What You Might Not Know About Google Review Stars

Pile of Gold Stars

If you’re trying to rank well in local SEO, then reviews are an important part of that mix.

But when you look at search results in Google, you’ll notice that review stars don’t always show up.

Here’s a couple of quick facts about the Google Review Stars that might answer some questions you’ve been meaning to ask.

Understanding Geo-Located Search Queries

So, the way Google is set up now, if you’re searching for a service using the city as part of the search query (city + service), you’ll usually see the top three map results at the top. After these top three results (the Local Pack), the regular top ten organic results follow.

The stars from Google reviews only show on these map results now. A couple of years ago, you would see Google star ratings in the organic search results, but that isn’t the case in 2017.

So the goal in local SEO is to get to the top three map results, and also get review stars to show. Customers are more likely to click on a result with rating stars, as opposed to a result without stars. The better your click-through rate, the more confidence Google has in placing your business higher in results.

So, in Google Maps, and in the Local Pack on Page 1, you’ll only see rating stars if you have one or more Google reviews.

This used to have a threshold of three reviews, but it dropped to a threshold of one review around March of 2017.

So, that’s the first thing you need to know. You need at least one review for the yellow stars to be visible.

Why does Google show a lower rating than it should be?

We often see businesses try to get a lot of reviews immediately after getting a negative review. Many businesses aren’t going after positive reviews until they get a one-star review, and they need to bring their score up.

As you’ll see in the comments section below, when you get a sudden rush of reviews, these don’t get added into your review score right away.

What we are seeing is it takes about a week to add in new reviews to your total score. This could be because Google sees it as an abnormal pattern when you have very few reviews over the course of several years, then all of a sudden, you get seven or eight reviews in a week.

The best course of action is to be proactive about collecting reviews from customers. If you get a ton of positive reviews, the occasional mediocre review will not be as damaging to your cumulative score.

Interestingly enough, up until Spring of 2017, you would also not be able to get a 5.0 rating until you got ten reviews (though now your score is not adjusted). This had to do with something called the Bayesian average.

A note on the Bayesian average

For a long time, Google would extrapolate what your score might look like if you had more reviews. (This ended around March of 2017).

Since five reviews is a pretty small sample size to have perfect confidence in the rating, Google used to factors in for error until you got to ten reviews. (It no longer does this).

There’s a lot of statistical mathematics involved in the Google algorithm, but the concept of extrapolating the results is known as a Bayesian average. Basically, once you got to ten reviews, Google had more confidence in the data around your business when it came to ratings. You can read more about the theory at LocalU.org.

Sending Customers Your Review Link

Not that long ago, you could send customers to your Google My Business (Google+) page and have them leave a review under the About tab.

Recently, Google changed their Google+ layout again, and reviews don’t even show up on Google My Business anymore. Now you have to go through Google Maps. They started changing this for the iPhone in 2015, but now in 2016, it’s universal.

For customers to leave a review for your business, you have to send them to Google Maps.

There are a couple of ways you can do this.

Finding Your Google Review Link On Desktop

One way that almost always works is to Google the name of your business, with the address from the regular Google page. On desktop, you should see your Google My Business profile show up in the right hand column.

Google Search sing address search

There should be a link that either says Be the first to review or Write a review, depending on whether you have reviews or not yet. If you have reviews, you can also click the link that shows how many reviews you have.

Address Search Trigger Map in Google

Clicking these links will trigger a modal window that allows the user to write a review.

Writing a Review on Google Maps

Copy the URL in your browser’s address bar and send that to your customer. Or use it as a link on your site, so people don’t have to figure this out on their own.

Finding Your Google Review Link On Mobile

There are two ways you can get to a Google business review link on mobile.

One way is to go into Google Maps and search for the business you want to review. Click on the link at the bottom left that shows how many reviews the business has.

google map search local business

Notice the text link at the bottom left of the screen? This will either say No Reviews or the number of reviews the business has.

You’ll open up the Google Maps/Google My Business profile for that business. Scroll to the bottom of the profile, and the review link will be at the bottom.

Mobile search for local business

Find Your Google Review Link On Mobile: Part Deux

The second way to leave a Google review for a business on mobile is to go to regular Google search, and search for that business using the business name, and the city or address.

The Google Map result should be the first result in search. At the bottom of this result will be a link for More Info.

mobile search for local business

See that blue button with the downward facing arrow, and More info about…? Click this, and you should see the whole Google profile. The Google review link will be at the bottom of the profile, just like in the example we showed above.

An Even Newer Way to Share Your Google Review Link: The Next Episode

Google has made it easier to create a shareable link to review your business. Here’s how to create that link.

