Google’s New Spam Detection Update for Reviews: What It Means for Your Business

Having a solid lineup of reviews is a great way to give your company some credibility. Companies have a motive for trying to make themselves look good, but those reviewing a company usually don’t. This makes reviews one of the biggest considerations that customers take into account when forming an opinion about a company. This is particularly popular when it comes to restaurants on Yelp and even products on Amazon, but more and more businesses are jumping onto the bandwagon now that Google+ allows for reviews.

Unfortunately, this popularity has also made reviews a popular target for spammers. For this reason, Google has just announced a new spam detection update for reviews.

Related Posts:
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The Issue With Spam and Reviews

For those who are unfamiliar, the update was announced on February 4 and promised to shoot down reviews on Google+ Local pages that seemed fake or computer generated. If a testimonial seems too good to be true (what Google called a “fake glowing testimonial”), then there is a chance Google’s new algorithm update will remove that particular review. If there is a negative review, however, Google will only remove it if it violates Google’s guidelines. This helps ensure that only true reviews are being posted—negative or positive.

This leaves many companies wondering what they can do to make sure their Google+ reviews remain on the page. While it’s great that spammy reviews will be removed, how do you ensure that your other reviews won’t get deleted?

How to Make Sure Your Reviews Aren’t Affected

Google works hard to make sure that only irrelevant reviews are removed, but business owners can help out by following a few simple rules. It’s not always about making sure your valid reviews remain on the page, but about making sure that you handle the reviews that are valid appropriately. Below are a few things that business owners should not do, especially now that the update is in place:

  • Do Not ignore negative reviews. The new update is not going to remove reviews just for being negative, so be sure you respond and do what you can to fix the situation or whatever it is that got you that negative review.
  • Do Not let someone remove spam reviews. There are many spam companies and people out there who claim that they can remove spammy reviews for you. Google’s new algorithm will take care of this, and they are not using any third party.
  • Do Not give free gifts for reviews. If someone is giving you a review just to get a free gift, it’s not really a real review. Google forbids this, so it’s best to simply send an email and ask customers to review your company on their own time. The new update might not catch reviews that were written for a free gift, but it’s best not to even take the chance (and you might be surprised to find that you probably don’t even need it!).
  • Do Not hire someone to generate reviews. This is where fake testimonials will probably come into play, and that is exactly the kind of thing that this new update will take down.

Google also had some advice for those reviewing a company. Some of this advice includes not writing reviews for a current employer, reviewing a specific location as opposed to the business as a whole, and not using URLs to redirect reviews (obviously). Business owners might want to remind customers of these review guidelines to ensure that all reviews are natural and following the rules.

Why the New Spam Detection Update Matters

The new update is actually said to increase the number of reviews that show up on your Google+ Local page. Even negative reviews can be good for your company because it shows that you’re not trying to make anything up. You can take the criticism, make it constructive, and move right along. You would be surprised how many people will be able to see through reviews you try to give yourself, so just embrace the update and keep an out!

Do you have an opinion about the new Google reviews update? Have you already seen the affects of the update? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from algorithm updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a nationally recognized SEO consulting firm that offers Ecommerce SEO services to a wide range of companies across the country.

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  • avatar

    ” If a testimonial seems too good to be true (what Google called a “fake glowing testimonial”), then there is a chance Google’s new algorithm update will remove that particular review. If there is a negative review, however, Google will only remove it if it violates Google’s guidelines. ”

    Seems like that’s not a fair way to do it. Does Google even know how many competitor companies / sites go out of their way to try and trash the others? Basically Google is getting rid of the good reviews if it seems fake (Even if it is legit) yet keeping the bad ones there?

    Just wow!

  • avatar

    “If a testimonial seems too good to be true…Google’s new algorithm update will remove that particular review. If there is a negative review, however, Google will only remove it if it violates Google’s guidelines.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like there would be a huge market for buying fake negative reviews for one’s competition, even more so that negative SEO. This is because a 1 out of 5 star review has a guaranteed [negative] effect on one’s overall rating while negative SEO could backfire and end up improving your competitor’s ranking.

    If this is the case, then I see this update absolutely crushing the ratings of companies in niches that have a lot of competition.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am completely against fake reviews. I just think that they should have included a way to detect and remove fake negative reviews in this algorithm update in addition to fake positive reviews detection.

    Hopefully they have something in the works!


  • avatar

    I’m glad to see them taking action against those pesky fake reviews. Con artists have become so skilled that a person wouldn’t even take a second look at it. Even I have been fooled once or twice before, even though my pride usually won’t let me admit it.

  • avatar

    My take on the whole update, and I’m reading between the lines here, is that they just turned up the volume on social signals that back up a page. I believe Google’s Eric Schmidt says in his new book that the tradeoff for anonymity will be irrelevance, according to search engine journal’s early report on the book.

    I think Google is still playing catch-up here too as the people wanting to buy reviews don’t want their site or product reviewed anymore, they want generic articles with links in them instead. I’m guessing that’s to avoid the whole storm surrounding reviews.

    I wonder if your outgoing links are going to be vetted by Google even harder. I really hate what Google’s importance on backlinks is doing to the internet, that’s what it all comes down to.

  • avatar
    Nimmi Sreeraj 


    Not surprising that Google is trying to take action against fake reviews. It’s pretty tough for them to use that data to help searchers if it’s filled with bs. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want stores allowing customers to submit a review in their store though. Perhaps they’re worried about any extra pressure put on the customer.

  • avatar

    Good to see Google working on improving spam filter & reviews. It will be very interesting to see up to what level this can be controlled.

    One question is – Are the business owners really ready to handle the reviews? Its time business owners have someone who looks after the online reviews and have online advantage.

    Finally it all looks like we are going to have better quality service and products. What a way internet marketing is growing. Wonderful!

  • avatar

    This can be a good thing if implemented correctly. Spam is a major problem that needs to be dealt with, and even though some reviews are designed to be funny – they are not really necessary.


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