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Review gating: What it is, and why it’s a problemJuly 10th, 2019 by
Put yourself in the mindset of a consumer for a moment.
When you search for a company on the internet—whether you’re looking for a restaurant or a roofer—you expect to see reviews, right? And if you’re like most consumers, you probably look for a range of feedback. Ideally, you see mostly positive reviews, but the odd negative or neutral review won’t necessarily cause you to hire a different company.
Now switch your perspective back to that of a business owner.
Customer reviews are essential to keeping your company’s online presence healthy and current, but the last thing you want associated with your business is a negative review. That being said, occasional negative (and even neutral) feedback is completely normal and not something to be concerned about—as long as you address it promptly and correctly.
When potential customers search for your company online, they rely heavily on reviews to help guide their hiring decision. Those reviews need to be accurate and representative of your organization as a whole. As a result (and to ensure that they’re adapting to how people use their services), Google has updated its rules governing company reviews and how those reviews are gathered and displayed.
The most recent change is Google’s official stance on review gating. You might have heard this term, but do you know what it really means? Keep reading to learn the details of review gating and why you should avoid it at all costs.
What is review gating?
Prior to the spring of 2018, companies could skew their star rating on Google by cherry picking the customers from whom they requested reviews.
The typical review gating process looked like this:
- The company reached out to current and former customers and asked whether they had a positive or negative experience with the company’s services.
- If the customer indicated that they had a positive experience, they would be asked to leave a review.
- If the customer reported a negative experience, the company would either not prompt them to leave a review or would send them to an internal form where they could leave feedback that would not be published publicly.
While this process resulted in great online reviews, the company’s overall profile wasn’t accurate. Customers were hiring companies based on a very specific selection of reviews and having mixed results.
Google’s newest terms of service now prohibit companies from discouraging negative reviews or requesting reviews only from clients who had positive experiences.
Does the ban on review filtering mean your company’s Google rating will decline? Not necessarily.
If you haven’t been actively gatekeeping customer reviews, you probably won’t notice a difference. But if you’ve been caught review gating, you’ve likely already been penalized by Google removing all reviews of your company.
Why are negative reviews helpful?
Negative reviews really aren’t the threat that so many people think they are. As Google’s stance on reviews indicates, you need the full spectrum of feedback to gain legitimacy online. Client expectations might be high, but no company is perfect; any company that makes that claim is highly suspicious—both in the eyes of the customer and in Google’s search algorithms.
Instead, look at a negative review as an opportunity to get an authentic outside view of your company.
- What is the customer’s primary complaint?
- Were you aware of the issue when it occurred?
- Has this problem come up in the past?
- What can you do to make things better?
Don’t let less-than-glowing feedback go unanswered. Respond to every message to show prospective (and established) customers that you care about the quality of their experience.
How does GuildQuality prevent review gating?
When you conduct customer satisfaction surveying through GuildQuality, you won’t need to worry about accidental review gating. Here’s why:
1. We ensure that you hear from everyone.
Our survey team contacts each customer you submit via the GQ system and collects individual answers about all aspects of the work your company completed. The feedback you receive might not always be what you were expecting, but it will always be useful.
2. All customer reviews appear on your GQ profile page.
All of the reviews you receive through GuildQuality are published on your GQ profile page. These reviews are recognized by Google and are part of your overall Google star rating. (As a bonus, your GQ profile page is optimized for search, which means that potential customers have an easier time finding you!)
3. You control which reviews you emphasize on social media.
As valid (and important) as a neutral or negative review may be, it’s probably not something you want to plaster all over your company’s Twitter and Facebook feeds.
With GQ’s social media platform integrations, you decide which reviews to highlight on Facebook and Twitter. All of your reviews remain visible to Google, and they still exist on your GQ profile page—this allows you to put your best foot forward without losing authenticity or credibility.
The bottom line
When it comes to customer feedback and maintaining your company’s online reputation, it’s important to keep two truths in mind:
- Authentic customer reviews are a non-negotiable part of your company’s online presence.
- Negative feedback happens, but trying to filter it out of your Google profile will only hurt you in the end.
Don’t be tempted to present only positive reviews of your company online. It might sound like a good idea in theory, but the reality is that your company will seem less trustworthy to potential clients.