1. Go to https://developers.google.com/places/place-id, which is the Google Place API page.

2. Type in your business name and address in the “Enter your location” field.

3. Click on your business name as it appears on the map.

4. You’ll see a string of characters under your business name, labelled Place ID. Copy that ID.

Google Places API

5. Add your Places ID to this URL pattern:

https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=<place_id>

If your Places ID is Abc123, then your shareable review link would be https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=Abc123.

6. You can now share this review link with your customers.

Getting To The Local Pack Map

Getting to the top three (Local Map Pack) seems to be an elusive target.

Obviously, this is where everyone wants to be. The things that seem to influence what goes here most are the local organic search results. Geo-location (GPS) seems to play a small role as well.

Reviews alone won’t get you to the three pack local map results. To get there, you’ll need better content, more local links and local mentions, better links from reputable sources, more link diversity (more than one type of link source), link velocity, social shares, stronger brand signals, and local relevance.

Let’s say you’ve done a lot of work on your site, and you feel like you have a really strong site that should be ranking above other sites that have weaker profiles. You might want to check out this Moz Whiteboard Friday that discusses why you might be losing rank to sites with weaker profiles.

How Long Will It Take For My New Reviews To Be Added To My Review Score?

Many businesses wonder how long it takes for Google to calculate new reviews and add them to your score.

It usually takes between two to seven days to add new reviews to your score. But…

Recently, I have seen many people asking why their review scores aren’t being updated when they get a whole bunch of reviews in a short amount of time.

Usually this happens if a business is trying to do “reputation management” or if an SEO consultant is trying to “fix” their score.

My advice is: be wary of how you go about this.

Google appears to cracking down more and more on suspicious looking reviews, and flagging them for manual review by the Web Spam team.

Normal and Abnormal Review Patterns

Google looks at the patterns that are normal for both your business, and similar for other businesses in your category.

If a business normally gets one review every four months or so, then suddenly gets a dozen reviews in the span of a few days, that can flag those reviews for the Google Web Spam team.

All sites like Google, Thumbtack, and Yelp are able to track the IP addresses of the people leaving reviews. If there are patterns that don’t look normal, that can flag the reviews for manual inspection.

Google says on it’s help page:

Your score is calculated from user ratings and a variety of other signals to ensure that the overall score best reflects the quality of the establishment.

Many SEO consultants and people who work with programing algorithms feel that the part about a variety of other signals means that Google uses what is called a Bayesian average to look not just at the raw numbers, but incorporating other factors that may cause deviation in the formula.

A Bayesian average is a method of estimating the mean of a population consistent with Bayesian interpretation, where instead of estimating the mean strictly from any or all available data set, other existing information related to that data set may also be incorporated into the calculation in order to minimize the impact of large deviations, or to assert a default value when the data set is small.

(source: Wikipedia)

This is the reason you cannot get a 5.0 rating before you get a certain number 5-star ratings. Google uses the Bayesian average to extrapolate information until it has a large enough data set (the number of reviews) to make an accurate calculation.

What Happens When You Get a Whole Bunch of Google Reviews All At Once?

Google is getting serious about looking for abnormal patterns in businesses that get reviews.

If you have a previous pattern of not getting many reviews, and your score is a bit low, then all of a sudden, you get a ton of five-star reviews, Google is going to take a closer look.

If your new reviews all have Google+ profiles with no photo, no profile information, and nearly no history of reviews — that can be a problem.

It is probable that Google is flagging these to see if they are fake reviews.

In the past, Google has been very lax about letting fake reviews in, and adding them to the review average. But I have seen increasing evidence that reviews that are flagged as fake may be getting tossed out from the final review score.

You will still see the number of reviews, but reviews that are flagged as fraudulent may not count towards the final review score.

Again, this is just what I’ve seen recently.

Final Advice

Never, ever ask someone to review your business if they haven’t been an actual customer or client. That goes for Google, Yelp, or any other platform that collects reviews and delivers a star rating.

Do ask your happy customers for reviews on Google (and other platforms). Google has made it more difficult to get reviews, so the effort is worth it. Your competitors will have the same challenges.

Remember that customer service will always be the biggest differentiation between you and your competition. Make sure service and integrity is at the center of everything you do.

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Avatar for John Locke

John Locke

John Locke is an SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps established businesses rank higher through his web agency. Lockedown Design.

120 Comments

  1. Avatar for John LockeAngie says:

    Why is it that we have had a quantity of 13 (5) star reviews and they have not changed our ranking at all from 4.00 to 4.1 — or any other stars ranking? How many do we need to get a better ranking?

