Google Places – Are Reviews Now Being Filtered?

Last week I wrote an article, Google Places – Reviewer Names No Longer Showing. Feature or Bug?, where I highlighted the fact that reviewer names were not showing on reviews on a business’s Places listing.

I and a number of readers noticed that some names were showing and some were not. I received two reviews yesterday, one with user name and one without, which forced me to dig into the issue more fully:

After some digging (Andy only had one review on Google), I tested what seemed the obvious choice. If the user was publicly showing their name in the profile, the review would show and if they weren’t it wouldn’t.

This review was made on a Google account with no previous reviews that included a public profile & the option to display their name. The review was immediately visible with the reviewers name:

The second review was made on a Google account with no previous reviews in the same time frame, without a public profile and the option deselected to display their name.

Initially it was showing on the Places page without the name but has subsequently disappeared from view. Whether the review will ultimately display on Google Places is not clear. Perhaps it will show up sooner or later or perhaps, Google, like Yelp has started to not show some less trustworthy reviews… That is still to be determined.

The scenario reminded me of a comment made in March by Daniel Tunkelang, a tech lead at Google, in his article about review solicitation:

Still, my hope is that consumers will start placing less stock in the aggregated opinions of anonymous strangers and shift their trust to people who are more transparent about their identities and motives. The more that reviewers stand behind their opinion and put their own integrity on the line, the less it will matter whether those opinions are solicited or spontaneously expressed. We’ll see how the opinion marketplace sorts this out.

Regardless, it seems clear that this move is not a bug in Google Places but rather an intentional change. Minimally, it seems an effort on Google’s part to create a distinction between public and private reviewers. Perhaps though it is more….it remains to be seen whether they are filtering reviews and/or removing them algorithmically for violations.

It appears, that the review game is afoot.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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15 thoughts on “Google Places – Are Reviews Now Being Filtered?”

  1. Did you make the review from the same IP? Google clearly monitors your IP because it tells you the IP of the last visitor to log into your Gmail.

    If Google blocks multiple reviews from the same IP to the same business that would be a good start to preventing shilling.

  2. Mike,
    You’ve made me scurry over to my own reviewer profile. Now, when I look at the ‘My Account’ page, I see this message:

    You don’t yet have a public profile. Learn more

    Create a profile or edit your personal info without creating a public profile.

    Is this what you mean by making your ‘name’ public?

    Obviously, I haven’t selected this, option, but I’m not totally sure that’s the option you mean. Now, my reviews ARE showing up though my screen name is NOT, whether I am signed into Google or not. For the sake of this discussion, I have written more than 100 reviews, so can we estimate from this that there is a certain number at which Google would start showing the reviews of non-public-option persons?

    What do you think, and am I understanding what you mean about ‘names’ and ‘public’ correctly?

  3. @Miriam

    You are understanding correctly.

    Google is not showing names if you don’t in your profile.

    There is obviously a point at which reviews for a given reviewer will show up even without names. My test case has not yet played out…. the review might show up over time or might show up if I do a second review.

  4. @Cathy

    I entered the review twice just to be sure but it didn’t show up either time. I will wait a few days and then if it doesn’t show up will try a few things…..

    They may have grandfathered in previous reviewers or perhaps they show because of volume…. we don’t know yet.

  5. It would make sense to me if Google attempted to validate or rank the reviews in order to lend more weight to those most likely to be authentic and devalue the others. PageRank supported by ReviewRank?

  6. Yeah I think there is for sure a trust rank coming to reviews. If I were to brainstorm off the top of my head on how that trust rank would work….I bet it kinda breaks down like this:

    reviewer just rates with hotpot on star system – 1 point
    reviewer writes something with hotpot rating – 2 points
    reviewer has an enable google profile, writes something – 3 points
    reviewer has an enable google profile, writes something, has reviewed before – 4 points
    reviewer has an enable google profile, writes something 200 characters or more, has reviewed before, and review comes form local IP address – 5 points

    love to hear how other local rockstars think a “review trust rank” would break down (should it exist)…?

    I also strongly feel the new local algorithm has shifted a little. I feel they the majority of the weight is now on:

    Links (now that they have merged Places Pages w/ Websites)
    Social Media signals

    I see less and less importance to citations. Why do you think this is…?

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