- Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) rely heavily on customer reviews on platforms like Google Customer Reviews for social proof and testimonials.
- Google’s recent updates have created a bug that resulted in some businesses losing years’ worth of reviews.
- Learn how to manually save user data in case it accidentally gets deleted, or how to encourage customers to leave reviews to rebuild your online presence if you’ve lost yours already.
- This article is for small business owners who want to ensure they don’t lose the Google Reviews they’ve amassed over the years, as well as business owners who want to encourage customers to create more reviews.
Small and midsize businesses benefit from positive customer reviews, which validate the quality of their product or service. Your Google Business Profile and Google Reviews are important platforms for these reviews, allowing users who search for a business to see feedback from existing customers. However, recent updates to the Google Business Profile have resulted in the loss of reviews for some businesses, including other important information that has been collated over the years.
If you’re a small business owner who has positive Google Reviews, you can still save your business from losing tons of valuable data you can use for marketing and other related purposes. If you’ve already lost your Google Reviews, there are steps you can take to rebuild your online presence. Read on to learn more.
Why have my Google Reviews disappeared?
Recent Google updates gave business users the ability to filter customer reviews. Unfortunately, this came with a bug that resulted in many different issues, including the loss of reviews for many businesses. This was especially harmful to SMBs who relied heavily on five-star reviews gathered over a period of years to market their business. Many have reported losing a large number of five-star reviews on their profile, resulting in reduced customer engagement.
The bug that caused the loss of reviews was related to a change in a business’s CID number on Google. The CID number is a form of identification for a business using Google’s services, typically used for tracking whether Google creates new records or merges listings for your business. Under normal circumstances, the CID only ever changes when two listings merge or when Google has suspended a specific listing after a user violates its guidelines.
During recent updates, some Google Business Profiles were subject to a change in CID, which resulted in the deletion of their reviews — in many cases dating back years. Thus far, there’s been little recourse for businesses that lost their reviews.
Google has restored many deleted reviews.
Losing reviews is a serious problem for all businesses, especially for those in the service sector. It should be noted that Google understands the gravity of the situation and is working hard to fix the issue, especially considering that the problem was a bug on their end. As of Nov. 15, 2022, Danny Sullivan from Google’s Search Liaison assured users that Google My Business was working to restore all lost reviews, not just those from businesses that had submitted a complaint.
That said, even though Google states that many deleted reviews have already been restored, the number of reviews the company has restored is unknown. It’s also unclear what the extent of the problem was to begin with, how many businesses were impacted, how many reviews were actually lost, and how many have yet to be restored.
Why Google Reviews are important for small businesses
Google is one of the largest companies in the world and the most widely known search engine among internet users. As a result, Google Reviews reach a wide audience to further build a company’s brand and establish themselves as a trusted provider of products or services. Once a user searches for the name of a particular brand on Google, its reviews display along with an average star rating. This information can help them make an informed buying decision.
Google Reviews can set SMBs apart from competitors and help them land more sales. Securing Google Reviews is also good for search engine optimization because the cumulative positive reviews of a brand can increase its rank in the search results. This is because Google recognizes when other users see value in a particular brand. In essence, Google’s algorithm rewards Google Business Profiles with a high number of positive reviews, which leads to more engagement.
Lastly, Google Reviews help establish a profound level of trust among customers, which raises the likelihood of conversion for SMBs. Google is a well-known and trusted search engine, so positive reviews on its platform are usually well-received by users. In a way, some of Google’s brand authority is transferred to businesses that have positive Google Reviews.
There are other review platforms beyond Google. Consider platforms like Yelp and other customer review websites if you’re hoping to build your online presence and publish positive testimonials far and wide.
How to protect your business from losing reviews
Losing positive Google Reviews could significantly impact your business. Although Google has rectified the situation for many businesses that lost Google Reviews, it’s best to proactively protect yourself in case a similar issue occurs again.
One way to reduce the chances of your reviews disappearing is to make sure your Google CID and Place ID are recorded somewhere secure. A Google Chrome extension called GatherUp allows you to do just that.