    • Hi Angie:

      Based on the website URL you provided, it looks like you’re at one of the many locations for American Freight, somewhere near Kentucky, perhaps? I did see the American Freight website has a bunch of five-star reviews on their site. But these aren’t the same as five-star reviews from your Google My Business page or Google Maps.

      I did a quick search,and saw a few American Freight locations with more than five reviews on Google Maps. These are what you need to collect. Google makes people sign into their Google+ profiles to leave a review on Google Maps. These have authority to search engines.

      If you want to send customers to your specific location, make sure it is correctly represented on Google Maps. Search for your store location using the address in Google. You should see the map for your particular store show up in the right hand sidebar. There will be a link in that profile to Write a Review or xx Google Reviews.

      For example, if you search “American Freight, Turfway Square, Kentucky”, you’ll see that location show up in the right hand side of the sreen. This location has 11 reviews with an average of 3.0 — but for this location, there’s a pretty even mix of one-star and five-star reviews.

      I don’t know which location is yours. But work on encouraging happy customers to leave reviews. Once you start getting lower-star reviews, it’s difficult to bring your average back up. Remember that third-party sites like Google, Yelp, Angies’s List, and InfoGroup carry weight in who Google places near the top, while reviews that are collected on your own site may not carry the same amount of weight.

      • Thanks for the post it was great, just wanted to ask you a question, and make a statement.

        Does Google Maps refresh reviews on a yearly basis? (Does it zero the Counter?)

        There are so many un-claimed google map markers on Google Maps, with incomplete and outdated info, a paradise for other people to abuse them, claim them, and change info in them.

        Out of 45 Golf Club/Courses in Google My Business – Map Marker Accounts reviewed. 28 were unclaimed, 13 were missing, 4 were claimed, but 2 remain incomplete.

        The top golf courses in South Africa, USA, UK, Scotland and Sweden all have unclaimed accounts. They cannot even respond to their reviews.

        Please take a look at the project site, maybe you can do a post on this subject.

        Regards,

        Michael O’Connor (michael@golfingsa.co.za)

        • Hi Michael:

          Let me address your initial question.

          There are still probably more unclaimed Google My Business profiles than there are claimed and actively managed.

          But to allay yours fears to competitors abusing the information, part of the confirmation involves Google mailing the claiming business a postcard with a code they must punch in to the profile before they can finish claiming it. This is meant to be a safeguard against information fraud and sabotage.

          Of course, there are advantages to claiming your business on GMB, and any business interested in improving their search rankings should claim their profile.

          Thanks,
          John

  2. I just wanted to say thanks for this post John. I have found it really helpful in understanding the star system.

    Let’s hope they don’t change things again too soon!

    Thanks again 🙂

    • Thanks, Charlotte! Google changes things constantly, because the way we all look for information keeps changing. 🙂

      All we can do is try to be the legitimately most helpful businesses, with the best possible customer service. It also helps to know where to point people to get reviews for our business, so more people can discover us. 😉

  3. Avatar for John LockeSamuel Hathway says:

    I left a review using Google and it did not change the rating average at all despite being far from it, do you know why?

    • Hi Samuel:

      Your question is a bit vague, but here are some reasons a single review may not move a rating:

      – Make sure you are submitting reviews through Google Maps for the business you are trying to review. You can no longer submit reviews through Google+, and reviews that are republished on your website won’t affect the Google rating of a business.

      – If the business has a ton of reviews already, one review won’t move the needle that much. This can be good or bad for the business, depending on if they have a positive score or a negative score. If a business has a long track record of low scores from many reviews, that will be difficult to bring up. So businesses should focus on good customer service whenever possible.

      – If a business has less than ten reviews, they won’t automatically get a five-star rating — even if they have all five-star ratings. Above 5 reviews, a business starts out at around 4.8. They have to keep consistently racking up five-star reviews until they get to ten to get the 5.0.

      – Though it doesn’t really happen that often, Google can still screen out reviews that are false. I do see this happen from time to time, where an employee of the business will leave a five-star review of the business. This doesn’t really provide any value to the customer base, so make sure you aren’t guilty of this. Google still has humans who look at search results and Google My Business profiles. Avoid anything that resembles review manipulation.

      – Reviews can take a day or so to be added to the cumulative score of the business. So if you add a five-star review, it may take a a day to be added to the average of the business.

      These are all possible scenarios for your situation. If you’re encountering something different, give us more details (such as the business name) and perhaps we can figure it out.

  4. Avatar for John LockeMatt says:

    Hi John, we had a one star review that has remained on top despite several more recent five star reviews. Why might this be the case? Much appreciated.

