Review spam in Google Maps has been a problem since reviews started being accepted by Google. There has always been a link to tag the review as inappropriate but no clear indication of what was and what was not acceptable nor when or how a review would be removed. Google has at least dealt with the first issue.
They recently (exactly how recent in unclear) have created a specific Comment Posting Policy that delineates specific review practices that are prohibited:
Please follow these policies when making a comment:
- Don’t spam or post fake reviews intended to boost or lower ratings.
- Don’t post or link to content that is sexually explicit or contains profanity.
- Don’t post or link to content that is abusive or hateful or threatens or harasses others.
- Don’t post or or link to any file that contains viruses, corrupted files, “Trojan Horses,” or any other contaminating or destructive features that may damage someone else’s computer.
- Don’t post any material that violates the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others.
- Don’t impersonate any person, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity.
- Don’t violate any other applicable law or regulation.
- Don’t use comments as a forum for advertisement.
Google notes that they “reserve the right to review and remove commentary that violates our policies”.
Reviews are potentially a positive contributor to a consumers understanding of local information. However, often in the context of Maps, where a Local 10 Pack ranking is so valuable, they have taken on a life of their own that is often unrelated to an actual review process and has everything to do with maximizing a business’s presence. This has led to inflated, business generated reviews as well as wildly inpappropriate reviews. Creating clear posting guidelines is a first, positive step in making the process and product functional.
However Google has a way to go to make reviews really work. Google has two issues in this regard that I have noted previously. Firstly, their scraping and updating of reviews has a very long and unpredictable update cycle. At best, if a review is removed from CitySearch it will be gone from Google in 6 to 8 weeks. But that is a best case scenario and that is not always the case.
Secondly, on Google generated reviews the only review removal request option is a community feature allowing a review to be flagged as inappropriate. There is no indication that Google even looks at this community input on a reliable basis. If they do, there is no feedback to the harmed business. There are no clear guidelines nor consistent action to indicate which reviews, if any, will be taken down.
The suggestion I made in September of last year still would be appropriate and that would be to implement review transparency in the Google review system by turning the Local Business Center into a relationship management tool and show the business owner EVERY review that you have in your index whether scraped or Google entered. Show us which ones are in our Maps listing and let us respond directly to those folks that created the review in Google. If we flag an inappropriate review from within the LBC, guarantee some sort of review process and a timeframe. And provide a response, even if automated!
Review spam and review policy are but once aspect of the review situation at Google. Miriam Ellis has a new post on the many oddities she has confronted in Google’s handling of reviews.