Google Reviews is a go-to platform for users when they want to know about a service.
This makes it very important for Google to keep the platform as authentic as possible and avoid any fraudulent practices. One such practice is Review Gating.
Let’s find out what it is and to what extent Google tolerates it.
What is Review Gating?
Review Gating is a practice where a brand asks for reviews from only selective customers to ensure more positive reviews.
It involves brands trying to understand if the experience of the customer has been good or bad, via different means. This is followed by sending review requests only to the ones who are satisfied.
Is Review Gating Illegal?
Review Gating can be considered as a fraud practice but is not at all illegal. However, getting involved in Review Gating can lead to the removal of your business profile. The legality of Review Gating also depends on how it is executed.
Practicing Review Gating within regulations and law is not illegal but is still considered wrong. Hence brands must avoid it to prevent themselves from violating and reviewing guidelines.
Examples of Review Gating
Here are some examples of how Review Gating is Done.
- Indirect Asking:
This is one of the most common ways of Review Gating. Brands generally ask the customers questions about their experience once the transaction is completed. Based on the response of the customer, it is deduced whether the customer has a good experience or not.
- Rating Request:
This is similar to the first example but the method used for understanding the customer experience is different. The brand sends a rating request to the customer that asks them to leave a rating on their own platform.
This rating does not impact anything but helps the brand understand the experience of the customer.
Based on the rating provided by the customer, the brand decides whether to send the actual review request or not.
Why is Google Against Review Gating?
Google is strictly against Review Gating because it can lead to wrong representation of the brand. Misrepresentation of services through Google Reviews is not good for its reputation. This makes it important for Google to penalize brands involved in Review Gating.
Another one of the major reasons why Google is against Review Gating is competitive unfairness. Google puts a lot of weightage on reviews while ranking the brand. Hence, if a brand has more positive reviews than another, then it will be ranked higher.
Review Gating makes it unfair to the other brand as they have authentic reviews posted which might contain more negative ones.
What are the Risks Involved in Review Gating?
Following are some of the major risks involved in Review Gating.
- Loss of Credibility: There might be an instance when the customer sees positive reviews all over a brand’s review section and needs more satisfaction after using the service. This has a negative impact on the brand’s credibility and might decrease retention.
- Penalties: Google has strict guidelines against Review Gating and if a brand is found to do so, it is penalized in some way or another. Violating the guidelines of Google can also lead to the complete removal of a brand’s profile from Google Business Profile.
- Legal Consequences: There are many cases in which Review Gating falls under consumer protection and advertising laws. Violating these laws can lead to legal consequences resulting in a major loss of clients and brand image. Engaging in unethical practices like Review Gating also results in the permanent shutdown of a brand.
- Lack of Improvement: If a brand does not allow negative feedback to reach them, they will never be able to understand where they are lacking.
A negative review is not always about reducing a brand’s image. Constructive criticism from these reviews can help a brand enhance its quality of service. Acknowledging and analyzing a negative review and working on it can also result in the retention of the reviewer.
What Should Be The Right Way for Local Businesses to Request a Review on Google?
There are multiple ethical ways that a brand can request a customer to leave a review. Following are some of the most preferred ones:
- Ask Timley: Timing plays an important role in asking for a review. Asking a customer right after they have completed a transaction considerably increases the chances of them leaving a review.
- Ask Politely: While asking a customer to review your business, it is important to make sure what tone is used. Brands must use a friendly and polite tone while requesting a customer to leave a review. Being respectful while asking for a review can also convert a neutral review into a positive one.
- Make it Easy: The chances of a customer leaving a review are directly proportional to how easy it is for them to reach the review page. Google Reviews provides direct links that a brand can send to the customer while requesting a review.
- Personalized Request: A personalized review request consisting of the name of the customer and some content from the review they added is always beneficial. There are many benefits of Google Reviews. Customers feel acknowledged and special and hence, enhancing the brand reputation and retention.
Review Gating might seem like a good idea at the beginning as it is a shortcut to positive reviews with nothing illegal. However, brands must understand how unethical it is and how it might impact their online presence negatively.