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The Pros and Cons of Google Reviews

The Pros and Cons of Google Reviews

Rochelle Burnside Headshot

Written by: Rochelle Burnside | Best Company Editorial Team

Last Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Google Reviews header

Google is your chauffeur around the internet. If you’re one of the billions of Google users online, you hop on Google to get to some of the most familiar landmarks of the web. You ask Google your tough questions to locate niche advice. And you ask Google to recommend a good restaurant near you.

That’s why Google Reviews are some of the best you can get. Google Maps pulls local businesses for the industry you’re searching and serves up their locations, websites, reviews, and more. When customers look up your business, they’ll see your Knowledge Graph with information about your business on the side of their page. Google Reviews are highly visible.

But what makes Google Reviews special? And why should gathering Google Reviews be an important part of your reputation management? Let’s go over where Google Reviews excels and where it’s lacking.

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What are Google Reviews?

In 2007, Google began allowing users to give businesses on Google Maps reviews. Considering the online review business erupted in 1999, Google was uncharacteristically late to the game. But Google Reviews are now some of the most accessible business ratings on the net.

Anyone with a Gmail account can leave a review on a Google Business Page, unless you’re in a GMB category that restricts reviews, like schools. But for almost any business with a Google Business Profile (in other words, a listing on Google with information about your business), reviews are permanently toggled on.

Why use Google Reviews?

You want Google Reviews to be a part of your online reputation management game plan. These facts will convince you:

If you’re on the fence about using Google as a review platform, you’re probably on the fence about online reviews in general. Google’s advantages in gathering reviews is clear, but here are the facts on why reviews in general are important:

Reviews matter, and it matters where you get them. Here are some of the pros of Google Reviews.

Pros

High visibility

We’ve brushed this topic, but it can’t be overstated how popular Google is. With millions of people looking for companies online, Google is the go-to web browser for a majority of them. The platform outpaces Facebook, Yelp, and Amazon in its volume of customer reviews.

It also can’t be overstated how important Google Reviews are for local SEO. More reviews means more local search visibility. 

This comes into play with Google’s Local Search Pack. You know the top three contenders for a keyword like “pest control near me” or “grocery stores near me”? Those three are decided through ranking factors like proximity to the searcher, page personalization, relevant keywords, and — you guessed it — reviews. This is what Google pulls when I searched "pest control in seattle washington."

Google Local Search Pack

Google checks a few review factors, like your volume of positive Google reviews, how recently reviews were written, and the diversity of your reviews (whether they have similar language, location, etc.).

Google Maps and Knowledge Graph integration

Managing your Google My Business profile could put you on the map — literally.

Having your physical address listed on Google Maps means you finally exist to searchers looking to navigate to your location or look you up in local search. And Google will pull your profile information into a Knowledge Graph that appears when customers search your business.

Google Knowledge Graph

All these branded terms might be confusing, particularly when the Knowledge Graph doesn’t look like a graph. But business owners should know that the screenshot above is profile information they can manage through a Google My Business account.

On both Maps and in the Knowledge Graph, Google will feature your reviews. These star ratings can be a welcome sign or a warning signal to shoppers. That’s why it’s important to gather positive reviews for Google.

Marketing integrations

Google makes it easy for business owners to share their reviews on social media, landing pages, emails, and more. They provide free assets to help with your digital marketing. You can visit the Google My Business marketing kit to see their tools, which include everything from personalized videos to posters of stellar reviews for your in-store locations.

Review request tools

Google offers several ways to get customers to your business page for reviews. You can use their free marketing assets to include a review link on any page you want:

Google marketing kit assets

You can also create a short name (a shorter URL) to send to customers when you’d like them to leave a review. Google details how you can create a short link here.

Hundreds of support tools and agencies

Because Google is one of the biggest review platforms and has been in the game for over a decade, many tools and agencies cater to Google Reviews.

