Google Review Policy - What Business Owners Can And Can't Do?

Mia Jensen | Mar 16, 2023 | 13 min read
Google Review Policy - What Business Owners Can And Can't Do?

As a local business owner, you cannot ignore the importance of Google reviews. Your Google Business Profile is the first impression potential customers get of your business, as 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.

Google reviews are vital to building a positive online reputation for your business. But be mindful of Google’s review policies when asking for reviews and responding to them.

In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Google’s review policy. However, it’s important to note that Google can update its policies and guidelines anytime, so stay tuned for any changes.

Remember that this post is not comprehensive or legal advice, so review Google’s policies and terms of service thoroughly. And if you are confused, don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer.

What are Google’s review guidelines?

Google Review guidelines are a set of instructions set by Google. Businesses must comply with them to have their reviews appear on Google. The guidelines can be found under the Maps User Generated Content Policy as reviews are submitted and edited using the Google Maps tool.

The Prohibited and Restricted Content policy apply to all user-generated content, including reviews, photos, and videos.

By taking the time to understand and comply with these guidelines, you can improve your online reputation and attract more customers to your business.

Keep in mind that these guidelines are subject to change, so business owners must stay up-to-date. Adhering to the guidelines ensures the reliability of Google reviews and star ratings for all users.

Moreover, by following the Google review guidelines, businesses can prevent their customer reviews from being removed or penalized by Google.

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What are the Requirements in Google’s Review Policy?

Google’s review policies are simple but important. They require that reviews be based on personal experiences, relevant to the business, and respectful. Reviews that contain spam, fake content, or personal information will be removed.

Businesses are not allowed to offer incentives in exchange for reviews. Overall, Google’s review policy ensures that reviews are honest, helpful, and trustworthy.

By following Google’s review policies, you can rest assured that you won’t face any negative consequences. It’s possible to ask for and receive positive reviews while staying within the guidelines.

In fact, observing these policies can boost your online reputation and attract more customers to your business. As long as you prioritize authenticity and transparency, you can still benefit from the power of positive online reviews.

So, don’t hesitate to ask happy customers to share their experiences. But make sure to do it in a way that complies with Google’s review policy.

How to get Google reviews without violating Google’s review policies?

Here are 6 proven ways to get Google reviews without violating Google’s review policies:

1. Encourage Genuine Reviews

Focus on providing excellent products and services to your customers. Encourage them to leave a review based on their personal experiences. Avoid offering incentives in exchange for reviews, which goes against Google’s review guidelines.

2. Make it Easy to Leave a Review

Make it effortless for customers to leave a review by giving clear instructions and links to your Google Business page. You can also create a QR code that directs customers to your review page.

3. Ask at the Right Time

Timing is key when it comes to requesting a review. Ask your customers for a review after they have had a positive experience with your business. Consider sending a follow-up email or text message with a direct link to your review page.

4. Respond to All Reviews

Responding to reviews, both negative and positive, shows your customers that you value their feedback. 52% of customers expect a response within a week. This demonstrates that you care about their experience and are committed to providing excellent customer service.

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5. Monitor and Flag Inappropriate Reviews

Regularly monitor your reviews to identify any that violate Google’s policies. If you come across a review that contains spam, fake content, or personal information, you can flag it for removal.

6. Train Your Staff

Ensure your staff knows Google’s review policies and understands how to follow them. Train them on how to request reviews from customers without violating any guidelines. This will help ensure that your business complies with Google’s policies.

What violates a Google review policy? Things you should NEVER do!

1. Buying Or Selling Fake Reviews

Buying or selling 5-star reviews is strictly prohibited by Google’s review policy. Therefore, businesses should never attempt to create or encourage them.

According to Google, “Reviews should represent the genuine experience of the user, and should not be written by someone with a conflict of interest.”

Examples of fake reviews include:

  • Reviews written by someone who has never used the product or service.
  • Reviews written by someone who is paid to write a positive review.
  • Reviews written by someone affiliated with the business, such as an employee, family member, or friend.

Businesses should avoid these practices as they can result in the removal of their reviews or even account suspension.

2. Forcing Or Incentivizing Positive Reviews

Businesses should not force or incentivize customers to leave positive reviews. This includes offering discounts or free products in exchange for positive reviews. Incentivized reviews can mislead customers and undermine the authenticity of a business’s reputation.

Google says, “Content that has been incentivized by a business in exchange for discounts, free goods and/or services” is prohibited.

However, the policy does not mention giveaways or gifts, but Google has taken action against companies incentivizing reviews this way.

If getting banned from Google isn’t enough to warn you away from paid reviews, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has strict disclosure regulations.

3. Posting Content That Creates A Conflict Of Interest

Businesses should never attempt to create fake reviews or engage in other activities that create a conflict of interest.

According to Google’s policy, “Reviews should be unbiased and objective, and should not be influenced by a conflict of interest.”

Examples of reviews with conflicts of interest include:

  • Reviews written by the business owner or someone affiliated with the business.
  • Reviews written by competitors or their employees.
  • Reviews written by someone who has a financial interest in the business.

4. Posting Fake Or Misleading Content

Businesses should avoid posting fake or misleading content in their reviews. This includes making false claims about their products or services or pretending to be a customer. Such practices can mislead customers and damage the credibility of the business.

