Google TOS Update For Online Reviews
In April 2018, Google made a change to their Terms of Service that impacts businesses that currently ask their customers for feedback through a review builder. Many review builders follow a “gated review” process. This protocol looks similar to this:
- Ask customers if they are happy or unhappy (using a thumbs up, 1-10 or star rating)
- Using a pre-determined threshold, (3 out of 5 stars, for example), categorize customers as “happy” or “unhappy”
- Send the happy customers to preferred review platforms (Yelp*, Google, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc)
- Send the unhappy customers to a feedback form, where their comments will be distributed to company managers.
According to the interpretation of these new guidelines, this means that businesses should provide the opportunity to review for all customers, not just the happy ones.
“Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
Read the New Google TOS here
What does this mean for businesses?
It is our recommendation that businesses immediately adapt to these new rules and not gate their feedback process. While the review gate process described above is generally executed by automatic software, we have also seen that technique carried out via email (sending people to a landing page with buttons that lead to different destinations). For many businesses, Google is their primary customer acquisition source. Putting your business at risk by violating Google TOS is never a good idea. Also, getting your Google reviews removed is never fun, as some businesses learned in 2017.
Our recommendations for review funnels after TOS Update
- For all unhappy customers, ask for written direct feedback. Mention that there will be follow up based on this feedback.
- After their comments, give them the opportunity to see online review platforms they can choose. Remember, giving people an opportunity to vent and ‘be heard’ reduces the likelihood that they will leave a public rating on Yelp, Facebook or other review platform.
Should you still use a review builder?
Given these new recommendations, some people might question the value of a review or reputation builder. This is understandable, but we believe that review systems, when implemented properly, provide a tremendous benefit to both business and customer.
Here are just a few ways that review builders can help a business:
- Improve search engine optimization by adding content to a website (via direct reviews)
- Improve search engine optimization by adding review schema (and possibly getting review stars in search results)
- Improve conversion by showing real-life social proof on landing pages
- Give managers an automatic way to collect feedback to help improve processes and customer service
Review builders can also improve the customer experience in a number of ways. First, they give the businesses a reliable way to collect that feedback, which in turn should help those companies improve their products and services. Also, knowing that customers will be in a review funnel should provide additional motivation for these organizations to provide the highest possible level of service.
The Spikefly difference
At Spikefly, we choose to not just provide software. In addition to the game-changing software we provide, we also:
- Help install it on your website, ensuring that customers get the full value from the system
- Handle all setup and maintenance of the system (i.e. when Google changes it’s TOS, we make the necessary changes to ensure compliance)
- For all non-healthcare customers, we will upload the customer data for you
- Provide helpful tools and tips to help businesses with their customer reviews (responding to reviews, utilizing the tools, etc).
You can get review software from anywhere, but Spikefly is where they come for real reviews and real results.