It’s one of the top challenges any digital agency faces with any client — building a review culture that empowers everyone in the client’s company to learn how to ask their customers for online reviews, especially the biggest driver of social proof and search — Google reviews on a company’s Google My Business (GMB) page.

It always starts with simple math. How many customers have they served? How many customer tell them what a great job they’re doing in person or over the phone? How many long-time customers do they have and how many new customers become repeat customers? That sets a target for how many reviews they should have and how many they should be adding consistently.

When a company does the internal training and focuses their efforts, the results can be a substantial improvement in the number of reviews.

Unfortunately, however, honest, real Google My Business reviews have started disappearing lately, especially since Joy Hawkins at SterlingSky first reported this as a “trending issue” on Local Search Forum on July 3, 2019. This appears to be a technical issue and as anyone knows who’s had one of those with GMB lately, it’s taking 2-3 weeks to resolve. To quote Hawkins quoting Google:

In our ongoing efforts to remove fake reviews from Maps, we’ve experienced an increase in reviews being removed from businesses. We are inspecting our tools and systems to ensure that any legitimate reviews are reinstated.”

First, make sure the reviews that are missing don’t violate any of Google’s review guidelines

Google Platinum Product Expert Helmet Geissler in a GMB Help forum post offers a good list of things to evaluate first if you’re Google reviews have disappeared. We’ll sum up the highlights here:

• Don’t pay for reviews. That should be an obvious by now. Any hint of that can be a GMB killer if Google catches it. Many, many years ago, one local business, that is now actually heralded by the Grow with Google program, had a flyer taped to the counter offering a discount for a positive Google review. A picture of that uploaded to their GMB page could have been a killer. I pointed that out to them and they promptly removed it. Hey, alot of businesses are still learning how to navigate this new review world, so no judgements, just start doing it right.

• URLs or phone numbers in the review. Spam reviewers ruined this one for everyone.

• Multiple reviews from the same IP address or Device ID, especially in a short amount of time. This raises an important question about businesses that have kiosks or devices in their waiting rooms or service area (like a restaurant) for customers to leave reviews. In a perfect world, the reviewer could leave a review from the waiting room, but not on the business’s wifi network. Best practice might be to ask that reviews are left from the reviewer’s most frequent locations, like home or work. Yes, Google will likely know where you are and you’re device when you leave a review.

• A lot of reviews at once from Google accounts that don’t have a review history otherwise or have an empty Google Local Guide profile. When a company gets excited and finally embraces asking customers for Google reviews, sometimes there’s a sudden rush of reviews. If the customers leaving the reviews aren’t used to leaving Google reviews and don’t have a history of Google reviews, these reviews might get caught in the ever evolving Google review spam filter.  This noticeably has been an issue with Yelp for years. It’s a fairly ham-handed approach to trying to prevent review SPAM, but that’s where we are technology wise for now.

It’s an extra step, but you could ask a brand new Google reviewer to upload a photo to the Local Guide account. Have them go to maps.google.com while they are logged into Google and upload a photo to the Google My Business page of a nearby building or landmark. You could also invite them to leave a review or two on another business they have frequented recently.

• Multiple locations of a business being reviewed at or near the same time. The most famous example of this is Mike Blumenthals’ post “GOOGLE LEVEL 5 LOCAL GUIDE DIES OF CAFFEINE POISONING WHILE REVIEWING THOUSANDS OF STARBUCKS LAST WEEK”. Even if a customer has visited multiple locations, have them save their review for their next, actual visit.

• Watch out for date formatting so it won’t appear like some truncated IP address, i.e. don’t use periods between date, month, year. So 10/15/19, not 10.15.19.

If you’ve eliminated these possibilities, or you haven’t and they’re innocent mistakes, the next step is to engage Google.

Steps to Try to Get Google My Business Reviews Reinstated

Save Google Review notifications

First and foremost, save all those review notifications from Google My Business so you can share the actual reviews that might need to be reinstated. If you’re not doing that now, start doing it. Put them in their own folder. Hopefully you never have to go back to them, but if they disappear from your GMB page, you want proof and exact review information to help the technical team get them restored.

Search Google My Business Help Community Forum and Contribute

You’re usually not alone if there’s a technical issue involved so head to Google My Business Help page. Use the “Describe your issue” search bar at the top of the page to search for other posts related to this issue. This forum post is the lead result for “google reviews disappearing”, started 7/31/19 and posts as recent at 10/11/19. You’ll see information about Google’s filters for reviews having a broader impact than intended. Share your story here to help build public support for Google to address this issue.

Contact Google My Business Help

From the Google My Business Help page you can also select “Contact Us” in the top right corner. From “Find a solution”, select “Customer reviews and photos” then “Other requests about reviews” and you should see options to:

• Request a callback (with a wait time)

• Request chat

• Email support (Expect a reply within 24 hours)

We recommend having a detailed list of the reviews that have disappeared ready. If you don’t have that ready, they’re very likely to ask for it so Google My Business Support has specific information to research. Essential details include client GMB name and URL (of course), reviewer Google account username (the one that displays with the review), date of review (very important), number of stars (also important) and the content of the review (if you can).

Filing more than one support ticket can slow things down for everyone, but be ready to try to escalate an existing support ticket if the service representative isn’t clearly understanding your issue or being very responsive in trying to solve it.