Google has confirmed that anonymous reviews have in fact been removed from public view. Their statement to me:
“We do not allow anonymous reviews today and we’ve removed legacy anonymous reviews.”
If you recall, on May 24th, I reported their disappearance with the article Google Stops Counting Anonymous Reviews?.
Given the obvious angst that many small businesses were expressing, I reached out to Google for a comment and possible confirmation. I received that today.
I tried to get it sooner and it wasn’t for a lack of trying on my part. But Google, in their (not so) infinite wisdom was unable to get me a statement.
In many ways, Google has become a more mature company in local than the Google of old. As noted by David Mihm and I on Streetfight they have actively moved to develop and market their product on many fronts at once. They continue to roll out new features at a rapid pace and have improved dramatically in their ability to communicate to the small business owner.
And yet, when a small business reaches out to me proactively wondering, and many more asked me privately and on my blog for word, Google was not willing to share any details.
Obviously honest communication is KEY to a long term relationship that they might hope to develop with largely distrustful small business folks, These folks have been conditioned by Google to exprect products to be pulled out of the market willy nilly and to not feel totally comfortable developing a strategic relationship with Google. This holds true for larger multi location businesses as well.
And yet most of the evidence points to a Google that has worked hard to “clean up its act”…. more reliable product fixes, regular roll outs, improved communications etc etc etc.
So why was it so hard for them to send a simple statement confirming the obvious?
As much as they have changed, they are still evolved from the Google culture. This culture, largely secretive and engineering driven, thinks that their actions have little impact and thus don’t have to be explained.
And yet in this case, while the aggregate impact of removing anonymous reviews is likely not large, the distribution of that impact is not even. Barbara Oliver, who started engaging her clients with Google reviews in 2009 lost 18% of her reviews. She felt like she worked hard both earning those reviews and in reaching out to customers. Way too hard to just lose them on a moments notice.
From her pov, and I agree, if Google has good reason to remove anonymous reviews then the least is that Google owes her an alert and hopefully an explanation.
That didn’t happen in this case. When will we know that Google has moved on from their teenager mentality? We will know when Google understands and fully integrates the idea that they have a huge impact on the lives of small businesses folks and those folks, by virtue of embracing Google, deserve timely and honest communications.
On the one hand I am a bit of a Google fan boy when I see the largely positive impact that local search has on small local businesses. And yet for every cool free feature that moves them two steps forward in the local space, they inevitably remind me with a step back that they still don’t fully understand the world in which they have chosen to play.
May they become adults sooner rather than later.