As of April 12th, 2018 Google changed their review guidelines to state that review-gating is no longer allowed. These guidelines now read: “Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit reviews from customers.”
Many of our clients use 3rd party review platforms to help them generate reviews from their patients. A large percentage of these companies utilized review-gating and are now making the necessary changes in order to adhere to these new guidelines.
However, don’t assume the review company you’re working with has already made these changes.* Be sure to check in with them and make sure you’re not at risk to lose any reviews you’ve garnered.
*As a note, the review automation software we offer, Social Review Wizard, does comply with Google's new Terms of Service regarding review-gating. Contact us to get started with review automation and get your first month of reviews for free!
What Is Review-Gating?
As you’re reading through Google’s new review guidelines, you might notice they don’t mention “review-gating.” While the term isn’t explicitly used, these changes are definitely meant to target and do away with this practice. Before we tell you what this means for you, let’s define the term “review-gating.”
Review-gating is when a practice sends a follow-up message to a patient that asks them about their experience. The automated message prompts them to select between two options: a good experience or a bad experience. If the patient indicated they had a good experience, they are prompted to leave a review on Google or other popular platforms, such as Yelp or Facebook.
If the patient indicates they had a bad experience, it will connect them with the practice rather than prompting them to leave a review. The idea is to allow the practice to make it right rather than receive a negative review. Google argues that this unfairly skews your online reviews and doesn’t give users a fair representation of your business.
What Does This Mean For You?
For most businesses, this won’t have a huge effect on the way reviews are collected. Most changes are taking place with how review automation companies are conducting business. Many of them saw this move coming and were ready for it when the time came.
Continue to encourage patients to leave you reviews but be sure you’re making it clear to everyone that they can review you online. It's best not to appear like you’re selecting certain patients over others. In other words, don’t cherry pick reviews from patients that you know will give you a 5-star review.
Another change in Google’s review policy is that you can no longer solicit reviews in bulk. If you’re going to solicit reviews, you need to do it to everyone individually. For example, if you’re asking for reviews in a monthly newsletter, you’ll need to stop doing so going forward. Instead, talk to your clients in person about leaving you a review based on their experience at your practice.
While Google isn’t constantly watching everyone to make sure they’re following the rules, if you get reported it can be a massive headache and can very well result in your business losing all reviews collected after April 12th.
Why Having A Perfect 5-Star Rating Isn’t As Important As You Think
Many businesses are understandably worried about receiving negative reviews. However, getting a negative review isn’t the end of the world. You could argue that it’s a good thing in some cases.
Many consumers look to online reviews before making buying decisions regardless of what they’re spending their money on. This trend is certainly not going away anytime soon. In fact, more and more people are trusting reviews just as they would word-of-mouth referrals. While some would assume having a perfect 5-star rating would draw in more potential customers, the opposite is often true.
When users see a perfect 5-star rating their first thought is often one of skepticism because it can seem disingenuous or fabricated, and sometimes, that is the case. Obviously, you want to collect as many positive reviews as possible, and more often than not, great service and professionalism speak louder than a perfect 5-star rating online.