After months of speculation, Google has finally confirmed that they have removed anonymous reviews from Google My Business. In this digital age, online reviews are gold. More users turn to reviews, whether it’s on Google, Yelp, Facebook, or TripAdvisor, before making purchasing decisions. That’s led to a range of problems, from competitor’s purposely posting bad reviews to people buying or soliciting reviews. Now Google’s made a step to stop that by saying bye-bye to anonymous reviews.
What Were Anonymous Reviews?
While most review sites require users to create an account, which means giving a name, a verified email, and a picture like Facebook and Yelp, Google gave users the options of reviewing a business anonymously. The review would simply say “a Google User” instead of a name.
Now Google has taken the option of anonymity away stating,
“We do not allow anonymous reviews today and we’ve removed legacy anonymous reviews”.
What Does This Change?
Removing these anonymous reviews have hit businesses, especially smaller local ones, hard. Already many have seen their average star rating change and the total number of reviews drop. Google reviews play a significant role in SEO, with their search engine-ranking algorithm taking into account how many Google My Business reviews a business has.
However, this isn’t as drastic as it seems. Anonymous reviews were already becoming a thing of a past, and BrightLocal estimated that only around 3% of all reviews over the last decade were anonymous, which is a small number in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, this isn’t even the first time Google has removed anonymous reviews. Back in 2013, work was done to remove anonymous reviews as a result of Google requiring users to create a Google+ account in order to review businesses.
What Impact Will This Have?
It’s probably incredibly frustrating for businesses to losing those anonymous views, the impact being they could have a lower average star rating or a lower ranking. But in the long run, this is a positive move for everyone. With the rise of bad actors abusing reviews, online trolls, and fake news, transparency is a good thing. Of course, there’s still the option of creating a fake Google account but those extra steps will work to deter a lot of bad actors.
Today, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. An online reputation is a significant factor in how well a business will do. Not only will requiring people to put a name with their review deter many people from creating fake reviews, it will also improve users trust in them.
Transparency is a trend for tech companies this year. After a few tremulous years for the Big 3, Facebook, Twitter and Google, ranging from foreign meddling in elections to rampant hate speech, it’s about time they started doing something. Facebook and Twitter just launched their ad transparency tools this week. Now it seems Google is doing their best efforts by removing the curtain of anonymity that online trolls are so accustomed to hiding behind. There is still more they can do, and likely will do, in the coming months. While Google needs to work on communication (the rollercoaster of constant Google updates out of the blue isn’t a fun ride), at least they’re heading in the right direction.