What is the biggest frustration of a dedicated small business owner regarding their online reputation? Some could say it would be seeing a bad comment about their service/product somewhere on the Web. I’d say losing tens of legitimate, hard-earner reviews beats that. There are hundreds of such examples being reported on the Google Places Help Forum in the last week. Getting a negative online review is not even close as bad as this problem. The business owner could reply to it, thus somehow softening the bad impact it could have on their reputation and a good response could be sometimes even more valuable then a positive review. Losing tens of positive ones means that no one can ever see them, or what you’ve replied to them. The time you’ve spent in asking customers to leave their feedback, and the time they took to do it is also gone.
This is not the first occasion when Google reviews are missing. However, now Google officially acknowledged the problem and claimed their fault due to a technical issue on their end. In the official thread of the problem Vanessa Schneider, the Google Places Community Manager wrote:
We’ve noticed a lot of posts in the forum here these past 48 hours about missing reviews on Place pages. Thanks so much for sending in these reports, we’re looking into it! Please leave any additional feedback here.
Some things to keep in mind in the mean time:
There are many reasons why a review may not appear on a Place page. We’re constantly working to make sure our reviews are legit and high-quality. And so to do this, we have systems in place that may remove individual reviews (ones that we find to be spammy or abusive). Some of you guys may be experiencing these review takedowns. Sometimes our systems may remove legitimate reviews in our effort to cut down on the abuse, but overall we believe these measures are for the good of presenting quality reviews on Google.
After a couple of days the issue seemed to be resolved and Vanessa wrote:
A fix for this issue is rolling out now — reviews that went missing should now be appearing on your Place page. If you don’t see them right away, please give it a little time. But if over the next few days you’re seeing something different, let us know (make sure to provide us the link to your Place page, and whether it’s Google users’s reviews specifically that are missing).
Thanks again for helping us track down the issue, and for your patience!
However, there are still reports of missing reviews. Google did not state what was the real cause of this problem, but one could speculate that it was an unsuccessful trial of an anti-spam filter. Whatever it was, I think Google has a long way to go until it turns its Google Places reviews from a spam heaven and burden for the SMBs to something more Yelpful. Hopes.