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Google My Business is finally giving businesses a little more information and control over their reviews with a new tool available here.

Through the tool, business owners or managers can view reviews, submit a request to remove misleading or problematic reviews, and check the status of takedown requests for these reviews.

How To Use The New Google My Business Review Tool

Rather than being built into the Google My Business dashboard, the tool is available through the GMB Help Center.

To get started, simply sign into the Google account related to your business and go to the help page. 

From there, select whether you want to check the status of a review or file a new report for a problematic review.

If you wish to submit a new takedown request, Google My Business will pull a list of your recent reviews which can be viewed and reported within the tool.

If you are simply checking the status of a past takedown request, the tool will show all your most recent requests along with information about the status of the request.

If you select a review, you can also get more in-depth information about the review and request. You can also submit an appeal from here if you believe a request has been improperly denied.

Only Available For Small Accounts

At this point, it appears the tool is only available for accounts with just a few Google My Business listings. Several SEO specialists who manage dozens or even hundreds of listings say they have received a message stating “Based on the number of Business Profiles you manage, this process is not available” when attempting to use the tool. It is unclear if or when GMB plans to expand the tool for larger accounts.

As Google’s employees shifted to working from home or and limiting staffing, Google temporarily shut down the publication of several key Google My Business components.

Most notably, Google My Business put a pause on the publication of any new reviews or review replies, while also suspending the posting of new photos and Q&A’s.

GMB Starts To Gradually Return

In the last few days, Google has updated the page detailing the steps it is taking in response to COVID-19 to say:

“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.”

Along with review replies, it appears Google is quickly taking steps to bring new user reviews back online.

New Reviews Are Coming Back

Several respected figures in the SEO community including Mike Blumenthal and Greg Sterling have reported being able to post visible new reviews for businesses in their area.

Sterling was able to independently verify his review was showing publicly for a restaurant in his area, despite a warning that the review might be delayed.

 

However, there are still plenty of reports out there of reviews being submitted but not being published, suggesting the process of bringing reviews back is still underway.

Google is changing what business owners see when they view their own reviews in order to make it easier to encourage new reviews.

In the past, business owners or account managers would see a button which directed them to “write a review” from their business listing. Now, many are reporting seeing a new button which instead reads “get more reviews.”

"Get More Reviews" button

While the function has not changed, the new text makes it more clear exactly what Google is offering – a chance to share your review links across Facebook, Twitter, email, and more.

The meaning behind the text is also much more clear as leaving a review for your own business is strongly frowned upon and can get your listing penalized by the search engine.

When shared, the review link directs people to your Google Maps listing with a pop up to immediately write a review.

Not long ago, it seemed like every business website had a “Testimonials” page filled with reviews and references from either past-customers or fellow members of their industry. If you have a keen eye, though, you might have noticed these pages are slowly falling out of use in favor of posting your Google, Yelp, and other online reviews on your site.

The practice has led to some confusion, as many experts claimed putting your own online reviews from across the web on your site could be potentially dangerous for search engine optimization. There have even been suggestions it could lead to Google penalties.

Now, you can breathe easy and share your online reviews with pride, as Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has confirmed that it is totally fine to highlight your reviews on your company website – with one exception.

While posting your reviews on your website is acceptable, Mueller warns that you can not use review structured data on these reviews.

As Mueller explained on Twitter:

“From a Google SEO point of view, I don’t see a problem with that. I imagine the original is more likely to rank for that text, but if you use that to provide context, that’s fine (it shouldn’t be marked up with structured data though).”

Mueller then went on to explain that review structured data is intended for reviews “directly produced by your site” and using them on third-party reviews on your own site would go against Google’s guidelines.

The importance of Google reviews has recently gotten a big boost, as it appears that the number of rankings your business has on Google My Business may play a big role in determining where you appear in the local search results. Thankfully, it appears you won’t have to rely solely on Google for your reviews in the future.

Google has begun integrating reviews from third party sources like Trip Advisor and Booking.com into their Knowledge Graph cards for Google My Business Listings. That means your reviews from these sites will be shown alongside your Google reviews, all in one convenient place for shoppers.

The reviews can also be filtered by source by clicking on the “All reviews” drop-down menu.

Currently, the sites being integrated are most beneficial for hotels and other similar travel-related businesses. It is unclear when or if more review services will be included in the future.