As per Google, “We do not allow harmful content that contains deceptive or misleading health or medical information, and civic processes. We do allow content from verifiable authoritative sources only”.

5. Impersonation

Impersonation is when someone creates a review or account pretending to be someone else. This is not allowed on Google, and businesses should never attempt to impersonate their customers or competitors.

Google says, “We do allow content that contains alternative names for a person or organization where the content is not attempting to mislead others.”

Users should be able to trust the reviews and ratings they see on Google, and impersonation undermines that trust.

6. Review Gating

Review gating is soliciting reviews only from customers who have had a positive experience and filtering out negative reviews. Google prohibits this.

According to Google’s policy, “Businesses should not discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”

Businesses should avoid this practice as it can skew their reviews and mislead customers about the overall quality of their products or services. All customers should be given an equal opportunity to leave their feedback.

7. Allowing Or Posting Inappropriate Content

Inappropriate content is prohibited on Google, and businesses should never post or allow it to be posted on their reviews. This includes:

  • Content that is sexually explicit or suggestive.
  • Content that contains hate speech or promotes violence.
  • Content that is illegal or promotes illegal activities.
  • Content that contains personal or confidential information.
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What Will Happen If I Don’t Follow Google Review Guidelines?

If you’re thinking of flouting Google’s review guidelines, think again! Ignoring these guidelines can result in serious consequences for your business. Here’s what you need to know:

Firstly, if Google detects any policy violations, they may remove your reviews, suspend your account, or even disable your entire Google listing. This can seriously impact your business’s online reputation and visibility.

Secondly, your customers may also notice if you’re engaging in shady practices. If they notice fake reviews or other policy violations, they may lose trust in your business and go elsewhere.

Thirdly, you may face legal repercussions if you’re caught engaging in review manipulation or other policy violations. In some cases, this can result in hefty fines, legal fees, and damage to your business’s reputation.

So, what’s the takeaway? It’s always best to play by the rules and maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity.

Following Google’s review guidelines, you can build a strong, trustworthy online presence that will attract customers and keep them coming back.

Remember, your reputation is everything, and violating Google’s guidelines can seriously harm your brand’s image. So, stay on the right side of the guidelines and watch your business thrive!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Google Reviews Policies

How to report a customer’s fake review?

Report a fake review by flagging it. Sign in to your Google Business account. Locate the review you wish to flag and click on the three-dot menu. Click on the “Flag as inappropriate” option. Choose the reason for flagging the review. Submit the report and wait for Google to review it. Google will notify you of their decision and may remove the review if it violates its policies.

Can I ask customers for reviews?

Yes, you can ask customers for reviews. Many businesses actively encourage customers to leave reviews. Positive reviews are an effective way to attract new customers and build trust with existing ones. But you must follow Google Review guidelines for soliciting reviews.

What if a review is abusive?

If a Google review is abusive, you can report it to Google for review. Google has community guidelines that prohibit abusive content, including content that is harassing, threatening, or defamatory. If a review violates these guidelines, you can flag it for review. Google will evaluate the review and take appropriate action if it violates its guidelines. You may also have other legal options available if the review is defamatory or contains false information.

Can I ask only happy customers to submit a google review?

No, it is not recommended to ask only happy customers to submit a Google review. Doing so can be seen as manipulating your review ratings, which goes against Google’s guidelines. It can result in the removal of your reviews or penalizing your account. It’s important to ask all customers for reviews, regardless of their level of satisfaction, to maintain authenticity and credibility in your review profile.

Can I pay customers for reviews?

No, paying customers for reviews is generally considered unethical and poses legal challenges. It can also damage your reputation and credibility as a business. Some dishonest businesses might use this hack, but avoiding paying customers or any third party for reviews is advisable. Instead, focus on providing a high-quality product or service and encourage customers to leave honest reviews without any incentives.

Why are Google local business reviews important?

Google local business reviews are important because they can significantly impact a business’s online reputation and visibility in local search results. Positive reviews can attract new customers, improve search engine rankings, and boost sales. Whereas negative reviews can drive potential customers away and hurt sales. Reviews also provide valuable feedback for businesses to improve their products and services.

Can I stop customers from writing bad reviews?

Businesses cannot legally or ethically stop customers from writing bad reviews. Attempting to do so can damage the business’s reputation and result in legal consequences. Businesses need to address negative reviews professionally and constructively and work to improve the quality of their products or services to prevent future negative reviews.

How Do I Respond to a Negative Review?

When responding to negative reviews, avoid becoming defensive or emotional. Respond in a polite, empathetic and professional manner. Address the issues and provide a clear explanation or solution to the problem. Invite the customer to continue the conversation offline to resolve the issue further. Follow up with the customer after the issue has been resolved to ensure their satisfaction and ask if they would be willing to update or remove their negative review. Remember, responding to negative reviews can be an opportunity to show that your business values customer feedback and is committed to providing quality service.

Should you respond to reviews on Google?

76% of businesses respond to reviews and are [seen as 1.7X more trustworthy than 46% of businesses who don’t. When you respond to reviews, it build customer trust. It also enables you to humanize your brand, show customers you care about their feedback, and exhibit professionalism.

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