What Happened to the Anonymous Reviews on Google My Business?

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On May 24th, 2018, Mike Blumenthal reported that Google had suddenly deleted anonymous reviews on one of his client’s business profiles. The sudden change left people puzzled: was it a mistake? Or was Google finally trying to address the problem of fake reviews?

About a month later, Google confirmed Blumenthal’s suspicions. It was systematically deleting all anonymous Google reviews from its business profiles.

This sudden and unexpected change in policy left a lot of small business owners wondering what had happened and why. Although Google confirmed that it happened, they never really explained it. Here at LinkNow Media, we felt our clients were owed an explanation.

Read on to learn more about why Google deleted anonymous reviews and what it means for marketing your small business.

What Role Did Anonymous Reviews Play in Reputation Management?

At LinkNow Media, most of our clients are small to mid-sized business owners. We know how hard they work to build their online reputations. From meticulously answering every review, good and bad, to encouraging past clients to leave reviews, a lot of time and energy goes into Google.

And it’s for good reason. Reputation management is a key component of every good online marketing strategy. It’s perhaps the single most important way to build trust online. And from trust, you get conversion, that is, sales. In fact, it’s estimated that 93% of consumers are influenced by reviews when making purchases online.

So, reviews are important. And that was part of the problem with anonymous Google reviews. Because there was no accountability for them, it was easy for competitors (or black hat SEO companies) to leave fake negative reviews. Same goes for companies who wanted to boost their online reputation with positive reviews.

By deleting anonymous reviews, Google is trying to reward companies that have worked hard to build their reputation with quality products and services.

Are Fake Reviews a Real Problem in 2018?

This has been the subject of debate. Given the relevance of reviews for consumers, we’d say it’s a pretty big problem. Even though most consumers are aware of fake review and may even be able to identify them in a list, they still go a long way towards influencing decisions. As BrightLocal reports, in 2017, 79% of consumers read a fake review.

Theoretically, this action by Google is aimed at confronting these numbers head-on. In practice, however, only about 3% of Google reviews were anonymous, making Google’s actions almost irrelevant on the scheme of things.

But not irrelevant to small business owners, some of whom lost a large percentage of their reviews to the purge. Which leaves us with a final question:

Will Deleting Anonymous Reviews Actually Have an Effect on Fake Reviews?

Yes and no. More than anything, it looks like Google is just scratching the surface. Although it is speculation, deleting anonymous reviews seems to be less about going after fake reviews, and more about increasing user trust in the Google review system itself.

After all, deleting anonymous reviews is not going to stop companies and individuals from creating fake accounts to leave fake reviews. In fact, it seems like this action may, in the end, lend legitimacy to fake reviewers who are now required to have official profiles. There might be a temporary lull in fake reviews but, ultimately it’s not going to stop the bad guys. And it’s the little guys that are going to take the hit.

On the plus side, this is a step in the right direction. It will give business owners greater control over their online reputation. And since reputation management is such an important part of digital marketing, we see this as a positive development.


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