    • Hi Matt:

      I looked up your business profile on Google Maps/Google+ and I see the review you’re talking about.

      You can try and flag this review as false, but it’s unlikely that it will be removed. Here’s the page that talks about flagging a review.
      https://support.google.com/business/answer/4596773?hl=en

      Google will remove reviews that are personal attacks, hate speech, sexually explicit, illegal, obscene, spam, or a review from an employee. (See more about what they consider removable at this link: https://support.google.com/business/answer/4596773?hl=en )

      Google tends not to evaluate reviews for who is telling the truth, as there are billions of businesses out there, and it’s too difficult to discern who is telling the truth (read more at the first link in my reply).

      If the review is from someone who was never a legit patient, the best thing you can do is politely explain that they were never a patient and stay professional. Real customers will look at your response to the review for context, and see that that person was not a legitimate client.

      There’s not much you can do to make Google filter the one-star review downwards. These are most likely sorted by looking for specific patterns of words, so your best bet is to continue to ask for five-star reviews.

      A single one-star review in the midst of a myriad of five-star reviews will appear to be an aberration, not a pattern. New reviews may also replace the one-star review at the top of the Most Helpful sorting mechanism.

      Since your business is based in Australia, you may also want to check out this page: http://www.priyachandra.com/how-can-i-delete-fake-reviews-from-my-google-plus-business-page/ for more steps you can take to contact Google.

  5. Avatar for John Lockekelsey says:

    Hello,

    We have 54 reviews. When we search for our business name the reviews appear. However, when you search ‘car hire gold coast’ we are listed on the second page but it is not showing our star rating. Why is this?

    • Hi Kelsey:

      That’s a great question. So, in late-2015, Google started phasing out showing the review stars on the regular search results (the 10 per page organic results.)

      The only place you would see your review stars in search would be in Google Maps, in the local 3-pack with the map at the top of organic results, or when you search your business name, and you see your Google My Business profile show up in the right hand side of the screen.

      Google (as well as Bing and Yahoo) are constantly doing little experiments to see what delivers the best results for their customers. The fact that you have 54 positive reviews is a really good sign, so congratulations to that!

      So your next question is probably going to be, “Why are some of our competitors getting review stars in the search results for car hire gold coast?”

      The answer to that is, Google is showing reviews from other places.

      For example, the Avis Coolangatta result on the first page is pulling reviews from Yelp.

      The DriveNow result is using hReview markup from their own page to display review stars. The same thing with VroomVroomVroom. They are using Schema markup on their own page to show their aggregate star rating (look right above the Happy Customers section on their search result.

      One thing you may want to consider is working with a search consultant who can help you with the structured data markup (like Schema or Microformats) on your website. Until you get into the 3-pack at the top of page one, it may be a way to show off the aggregate reviews you have.

  6. Avatar for John LockeVaibhav says:

    Hi John,

    We can see ratings for ProSchoolOnline in normal organic search with 10 results while searching for financial modelling courses in Delhi. But, our institute has also 5 Google reviews but we not getting any stars in organic search.
    Why?

    • Hi Vaibhav:

      I know we just discussed this exact situation on Twitter, but I want to document what we found for the benefit of everyone else reading this.

      ProSchoolOnline is using Schema markup in their page to show their reviews and aggregate rating. Their stars in organic search are from on-page structured data (Schema), not Google reviews. Google reviews (right now in 2016) only show up in Google Maps or in the 3-pack of local results at the top of Page 1, if the 3-pack is triggered by a localized search term.

      You also have some competitors on Page 3 that have some star ratings next to their search result. Those ones are saying votes instead of reviews, and though it looks they are using Schema for parts of their page, I couldn’t find Schema markup on those lower ranked competitors for reviews or aggregate ratings.

      The competitors on Page 3, Simplilearn and WallStreetMojo, look like they are having structured data pulled in by Google from another source, like a third-party website. I’m not sure what that would be in this case. I see Yelp reviews pulled in for some local searches, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for them.

      You can add Schema markup to your own site and test it via a tool like the Structured Data Testing Tool. Just make sure your rating reflect the real numbers out there on the various sites reviewing your institute.

      Thanks,
      John

  7. Avatar for John LockeJohn Platten says:

    Great post John – I was helping a friend with a hairdressing business get listed on Maps and you have everything I wanted to know here. Much appreciated.

  8. Avatar for John LockeJoe Hirst says:

    Its been a while since I’ve visited you here John, but you never cease to post great content!

    Thanks for sharing this, it was a very informative read. I’ll be sure to keep this stuff in mind for future use.

    Hope you’re well!

