Using Google Reviews On Your Website

The question often comes up whether a business can and should use their Google & Yelp reviews on their website. Leaving aside the value to the user experience for a minute, I was curious about the legal issues involved.

A small business would be foolish to use those reviews if the costs of litigation, however remote, would be onerous. So I set out to answer the question by asking on G+. It lead to a lively discussion (be sure to read the comments) and a clarification/confirmation from Google themselves.

Here is what Google says about the use of the reviews:

“Google reviews content is authored by our users. We would suggest that business owners ask for permission from the author of the content before re-using the review on a business’s website or elsewhere. Usage of the Google brand itself is covered by these permissions: http://www.google.com/permissions/.”

Bottom line, you can use the reviews legally with user permission but might get in trouble using Google trademarks without explicit permission. Although a takedown order seems more likely than litigation. On the permissions page they note:

“All of our brand features are protected by applicable trademark, copyright and other intellectual property laws. If you would like to use any of our brand features on your website…you may need to receive permission from Google first”.

I am still exploring Yelp’s formal policy but given their litigious nature I would be hesitant to use Yelp reviews until this is clarified.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Using Google Reviews On Your Website by

18 thoughts on “Using Google Reviews On Your Website”

  1. Thank you for bringing this question to the table! In regards to Google, to be on the safe side, users should get permission from the author of the review and Google. I wonder if there would be any penalties for duplicate content?

  2. That is a great follow up on the initial article you wrote, the discussion on google + on the issue and Andrews article on it.

    It offers much needed and specification. Copywrite itself is controlled by the author. Its an appropriate step by Google IMHO. And Google frankly has acknowledged it is okay for smb’s to ask customers for reviews. The asking process is an important element in review management for any smb.

    Yelp is different. It discourages or doesn’t want smb’s to ask for reviews from customers. It just wants the reviewers to publish them independently.

    If a customer was to write a review on yelp and have a piece of paper asking the customer if the smb could put the review on its site…that seems to be in conflict with Yelp’s TOS. Were they to learn of these coordinated steps they might never allow the review to show on yelp or subsequently remove it should they learn of the coordinated actions.

    I’m pleased to read Google’s response. Thanks for digging into it.

    (hey I’m lazy. feel free to link to the initial article, the G + conversation with many participants and Andrew’s article. They all added to the discussion.)

    thanks again.

  3. Hi Mike!

    It says that Google GENERALLY does not approve the use of their logo in third-party marketing materials. ..do you know how we can apply as a company to use it?

    To piggyback off of what Sarah is saying, if we do get permissions by user to use their review on a website, it would be best to make the review and image so the bots can’t crawl it. I’ve noticed a few times that when a review was used elsewhere on the web, creating duplicate content, Google actually filtered the original review from the +local listing. Has anyone else seen this?

    Thanks for your help!

    Rachel

  4. Rachel
    I don’t even think it worth asking their permission. Here is what they say on their site:

    We generally do not approve the use of our logo in third-party marketing materials. This includes online and offline advertising collateral such as:
    Client and referral lists
    Sales presentations
    Websites

    Which is why I noted above that while you are unlikely to get permission I doubt that they would sue you and a takedown order seems more likely than litigation. In other words (and please don’t take my non legal advise on this) ask for forgiveness not permission.

    If you insist on trying to contact them here is the URL.

  5. @Sarah
    As I noted I don’t think you will get Google’s permission to use their logo. thus you are left with asking the client and either not using a Google logo or taking a higher risk strategy of using it and hoping for the best.

    As for duplicate content, that is not likely to cause your site any issues. I suppose it is possible that it might cause the real review to be taken down although again unlikely.

  6. @Dave
    Yes it might be worth the effort. Then again, it might make more sense just to keep the testimonials coming so that you don’t worry if 5, 20 or 50 get blown away.

  7. @Mike Thanks for the link! Funny you said “ask for forgiveness not permission”…my manager literally said those words verbatim right before you responded :)

    I actually tested about ten of our clients for this and three of them had original Google reviews filtered from their G+ local listing…I’m leaning towards it not being as unlikely as we think

  8. The phrasing of Google’s statement is interesting –

    “We would suggest that business owners ask for permission from the author…” – not heavy handed or demanding. Makes me think that Google has no recourse for forcing businesses to remove reviews from their site as Google has no legal ownership or right to the review content itself.

    The ‘duplicate’ content issue is well worn one that never gets a concrete answer. The fact is that no one categorically knows the impact of re-using reviews on their site. However there is enough evidence to suspect that it may not be a good thing which should deter more cautious businesses & SEOs.

    We’re working on an extension to our reviewflow monitoring service that allows customers to get a feed of their reviews from multiple sites and display it in a JS object on their own website. This gives them the benefit of displaying their best reviews to potential customers while not making the content crawl-able. (sorry for the ‘plug’ Mike – but wanted to back up my earlier comments by showing that we’re actively working in this space)

  9. @Myles
    Yes it does seem a bit of a non-sequitur.

    How will your product possibly comply with Google’s requirement that you get permission to reuse the review?

  10. While this is certainly very cool, I’m looking for a way to access reviews directly via Google’s API. However, I can’t find a way to do it. Anyone know how?

  11. Mike: I see several reasons to place reviews from G+ on the site besides the possibility of them being lost or filtered. Of course I agree with you. Keep getting more.

    The big one is when visitors come to your site from organic or other sources (non maps sources). They have not had an opportunity to see the pinned result with the starred review opportunity.

    Hey, if the smb has a lot of G+ reviews and the reader wants to see the entire corpus and they are strong…they will have a link to that google content.

    After all, linking to google content is the least I can do. ;) They neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed the traffic. ;)

  12. I think that the best way to get customer reviews onto your website is to create a page for customer reviews and to direct customers to that page to share their feedback.

    Set it up so that after they’ve completed their review, they’re taken to a thank-you page that asks customers to share their feedback on Google+ (or whatever site a business owner values).

    The beauty of this is that not only will you get reviews on your site, but you’ll also be able to change the preferred review site any time you want at no expense (if, say, you encourage/ask for reviews on printed materials), and you can even turn reviews into optins (stick an optin form on your website’s review page) and opportunities for growing your social audience (have a message appear on the thank you page after they return from Google that invites them to Like your Facebook page).

    Obviously, you’ll lose some people who leave a review on your website’s review page and don’t want to write a second review, but the other benefits might just outweigh those losses.

  13. Allan H. mentioned that Yelp offers an API that members can use to display reviews on their website. I would just like to add that other review sites do the same thing. HomeStars offers a similar option. They encourage members to install the HomeStars widget on their sites.

  14. Thanks for some clarification on this issue. I did not understand why there should be a fuss was with posting the reviews on the smb’s website.

    I like to just quote a portion of the the review and then put a link to the full review. I feel this adds to the legitimacy of the review that you are seeing on the smb’s own site. And gives credit to the source.

  15. @Chris
    The copyright belongs to the poster NOT Google. However your snippet approach might avoid any legal issues but to be on the safe side be sure to take a look at Google’s requirements for logo usage (ie you can’t).

  16. @Dawson
    You and I are of the same mind on this. Ask, Ask, Ask and you will recieve, receive, receive plenty of testimonials and reviews. More than enough to go around.

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