You can go the extra mile by saving every review for your listing. Luckily, Google sends you an email with the details of every review submitted about your brand. Create a subfolder in your email inbox for these reviews and save every email there for future reference. You can even set up an automation process on most email platforms that will automatically route these emails to that subfolder.
What to do if your Google reviews go missing
While prevention is better than a cure, there is nothing you can do to ensure with 100 percent certainty that your reviews will not be deleted by mistake someday.
If your business loses some or even all of its reviews, the first thing to do is check whether your CID number has been changed using a Google Business Profile monitoring tool. If it has changed, contact Google Business Profile’s support team via their support form, which will require you to put the details regarding your changed CID. Once you’ve filled out the form, you can ask for the lost reviews to be reinstated.
You may also want to join Google Business Profile’s forums and see if there are any cases similar to yours. In the case of the most recent bug, thousands of businesses were affected, which ultimately got Google’s attention and helped motivate them to resolve the issue. Knowing what other businesses have done to recover lost reviews can help aid your particular situation, or at least keep you informed about the situation.
How you can get your customers to write reviews
Whether you’ve lost your hard-earned reviews or simply want to generate more testimonials online, consider encouraging your satisfied customers to review your business. There are a few simple ways to encourage them to do so.
1. Ask away.
Customers don’t usually visit your website or store with the intent of leaving a review, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it if you ask. Sometimes, the only push a customer needs is a clear statement from your brand that you need their feedback to keep doing what works and improve what doesn’t.
Remember: If you want customers to leave a review, make it easy for them to do so. Customers are less likely to answer a lengthy series of questions or navigate confusing forms to leave feedback. Give them a clear, easy space to write their review and let them move on with their day.
2. Take advantage of customers’ happiness.
They say you shouldn’t make decisions driven by intense emotions, but certain feelings, especially happiness, can be advantageous for your brand’s image. Usually, customers are at their happiest right after making a purchase, so that’s a good moment to segue and request their review.
Furthermore, if you get a compliment from a customer on a different platform — say, on social media — you can ask them to leave the same comment on a Google review. That’ll improve your SEO ranking further and add value to the brand in the eyes of other potential buyers.
Word-of-mouth advertising is the most powerful customer persuasion tool. Highlighting customer reviews will help you market via word of mouth more effectively.
3. Emphasize why reviews matter.
Most customers think of reviews as a nuisance that gives them no benefit at all. However, if they leave honest feedback, customers can shape the products and services they receive in the future. In that sense, reminding customers of the value leaving a review creates for both them and the business may be enough motivation to leave one. Additionally, if you tell them that their review can help others make informed decisions, they might feel the urge to help other customers and create a domino effect of encouragement.
4. Respond to customer reviews.
It’s important to respond to customer reviews, both the good ones and the bad ones. This shows your audience that you’re listening to their feedback. Taking the time to thank users who leave you positive reviews will help strengthen your existing relationship, and replying to negative reviews with the intent to learn more about what went wrong and how to help shows you care about the quality of service. Not only will the users who reviewed your company feel acknowledged, but other users will see that your brand is proactive and responsive.
Of course, you should never argue with negative reviewers or be rude to them. Always respond as if you’re trying to gain insight and improve your service for the future. If a negative reviewer seems particularly combative, try to resolve the issue in a private conversation instead.
5. Offer customers incentives for leaving reviews.
Most customers love doing things that will give them a reward or some extra benefit, like a small discount or gift. Other common incentives to leave reviews are points that customers may convert into certain products or vouchers they can use toward future purchases. Many online businesses use this strategy to get users to actively share posts, write comments, or support the brand. You can use incentives to get more reviews for your business, as well.
Reviews are critical, so encourage and protect them
The loss of Google reviews was alarming for many small businesses, and although the bug has mostly been resolved, it has revealed the underlying vulnerability of reviews on the platform. Fortunately, there are ways businesses can shield their Google Business Profiles from losing reviews, and it boils down to being prepared for when it happens. If you do lose reviews, encourage the customers to leave new ones and build your brand again. Ultimately, you’ll increase people’s awareness of your brand and how good it is.