As Search Engine Land notes, this is not Google’s first foray into using third-party review sites directly within their search results. The search engine got into a lengthy legal battle against Yelp for scraping their reviews and displaying them in the search results without permission. The result was that Google agreed to only use third-party reviews in their search results with explicit permission from the publisher.

Based on this, it is all but certain Google is working closely with these outside sites to integrate their reviews.

The biggest question for now is whether these reviews will also be reflected in local optimization. If so, businesses that have been accumulating reviews on third-party sites may expect a big boost to their local rankings in the near future. Only time will tell.

Every small business person knows there is no marketing quite as powerful as word-of-mouth. No matter what you promise in your ads, it won’t pack quite the punch as a positive, well-written review for your business. But, what if you could turn your positive reviews into your ads?

With the help of Google’s #SmallThanks Hub, you can no do just that. The new online resource aims to help small businesses create top-quality digital and printed marketing materials based on your Google reviews.

“Simply search for your business name on the site, and we’ll automatically create posters, social media posts, window clings, stickers and more — based on the reviews and local love from your customers on Google,” writes Google’s vice president of marketing for Ads & Americas, Lisa Gevelber, on The Keyword blog.

The new resource is available to all US businesses with a verified Google listing with an address.

“Reviews from your fans are like digital thank you notes, and they’re one of the first things people notice about your business in search results,” writes Gevelber in the announcement.

In the post, Google also highlighted data indicating that up to 71% of consumers say positive reviews in search results make them more likely to visit that business and that business listings boasting positive reviews receive up to a 360% increase in click-throughs to their website.

As part of the launch of the #SmallThanks Hub, Google also included a few tips for small businesses. These include keeping your Google listings up to date, encouraging customers to share reviews online, and posting “Find us on Google” stickers in their store and across social media.

Last month, Google told the world it would be shuttering its Google Trusted Stores program, its long-standing ratings and certification program. Well the time has come, as the program said farewell this week. In its place, Google has launched “Google Customer Reviews” – a new ratings program that aims to be more accurate and valuable to consumers.

Customer Reviews vs. Google Reviews

The launch of the new program has brought some confusion, as Google now has two separate ratings systems.

The classic ratings system allows users to leave reviews and ratings on any business’s listing. These “Google Reviews” are then aggregated into the search results. While the system mostly works, there is one big issue – literally anyone can leave a review, whether they’ve been to your business or not.

With “Customer Reviews”, Google is aiming to make reviews more accurate and reliable by only allowing those who have legitimately made a purchase from the business’s website. That means no trolls bringing down your rankings, but the new program really only works for online retailers.

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After you’ve collected some reviews, you can highlight your high rankings on your site with a customizable badge.

Notably missing from the program is the customer protection aspect of the Trusted Stores program. Online businesses will have to turn to other certification programs to help prove they are a legitimate and reputable business.

How To Join Google Customer Reviews

Businesses that were already participating in the Trusted Stores program have been automatically migrated over to the new program.

If you’re an online merchant who isn’t already participating in the program, follow these four steps:

  1. Sign into or sign up for a Google Merchant Center account.
  2. Select “Merchant Center programs” from the dropdown menu in the upper-right corner.
  3. Click “Get Started” within the Google Customer Reviews card and accept the Program Agreement.
  4. Add the survey opt-in code to your site.

Once you’ve gotten all set up, you can put the badge code for displaying your seller rating anywhere you want on your website.

Google Authorship

In a move that should please many online businesses, Google is making it easier to leave reviews on the platform. Finally, users can leave reviews without a Google+ account.

To clarify, while you don’t need a Google+ account, you do still need a regular old Google account. The change was first spotted by Conrad O’Connell from Serptests.com.

The difference seems small, but in this case, semantics is everything. By not requiring a Google+ account, Google is opening the door to a considerable number of reviews. Considering review counts and overall rating are top ranking signals for local search, this also means it will be easier to improve your local rankings with reviews.

This doesn’t mean you will have to do with an enormous amount of anonymous or troll reviews either. The first and last name of the reviewer will still be shown, so you shouldn’t have to worry about being flooded with one-star reviews by nameless accounts.

At the same time, Google also fixed a well-known bug which would keep reviews from being submitted from a mobile device for businesses without another pre-existing review.

Reputation is everything for local businesses, and these changes make it easier than ever for your customers to spread the gospel of your quality service or products.