Google Stops Counting Anonymous Reviews?

Update: Over the weekend many of these “A Google User Reviews” were removed from the corpus as well as the count.

I just got this email from my favorite pet client, Barbara Oliver.

She watches her reviews like a hawk and is very protective of them:

I noticed today that I have 139 google reviews and up until now, I had 172. Do they just delete older ones? You know how I get as I work so hard to earn them ……

Thanks to a tip from Martin Briggs, of the thesearchroom.comΒ on Twitter, I was able to confirm that Google didn’t throw them away, they are just no longer counting anonymous reviews from “A Google User” in the total shown in the Knowledge Panel.

Whether this fortells some other action vis a vis anonymous reviews is not clear. But for now, many businesses will see an immediate drop in their review count. It will be more obvious to those that started the review process before the G+ era and have a lot of reviews from non-identified users.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Stops Counting Anonymous Reviews? by

46 thoughts on “Google Stops Counting Anonymous Reviews?”

  1. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Businesses should be working at getting reviews continually, and more recent reviews will be a better reflection than reviews from six or seven years ago. Plus, this affects everyone equally.

    1. Hope this update sticks! Worked out good for me… I went from 23 to 15 reviews but now a 5.0 rating instead of 4.8 ~ Google removed an anonymous 3 star review from 8 years ago that was dragging my score down.

    2. This is wonderful! I had a group of angry stalkers tanking my star rating on a couple of books from the 4 to 5 range down to 1 star. I complained to Google over a month ago and it was fixed within a day or two. Now it looks like it is new policy. Thank you Google Play!

    3. Having reviews from 7 years ago is a good thing. It shows that you have been in business longer than new businesses who have only been receiving reviews for a year or so. Which is the case for my business.

        1. My review count went down from 74 to 55. However, when I counted the actual reviews there were still 74!

    4. Ridiculous and pointless statement, and hence the entire post is pointless. I do work at getting new reviews, but if Google then take old ones down I’m treading water basically.
      We work hard to build up reviews. I personally add reviews to help others. For the amount of data most of us give to Google daily they should be a little more proactive in protecting businesses interests.

      1. Neil
        Not sure why you feel the need to criticize.

        We are all but observers and can only control what we can control in
        Our own sphere.

        Beyond that we are all pretty much in the same boat trying to figure it out.

  2. @John
    Agreed but and this is a typical Google but if they are going to change the rules they should announce it and alert us so that we can explain it to customers.

  3. Thanks for the nod, Mike! Agree with John that it shouldn’t be a big deal as anonymous reviews are pretty dated. On the other hand, I noticed it because one client (with just 7 total reviews – which is actually not abnormal in many industries) went from an average 4.8 to 3.7 thanks to losing ratings from 4 anon reviews. It’s been negatively affected more than its competitors. The message is that they should get their review strategy in place ASAP but, yeah, a warning would be nice!

  4. Thanks for the update. Our smb’s lost reviews. I assume that they are old reviews per your comments.

    As to lack of google communications: They avoid all kinds of responsibility that all others would generally face.

    They should pay you for being an interpreter for the rest of the human race. πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Mike, that’s handy to know, thanks.

    I’m in favour of giving more weight to more credible reviews e.g. those with minimum number of word counts, from reviewers with high trust profile etc.

    1. @Evan: Ha. Google reviews are the shortest of all reviews. Many have just ratings, no words. Much of it is a function of google pushing reviews via google swag to “local guides”. Put in a review: get points; accumulate points; get swag.

      They aren’t going to reduce the value of those anytime soon. Maybe in five years they will remove them…but not now…and if they do remove them…if Mike is still around he’ll have to be the one to get them to acknowledge what they did.

  6. Ratings only have long held significantly less value than a review in all things except the count.

    They are at the end of the relevance list, rarely seen and offer no relevance value.

    1. I wonder how potential customers read reviews. I never read reviews based on google’s algo or Yelp’s for that matter. I always read reviews by most current. I might also scan by highest and lowest ratings and cross check those against current dates.

      Relevancy to me is based on time frame. I could care less what the google algo suggests.

  7. Holy Cow. SMBs that have been doing a great job for many years at getting Google reviews just got hosed. And they will be pissed! The worst part is that it wasn’t announced and there’s no warm & fuzzy communication to business owners about it and why. Google has done far too little to nurture the review process. Can they please stop botching this part of local?

    It’s SO HARD for businesses to get folks to write a Google review. Very few of their customers who say they will write a review (on Google) actually do it.
    My question is this: are these old reviews simply not displaying now and they are still counting towards rankings? Or are they zapped? Just had one client go from 63 reviews to 29. That was a lot of work for her to get 63. She will not be happy. πŸ™

    And if star ratings alone have little ranking value – and little value to anyone really – why do they exist at all? Google is far behind Yelp and other directories that are doing a much better job at this. Hopefully some significant improvements happen soon.

    1. We are a dental office and have been really rallying for google reviews since there are so many dentists in the area. The reviews that are missing are NOT anonymous, they are actual patients who we fawn over for having given us such a great review, now it is gone. Some state they have been seeing the dentist for 30 years and their children and grandchildren now come to us. None of the reviews that are missing are OLD either. The oldest reviews we ever had were 3 years old and a lot of those are actually still there. I am new to this office and have worked very hard to get good reviews to build our patient base since last September. We have lost 16 reviews, 58 to 42 within the last week. Since I am new to this, I searched high and low for an official HELP link from google. Doesn’t seem like there is one besides the community.

