April 2, 2018
Getting your clients to sit down and write a review isn’t easy, so when one of those glorious, glowing, 5-star Google reviews rolls in, you want to hold onto it.
Google reviews disappear from time to time, however, leaving business owners and marketing managers scratching their heads (or screaming out loud).
Seeing an especially positive review vanish into thin air feels downright soul-crushing. You’re already wondering what you did wrong and dreading the idea of asking your client to write one all over again.
So why does it happen? Why are Google reviews disappearing despite being perfectly legitimate? How can you stop the bleeding? Is there a way to get them back?
Before we go any further, we want to emphasize that trying to protect spammy reviews is a fool’s errand. Google will always catch on to manipulative review tactics or efforts to distort their search engine results — and it will always leave you worse off than having no reviews at all.
So below, as we explain how to stop Google reviews from vanishing, we do so assuming that your reviews are legitimate — and if that’s the case, there’s almost certainly a pattern you can change to keep those reviews intact going forward.
More often than not, if you’re missing Google reviews, it’s because Google’s algorithms have identified the reviews as spam. Of course, algorithms get things wrong, and you probably have a much better idea of whether your reviews were actually legitimate than any robot does.
Why do Google’s algorithms mistakenly flag valid reviews as spam? We’re going to explore the most likely reasons in the next section.
But first, we want to mention two other, less likely reasons your Google reviews disappeared:
It’s important to understand why your Google reviews are disappearing because, once you identify the pattern, you can change it to avoid losing reviews again in the future. Let’s look at all the reasons for Google deleting a review.
In Google’s defense, most of the reviews that include web links or direct contact information are spam.
But occasionally, a client who doesn’t know better will include a link in good faith (e.g. “visit their website here” or “if you have any questions about my experience, call or email me”). Google’s algorithms generally can’t tell the difference.
Duplicate content is one of Google’s big no-nos — not just for Google reviews but for content of any kind. It’s the reason you can’t just copy and paste the same webpage over and over again and still get good SEO traction from it, for instance. It looks like you’re trying to manipulate the search engines, and that will always earn you a penalty.
But your clients might not think like that. They might reasonably conclude there’s no harm in copying the review they wrote on Yelp or Facebook and pasting it on Google too.
Likewise, your client might have sat down to review ten different businesses one day and used substantially the same wording in each review.
Or maybe they liked what one of your other clients wrote and decided to borrow their language.
Any of these things can cause Google to delete the review.
God bless a client who loves you that much — they want to review you twice! But, sweet as it is, most review outlets frown on that, fearing it’s someone trying to wield a disproportionate impact on public opinion.
Google will generally assume that reviews left from the same IP are from the same person, so reviews written by multiple members of the same household are likely to be deleted.
Self-dealing is strictly against the rules. Google is only interested in the opinions of your clients or customers — not anyone who works for you (even if your employees do give you their business).
But sometimes, Google concludes a review was written internally even if it wasn’t. This can happen if:
The logic here is that if you’re popular enough to have numerous Google reviews, your clients should probably also have left reviews on other popular websites by now (Facebook, Yelp, etc.).
So if you’re 5-Star, Inc. on Google but it’s radio silence everywhere else, things look fishy.
We’re the first to admit that Google’s rules are a little confusing and self-defeating here. Google My Business wants to be the top dog in the online review world, and in large part, it is. To our mind, there is nothing surprising about the fact that most or all of your clients would use Google to review you. Nor is there anything wrong with you asking them to.
But until the algorithms change, focusing exclusively on one outlet can lead to your Google reviews disappearing. So encourage the occasional client to write up a review on Facebook or Yelp instead.
The majority of small businesses are local in nature, and that’s true of most law firms too. So Google expects that its reviews will come from customers with IPs located close to yours.
But what about the auto accident or speeding ticket client who was traveling through your state at the time and decided to hire a local lawyer? What about the out-of-stater who hired you to help with their vacation home? What about the client who’s moved since they hired you? Or one who’s simply on vacation and finally has enough free time to leave a review?
There are two steps you can take to minimize the risk of your Google reviews disappearing because of a distant IP address:
Beside every Google review, you’ll find a little gray flag icon. If users suspect a review is fraudulent, misleading, or inappropriate, they can click that button and instantly solicit Google’s review.
Sometimes, people click that flag by accident. In other cases, a disgruntled client or ex-employee might decide to flag your Google reviews out of spite.
Ordinarily, the review team at Google is pretty good at figuring out whether a flag was justified, but mistakes happen (especially if multiple users have accidentally flagged the same review).
Anyone can delete their Google reviews at any time, as long as they still have access to the account they wrote it under. Your clients might choose to remove reviews for any number of reasons — a grammatical error, a change of heart, a decision to minimize their online profile overall.
Or maybe they decided to do away with their Google account altogether, thereby deleting their review automatically.
A sudden influx of reviews rings an alarm within Google’s spam detection software, so be careful about asking for too many reviews at the same time (or in an email blast to five thousand clients, for example).
And while this usually doesn’t cause problems, a very large number of Google reviews can raise suspicion too… usually only if the quantity is vastly out of proportion to similar businesses within the same geographic region.
Google might decide to delete all reviews by a particular user if:
Maybe your client just isn’t particularly good at writing reviews. Google isn’t out there policing people’s grammar, and they aren’t looking for Shakespearian assessments of your services. But a Google review might go missing if it is:
Truth be told, a lot of businesses offer their customers an incentive for leaving a Google review. (Some even require it to be a good review.)
Look, we understand the instinct. Google reviews are important to your business, and you’re just trying to give people a reason to spend their hard-earned time to help you out. But this is a practice you want to completely avoid. It’s against the rules, the folks at Google take it seriously, and it can lead to serious penalties, including losing all your Google reviews or worse.
It’s one thing to politely ask for reviews. Reminding your customers now and then is okay too. But don’t offer any kind of reward, and don’t try to influence the positivity of the review. Allow clients to offer their honest impressions on their own, and you’ll stay in Google’s good graces.
Learn more about how to get great Google reviews for your law firm.
Occasionally, Google reviews disappear because your website or Google account is sending the wrong signals. Examples include:
It’s less common, but Google reviews go missing now and then because of a technical glitch or a human error on Google’s part.
This can happen when Google updates its software or algorithms, or when a mistake is made during a human review of your account.
It pays to check up on all your business listings from time to time. If you notice a problem, contact Google or hire a web marketing agency to help.
In almost every case, the simple answer is: no.
If Google made an error, or if there’s a temporary software glitch, there’s a chance you’ll see the missing reviews again without having to take any action. But in most cases, they won’t be coming back.
Some people have gone through the process of complaining to the search engine administrators directly or disputing a deleted Google review, and every great once in a while, someone has success… but you’re dealing with an enormous company here. Trying to save a review is almost certainly more trouble than it’s worth.
Remember: if your Google review disappeared, it might have been for reasons that have little or nothing to do with you.
Your best course of action is as follows:
Take a moment to grieve that glorious review if you must, and then move on. It’s happened to all of us. But hey, your next review may be just a day away.
Google is always changing — not only with respect to My Business reviews but also in terms of SEO, PPC, and every other aspect of digital marketing for attorneys.
Here at Black Fin, we monitor those changes obsessively. It’s how our own agency has kept a top spot in Google searches for “attorney SEO” for years.Google reviews are an important part of what we do for law firms because they’re important. We can help you garner compelling reviews in an ethical, Google-compliant manner while also optimizing every other aspect of your digital presence so that the web starts making you more money. Call Black Fin today and ask how we can help.