COVID-19 Google Update: Reviews Return to Google My Business
The review feature is returning to GMB. Here's your latest update.
Google is slowly turning Google My Business review functionality back on, allowing consumers to resume writing reviews and business owners to respond. In late March, as many businesses began closing their doors to foot traffic due to widespread COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions, Google temporarily suspended Google My Business reviews. Consumers could not leave feedback and business owners were unable to reply to reviews on their listings.
Google confirmed the return of review replies on their support page:
“Review replies are now available. New user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will gradually return by country and business category.”
Reviews are returning during a pivotal time in digital business history. Now more than ever, businesses need to have a response strategy in place for online reviews.
But first, why did Google pause reviews?
While Google hasn’t shared an official response, SEO experts believe the suspension was meant to protect businesses from poor reviews that, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been written.
“Local businesses are especially vulnerable right now, given the confusion and turmoil created by the pandemic and business closures,” said Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land. “…Google [is] trying to prevent a flood of reviews that may be ill-informed or malicious.”
In addition to protecting businesses from damaging reviews, Google likely prioritized updating GMB features that would be the most helpful to businesses and consumers alike. While businesses have been figuring out new operational practices under strenuous conditions, Google has pivoted GMB features to accommodate business trends.
What prompted the switch back on?
Google hasn’t yet shared insight on why reviews have returned. Our thoughts? Transparent dialog between businesses and consumers on the world’s most influential search platform can do more good than harm. Now that life in quarantine has become the “new normal,” businesses are trying their best to keep consumers informed on how to buy products and services. Consumers are doing more research online and need more guidance than ever on how to safely shop.
How to manage GMB reviews during COVID-19
So what exactly should businesses do as reviews begin rolling in? Adam Dorfman, Director of Product Management at Reputation.com, shares his best advice:
“…here’s one action anyone with a GMB listing should take: monitor and respond to customer reviews now that they’re back. Doing so is critical. As I wrote in a recent Search Engine Land column, Google is a ‘review amplifier’ and wields an inordinate impact on a business’s online perception.”
As you see reviews trickle in, here are three simple ways to manage your online reputation during COVID-19:
Monitor reviews daily. Keep a pulse on the sentiment of reviews coming in about your business. Are consumers confused about how to conduct business with you? Are you receiving more negative reviews than positive reviews? These could be indicators that the information you’re sharing on your business listings isn’t serving searchers well. Make sure the business information you share on GMB is up-to-date, relevant, and helpful. Use Google Posts to provide more in-depth information about business operations during the pandemic.
Respond to reviews — both good and bad. Over-communication is essential, especially now. Responding to all reviews shows that you care about your customers and you want to serve them well. If you receive a negative review, address their concerns on an individual basis, and then evaluate how your business can share information online to prevent a customer from having an experience like that again. Positive reviews? Respond to those, too! Not only will it delight the customer who left the review, but others online will take note of your attentiveness as well.
Make sure your business listings are up-to-date. GMB is one of your opportunities to set expectations with customers. Clear expectations help avoid disappointment and frustration. Inform customers about the kind of experience they can expect to receive from your business at this time. People are more understanding of delays in service and temporary changes to otherwise normal business practices. Let them know what to expect, and then deliver on that promise.
How has the return of reviews impacted your business? Drop us a line and let us know what you’re experiencing and how GPO can help.