons of reviews at once that they deem illegitimate. The filter does not run in real time which means you could have a review stick to your listing for months and then vanish at the same time as several other reviews. When the review filter runs we always get a ton of business owners posting over at the Google My Business forum complaining about missing reviews.

What Causes a Review to be Filtered?

A huge majority of the time reviews get filtered due to issues with the IP address of the person who left you the review. Here are some things that cause reviews to be filtered:

Your customers share an IP address with someone who already left you a review.
I used to work for an agency that has a lot of clients that work for the same insurance company. Even though the offices for each agent are nowhere near each other, they all have the same IP address at work because they connect to their company’s intranet. When we started asking clients to leave us reviews, the first few stuck but after a few the additional ones started to immediately get filtered. We then noticed even more disappear when Google’s review filter ran.

Your business offers WiFi that customers connect to and you’ve logged into your Google My Business account from this WiFi.
I personally have reviewed over 200 businesses. Some of the ones that got filtered were for Starbucks, McDonald’s, a hotel, and a movie theater. All these businesses have public WiFi for their customers. I did not leave the review while connected to their WiFi but because I was logged into my Google account when I accessed their WiFi, it left a trail.

The review contains a URL.
URLs are not allowed in reviews and usually cause the review to get immediately filtered but if you’re a more trusted reviewer, it might stick for a while and get filtered later.

The review contains a word Google doesn’t like, such as profanity or racial terms.
I wrote a review for a place in Seattle called “Biscuit Bitch” and using the word “bitch” in my review caused it to get filtered. As soon as I edited the review to remove the word, it became publicly visible.

The person who wrote the review works for you.
Rating your employer is against Google’s guidelines and usually Google can trace this type of thing due to the fact that you share the same IP address that they use to manage their Google My Business listing.

You hired an SEO company to post reviews for you.

You have an onsite review station (iPad, computer etc) at your location.

You are offering incentives for people who write you reviews.
These don’t generally get caught algorithmically by the filter but people report competitors for doing this all the time at the Google My Business forum and Google removes them.

Is it Possible the User Deleted the Review?

Although it’s possible that the user deleted the review they wrote you, I have never come across a case where this was the reason for the review disappearing. This is probably due to the fact that deleting a review on Google isn’t an overly simple process.

Would I Lose My Reviews if Google Suspends the Listing?

If you receive a hard suspension, it means the listing is no longer published on Google Maps so you would see all the reviews vanish along with the listing itself. However, if the listing got reinstated by Google My Business, the reviews would come back since they are still attached to the listing. If you get a soft suspension it means the listing just became unverified and nothing would happen to the reviews but you would lose all your review responses since those were tied to the Google My Business account.

Is it Possible the Reviews Moved to a Duplicate Listing?

Lots of businesses are unaware that multiple listings exist on Google for their business and generally duplicate listings cause ranking issues so you don’t want them. Reviews are actually stored in a separate database than the listings themselves so I’ve never seen a case where reviews jumped from one listing to another automatically. Google does have the ability to manually move reviews from one listing to another depending on the scenario but this is usually only done upon request from the business owner.

How Do You Tell If Your Personal Reviews Have Been Filtered?

If you are wondering how to tell if a review you wrote for a business has been filtered, you do this by:

  • logging into Google Maps, clicking on the hamburger menu at the top left,
  • clicking “Your Contributions”,
  • then clicking the “Reviews” tab on your profile that comes up.
  • Take the URL in the top of your browser and paste it into an Incognito window and compare the # of reviews you have logged in vs logged out.

In my case, I see I’ve written 230 reviews when I’m logged in but someone else viewing my profile would see 222, so 8 of my reviews are currently filtered.

To figure out which specific reviews got filtered, look for reviews on your profile (while logged in) that are missing a share icon or a like icon. If these icons are missing, your review has been filtered.

Note: ratings without reviews never have these icons so this will only identify filtered reviews that have text to them.

What Should I do if Google Filtered My Reviews?

Before you panic, make sure the missing reviews are not related to a bug. Review bugs are very common, so before you lose sleep thinking your reviews are filtered, check to see if the number of reviews at the top of the listing matches the number of reviews actually displayed on the listing itself. If not, it could be a bug impacting it. You can also post over at the Google My Business forum to see if anyone else is experiencing this.

Chances are you won’t be able to get them back unless the user can edit the review to fix the issue, which is pretty unlikely. I haven’t seen any recent cases where business owners asked Google to unfilter the reviews and got a positive response.

If you are a business that offers wifi to your customers, you might want to look into seeing if you can get a dynamic IP address and then ask your internet service provider how you would go about resetting the IP address on a regular basis.

Generally the review filter only filters a small percentage of reviews unless you are using an onsite review station. In these cases, don’t stress out and just remember that this is part of why getting continuous reviews is a good strategy. That way if you lose a couple along the way, you don’t have to worry. If you have copies of the reviews you can always reach out to your customers to see if they can leave the review on another 3rd party site or if they would be okay with you adding it as a testimonial to your website.

Do you have questions about Google’s review filter? Let me know by leaving a comment.

AUTHOR

Joy Hawkins

Joy Hawkins has been working in the Local SEO industry since 2006 and loves being a Google My Business Top Contributor. She also loves spending time managing Google AdWords accounts and has been certified in both Google Search & Display. She is also a speaker at various search engine marketing conferences such as SMX & LocalU and has a monthly column on Search Engine Land. She currently works as a the owner of Sterling Sky Inc in Uxbridge, ON, Canada. Joy's daily responsibilities there include troubleshooting ranking issues on Google for the most complicated and difficult accounts, updating her training manual (The Expert's Guide to Local SEO.), consulting on how to use Google products and SEO-related tools and tactics, selling and managing local SEO, social media and AdWords accounts for small business owners, and keeping up with new trends and processes in the local SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) world. You can connect with her on G+ or follow her on Twitter.