    2. Totally agree, it takes a lot to get a legit review from a client, I do think some of my competitors use bogus reviews , for instance 100 reviews all 5 stars? Really? It took 15 yrs to get 20+ ,how are they getting 100? Sounds fishy to me.

  8. I think a good strategy for Google to take towards unverified users would not be to discount them completely but rather have them be weighted differently. I’m not sure how this would look but surely it happen. Are local guides weighted differently in any way or they just have more prominence because of the badge? In any case, seems odd they’d be removed completely especially if there’s a good amount of content in the review rather than just a star rating.

  9. Just a reminder:

    This all could just be a TGBF moment (a Thursday Google Brain Fart) and it is just a temporary bug….

    That was why I added the ? to the title. With Google its often difficult to tell a bug from a feature… and it could just be that they are changing stuff and it will all return.

    1. I think that’s pretty hilarious and sums up Google in its entirety.

      “With Google it’s often difficult to tell a bug from a feature.”

      Or just a change in general which just leaves me shaking my head that SEO and local SEO is all just a guessing game 90% of the time.

    1. It was a long weekend and its still early in Mountain View.

      We learned over the weekend that the A Google User reviews have now been removed.

      My personal guess is that it is a feature not a bug but we are awaiting word from Google.

        1. @Trent
          I think it wasn’t always the case prior to linking Google Places with Google+ in 2012.

          Anonymous reviews since then are likely from people who have deleted their Google accounts.

  10. I lost 30 legit reviews that clients had given me. I understand Google should remove fake reviews however it’s unfortunate that they remove reviews from companies that have followed Google’s guidelines and have real reviews from real clients. Not our fault that their names did not appear.

    1. Any updates? We received many sincere Google reviews from customers as it is the easiest way to leave a business a review and all have disappeared. We are left with only our single poor rating on Yelp, unlikely ever to be balanced as none of our customers ever are Yelpers.

  11. Hey Mike,
    Do you have any clarification on what is considered “a google user” or an anonymous user? We have a ton of clients that are upset about the update and any sort of clear verbiage will help. Are they considered a non-active Google+ user? Did they never complete their account etc?

  12. I noticed that some old ones used to say the name and then somehow the name was gone after some time. I always replied to everyone and used their name so I know that the name was posted years ago.

  13. In trying to assess the damage for clients I took a look inside Bright Local and anonymous Google reviews are still there (albeit counts and ratings are not included in the totals). It could just be they are lagging behind a little and they’ll disappear when Bright Local refreshes its data? Anyway, unless you were well on top of your reviews, this is a good way to see the before and after effect.

  14. In my case I know none are anonymous. I’ve been watching and very involved from the start. I noticed with the old reviewers the names started getting removed after some time and the names were replaced by the mention of them being a Google user. found it quite strange over the years that their names were being removed. I’ve responded to each by name so I know this for a fact (none anonymous and never seen an anonymous reviewer from my recollection). This is completely unfair and disappointing.

    1. This is absolutely correct in our case too. Frustrating as it does show the solidity of the business having older reviews, but like Rula, I noticed over time that the older reviews were having their names removed and “a google user” appeared in its place! Frustrating to say the least as we NEVER had a fake or anonymous review, and never would have wanted one!

  15. @Rula

    As recently as 2016, Google required users to log in as G+ users to leave a review. When they transitioned away from + they allowed users several choices as to whether to delete their reviews or to create a name. Many users did not make that transition. For the users that chose not to give their name and make that transition Google identified them as ” A Google User”…. also certain devices like the old Blackberry’s could leave a review but not a name. Also users left + and may have changed profiles at Google abandoning their old profiles.

    Needless to say there were many ways that these reviews became from “A Google User”.

    Regardless, Google has apparently nuked them. And we need to move on and figure out what to do about it.

  16. HI
    Has anyone else had your replies to old reviews deleted? I have religiously replied to reviews ( positive and negative) only to find they have all seemed to be deleted! So review remains and my response removed. πŸ™

  17. Ridiculous and pointless statement, and hence the entire post is pointless. I do work at getting new reviews, but if Google then take old ones down I’m treading water basically.
    We work hard to build up reviews. I personally add reviews to help others. For the amount of data most of us give to Google daily they should be a little more proactive in protecting businesses interests.

  18. How is this post pointless? If it were not for Mike letting us know what’s going on with Google, you would be in the dark about this issue. I’m sorry you’re so upset, but you’re venting to the wrong person.

  19. Hi Bob.

    Sorry there is a misunderstanding here. I clicked reply to the first reply my John on May 24th. I was not venting at Mike, I was referring wholly to John’s post.

    Just to add, I have lost reviews from non-anonymous reviewers.

  20. I lost 50% of my customer reviews from Google , none of them were anoymonous, it took 15 yrs to build that up and seeing them get wiped out was disheartening. I know some competitors have like 100 5 star reviews- I would say that is suspect – really 100 people and all 5 stars? Hmmm, don’t think so.

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