Companies can focus on helping you specifically gather Google Reviews, or provide you with social tools that bake CTAs for Google Reviews on receipt pages, in followup emails, or in post-transaction texts.

Because Google is one of the most popular review sites, tutorials and tips abound. It should be simple to set up Google My Business and see success with the help of online experts.

Images and keywords

A potential customer can see all the images your reviewers leave. This content can show off your products and services better than any words can. Plus, if you can get in touch with the reviewer, you can ask permission to share their user-generated content across your social media channels. Future customers are always looking for proof that your brand drives results, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

Google also has a keyword tagging system that allows readers to filter reviews by the most common phrases used in your feedback, like these keywords for an aquarium:

Keyword tags

This makes reviews more searchable, but the keywords can also be valuable to you. See what reviewers consider the best aspects of your business, and brainstorm how you can share those features in your marketing and develop content strategies around those keywords.

Cons

Limited support

If you run into fake or spammy reviews on your profile, you have little recourse when pleading your case.

Google lets you report the review.

Google report review

But don’t expect the chance to give them an explanation when you’re filling out that complaint.  You may have an opportunity to speak with someone at Google about it, but don’t count on it.

Reviewers don’t have to leave a comment with their rating

A customer could leave you a bad Google review without ever explaining why. That’s because Google doesn’t require reviewers to leave comments with their rating. 

This feedback isn’t helpful for review readers or businesses looking for feedback to inform their efforts to improve. It’s also why Google had to crack down on incentivizing reviews — too many users were leaving unhelpful, spammy reviews in exchange for a coupon or discount.

Google star rating only

Reviews with little content make it hard to spot fake ratings, which puts you at risk.

Nearly anyone can leave a Google Review with limited validation

Any Google user with an account can leave a review. That includes everybody with a Gmail account (or anyone that has a third-party email address they’re willing to connect to Google).

I have three Gmail accounts. And as I swapped through accounts and clicked “Write a Review” for the same business, it looked like Google would allow me to post reviews under each account. I wasn’t looking to get my Gmail accounts suspended for fraudulent reviews, so I didn’t take the test further. I know Google has some common-sense moderation in place to stop multiple reviews coming in from the same IP in a small time frame. 

However, fraud accounts could use VPNs and multiple devices to make it difficult to track their reviews as they hop between fake profiles. Google moderators may even outsmart these methods, but it’s clear that at some point the fraudsters will strike a victory. Search Engine Land alleges that thousands of Local Guide accounts are actually review farms. This is a price Google pays for its popularity.

Google might be able to make it more difficult for fraud accounts to leave fake reviews, but it would require filters that discourage actual reviewers, like providing a phone number associated with your account to leave a review. Or they could improve their moderation, and rest assured Google is always working on that. But that brings us to the next important point.

Limited fraud detection

Google automatically detects fraudulent reviews, but plenty still slip through the cracks.

As you saw when we talked about Google’s limited support, your options for reporting a review are slim. While Google does its part to limit fake reviews with rules against review-gating and incentivizing, it could be doing more to catch fake negative reviews from competitors or angry customers.

Google’s synthesis of AI and human moderation is state of the art. That said, Google has been ramping up its moderation and removed over 75 million reviews in 2019 with human and machine help. If you have a fake review, they’re working harder than ever to address it, but they have a ways to go.

Google Reviews are only one piece of the puzzle

Google Reviews is one the best platforms to collect reviews because of its visibility. But it’s not the best place for high-quality comments, rich content, or shareability. Google Reviews don’t focus on video testimonials, and the program doesn’t have built in options to share customer comments out on ads and on your website.

Google Reviews can’t be the only piece of your online reputation puzzle. Customers consult a few review sites before making a purchasing decision. Expand your review portfolio with niche specialist websites, sites with high traffic, and sites that rank well for the keyword “your brand name + reviews.” 

Looking to gather reviews that matter?

Best Company helps businesses from all industries gather reviews they can use to increase conversions and build brand trust. See what makes us different from our competitors.

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