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16 comments on “Why Did Google Remove Some of My Reviews?

  • Great article, I do have a question though. How would one go about reporting a business that has obviously been practicing in spam reviews? I participate in Local Guides and I’ve used the “Report a Problem” feature and highlighted the culprit but with no resolution. It’s obvious that businesses know they can easily manipulate their local ranking by paying a company to do fake reviews, but Google doesn’t really seem to be taking the issue seriously. It’s so easy to spot a business that’s manipulating, it makes me wonder if Google is okay with this type of spam to help validate the perception to Users that their review system is more widely used than say… Yelp. Thoughts?

      • I’ve started to do this with total spam local listings, however I’m paranoid to do it with reviews for fear that it would get back to the business owner as to who submitted the report. I’m not interested in making enemies of business owners. When you submit a report on the forum, it identifies who you are and links to your profile… all I need is a business owner to find out that I reported him/her and now I’m a target.

  • Hi Joy,

    On my business more then 17 Customers gave there valuable feedback but after 2 days visible reviews came down to 6 automatically. There were no spam reviews given still why it was filtered and how can i get valuable feedback from customers

    • Same happen with my business, it has more then 103 reviews. We collect Customers feedback but after 3-4 days visible reviews came down to 93 automatically.

  • One of my clients (Turf Point Dayton Ohio) religiously asks for Google reviews. They don’t incentivize them or do anything that would otherwise void Google terms. Yet today, Google removed 90 reviews and left 2 of them! None of the conditions except maybe a competitor complain would have caused this. Very concerning.

  • Any info on Google’s most recent review algo update? I noticed they deleted tons of older legit Google reviews that were pre Google plus.

  • Any short answer and a quick way to ask google to put our reviews back? We had over 57 reviews and now only 45 are left. These are 110% geunine client reviews and we cannot understand why google removed them?

  • Several of my (older, legit) reviews just disappeared, too. In my case, it dropped my score because all the deleted ones were 5 star and they left a 1 star review from someone who says right in the review that she has never been to my business. Since I’m down to so few reviews, that single 1 star really has an impact.

  • Joy,
    I’ve run into two of your articles or forum posts in the last week. The first was from a Google search “Google removing reviews”, which led me here, and the other was a Google forum search about removing fake locations from Google Maps. My aim in both was to help my client get their reviews back, and how to remove fake (spam) competitors, respectively.

    Both of your articles have been ardent defenses of Google and basically reiterations of their policy with no mention of even the possibility that Google is doing this in error, or that they are pointing people to their TOS/policy pages with zero reason or transparency of why they are removing legitimate reviews; or refusing to remove spam listings, despite Google’s PR campaign about how many spam locations they are removing. No methods of recourse were mentioned. Just concrete “Why and how you are breaking Google’s rules” content, which is really disappointing.

    The fact of the matter is that Google is removing legitimate reviews. Just Google it and you will find people affected by it. There is an article about a game designer that lost 75% (!!!) of their reviews over the course of a week or two. And it’s common knowledge at this point that Google does next to nothing about responding to manual spam locations complaints.

    What would be helpful is if you at least listed methods or instructions of recourse when Google goes wrong in your articles, like how to go about getting legitimate reviews back, or even mentioning the possibility that this isn’t the victim’s fault would be nice.

  • What can I do? A competitor not only has a duplicate listing but also…

    Spams his business name
    Has identical reviews from the same user on both the listings

    We have reported the listings to Google, changed the name of the duplicate to match the original, and classed the duplicate as permanently closed. This has been going on for a couple of months.

    The spam business title is the most worrying as the keywords are being picked up in the local map search results. The title is something like ‘Best and trusted iPhone and mobile phone repair service in (town) (county).

    What can we do?

  • We have encountered an issue, customers say they left the review but it’s not displaying. I posted a “Test” review through my personal account and it displayed, I deleted it the next day. We continue to get reviews on our other GMB listings, but this one is being filtered. Any and all feedback is welcomed.

  • Hi Joy,

    Thanks for the great article!

    Yesterday I left a really really long and honest negative review to a real estate company in Netherlands and that review disappeared from maps the same day.

    I believe that I followed all guidelines and haven’t used any bad language, names, links etc.

    I’m not connected to that company in any way, not working in the same branch etc. I even live in another country.

    What I want is to express my negative experience so that other people don’t lose their time and money with this company.

    I see that there are many other negative reviews, but they are still online.

    Is there any chance the company has reported my review and that’s why it’s now invisible to other people? If so, do you believe that a Google employee will check it and eventually reinstate it? If there’s such a process, do you know how long it takes and if I will be notified in any way?

    Is there any way to connect Google regarding this issue and provide proof if needed? I would do everything needed in order to get my review back online. I believe that this company should not have the chance to lie to other people as it did with me.

    Thanks!

  • 2 months ago, I left a rating without writing a review on a store. Looking back, I felt the need to modify it and explain myself. However, I made a number of edits after posting, and I think this is what made the review disappear. Is there a way I can go about fixing this?

  • Hi Joy. Thanks for posting this article. I have noticed when a client of mine posts a new review, in some cases an older review disappears. For instance I received two reviews from clients this week, however my total reviews have increased from 32 to 33, instead of to 34. Any idea why this would occur?

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