THE Irish have a saying that goes, ‘if you can’t say anything, say nothing’. It seems particularly apt in the case of Google’s Local Reviews where it is possible for any ‘user’ – human or not – to give your company a one-star rating without comment, justification or explanation; a ‘user’ who may never have actually used your service at all.

Such a state of affairs means anyone with a computer and multiple Gmail aliases can damage your company’s hard-won reputation.

And here lies the real problem – according to Google there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

This happened to Terra Meridiana. One ‘user’ (robot, real or otherwise we will never know) who to our knowledge had never contracted the services of our company, gave us a one-star rating, and this is the important bit…they did not leave a comment. 

Now I am not saying my company is perfect, but we do try to offer a good service, so when we received this one-star review we were pretty upset, especially since we had no record of any contact with this ‘person’ whatsoever.

Moreover, since the ‘person’ did not leave any feedback, how could we know how we had failed or how to improve our service?

It is entirely possible the person mistook our company for another; we wanted to know.

We responded to the reviewer and asked them to explain the reason for their poor rating, but to date we have received no response.

Adam Neale Google Reviews
TRICKY: Understanding why someone can so easily leave a devastating review and getting it removed can be very taxing to say the least

Overnight we went down from five stars to 4.8 without, it appears, any justification, so we decided to contact Google.  

Google’s guidelines for the removal of negative reviews

I won’t bore you with the process of complaining to Google although if you are interested you will find some excellent resources online.

Suffice to say, Google considers that receiving a low star rating without a comment is not a good enough reason for removing a negative review.

And this is why Google’s guidelines for removal fail to do their job.

Are ratings reviews?

Google says: “Reviews from your customers can provide valuable feedback for your business, and replying to reviews can help build your customers’ trust.”

The reality is Google’s guidelines for the removal of negative reviews are not good enough.

So what Google really means to say is – ‘we have no guidelines for what constitutes a genuine review’.

Google’s best practice for reviews is: Google allows anyone to post a rating of your company without a comment there is no way of verifying the reviewer is indeed a customer of your company.

So we decided to consult Google’s best practices, where we learnt nothing as the mantra ‘Reviews from your customers can provide valuable feedback for your business … etc. was merely repeated.  

Somewhat surprisingly – or perhaps those who have written to Google in the past will say it is no surprise – a one star rating with no explanation ‘did not meet their guidelines for removal’ and it would have to stay.

To us this seems completely absurd. So, we sent the following response to Google: “I do think Google should allow users to differentiate what exactly they are rating with comments: for example:

A. I want to make a comment about this website

B. I want to make a comment about the services of this company

All ratings should require a comment or be disallowed.

Any comments?”

To date we have received no answer. 

As the article How to Delete a Google Review points out, bad reviews can break a business, especially one that is new, or is classified as a small-to-medium enterprise.

While Google does have a Small Business Support team to whom you can complain about a negative review, there is no guarantee that they will help, as we found out, because the review was not abusive, nor did it break any of Google’s other related policies.

We would suggest that Google change its policy and disallow reviews without explanations. That includes five star ratings.

A review is of no use to anyone unless it is honest and transparent. If you don’t like us, tell us why, but if you can’t say anything, say nothing, and step away from your keyboard!

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