  9. Thanks for putting this guide together. It really helps, since Google has been changing all the rating systems up constantly, but don’t really put out good content explaining what they’ve done. My theory is that Google wants to use Google Maps in order to know the reviewer is indeed a local person reviewing the business, as opposed to some low waged mass-reviewer in India or China.

    Our real estate business here in the Lake Norman, NC area has seen some extra business that has come in through google searches, and having a good amount of legitimate reviews on Google I feel has helped. Thanks again, John.

    • Hi Mike:

      Some of what you are saying is correct Mike. Google would actually know if the reviews are from out of the area, because they can use both the IP address of the reviewer and GPS location to detect that. Google is actually much less strict than Yelp about filtering out reviews, but the capability is always there for services like this to get a sense if reviews are legitimate or not.

      I think the recent shift to moving reviews to Google Maps has more to do with user behavior. What I mean by that is everyone has their phone in their pocket at all times, and that is everyone’s main access to the internet.

      As a result, more people are looking for local businesses to find out directions, hours of operations, and see information like photos and reviews in order to make comparisons between competing businesses, or find the physical location of a service. To me, this seems to be reasoning behind many of their decisions.

  10. Hello John Locke,

    Can I ask you a question? My webpage rating stars have been removed, and I changed the structured data of my website and then they appeared again. I used the same type code of my competitor. After one month, the stars were removed. My competitor dosen’t have this type of problem.

    We are (Yarddiant.com), second position for the keyword “ecommerce development company” in this IP area. Our competitor is first (sparxitsolutions.com).

    Why it is like this? I would also like to know, can anyone do negative SEO on our site to remove the rating stars?

    • Hello Visnukanth:

      You have asked a very good question. If you look at the search results in Google Maps, you have 60 Google reviews, and Sparx IT has only 10 Google reviews.

      But when you look at the search results, Sparx shows review stars in the organic search results, with a 4.7 rating from a total of 9,324 votes.

      9,324 votes is a lot more than 10 reviews. So how are they doing this?

      The answer is, they have a voting mechanism on their front page, along with Schema markup that allows Google to parse this as review markup. It looks like anyone can vote to review them from a single IP address, and the numbers are updated through JavaScript.

      This is the second section on their home page:

      Screenshot, Sparx IT home page

      And this is the Sparx search engine result. Notice that it is tracking “votes” and not reviews.

      Sparx IT Search engine result

      You have similar Schema markup to track your own ratings.

      Yarddiant ratings

      It looks like many other web development shops are adopting this same tactic (AIS Technolabs).

      I would note that Alakmalak and Net Gains are also displaying review stars, but instead of using the voting system that is directly on the website, these two companies are using Schema markup to display their Aggregate Review score from their Google reviews, then linking to their Google+ profile. This might be something you might try.

      To address your other question, negative SEO is very real, but if you were suffering a negative SEO attack, your overall rank would be plummeting to the bottom — you would not merely lose your review stars in organic search results.

      The only insured method for getting review stars to show all the time is to place in the 3-pack of Google Map local results at the top of the first page of search results. The rest of the time, it seems like Google uses it’s discretion on whether to show review stars or not in organic search results.

      • Hi John Locke:

        Thank you for your reply.

        The answer to my question is very useful and it gives me good information. I really thank you, that you would take my question seriously and you studied the problem. I think some more time is needed for analyzing the problem and also for comparing our website with those of our competitors.
        My hearty thanks to you for sparing your precious time to us, and thanks for your guidance.

        Thanks & Regards
        Vishnukanth M

  11. Thank you very much for your site, especially for your very well researched and clearly communicated replies, John!

    Our issue: We want our Google review stars to light up!

    We have hundreds of (and years worth of!) 5-star reviews through our in-practice review system, which is part of the data program we use for our patients. These reviews show up on Facebook and our website (yay!), alas, cannot be linked to Google—at least, that’s what I’ve been told.

    We launched a campaign asking patients to help us by leaving a Google review in addition to (or in lieu of) our practice survey. It’s been slow going, but we recently received our 5th actual, honest-to-goodness Google review. I was hoping it would finally light up our stars. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Argh.

    Is this somehow related to HOW our patients leave a Google review? I’ve read all you wrote about going through Google maps. What happens if some of the reviews were left through our old Google+ business site? Does that mean they don’t count toward the 5 reviews Google requires to light up the stars?

    Many, many thanks in advance for your help lighting up our Google review stars!

    • Hi Nicole:

      Great questions! Let me address each of those.

      1) It looks like your in-house reviews were able to be imported to Facebook via a custom Facebook app. I noticed that you have two tabs on your Facebook page that say Reviews.

      This is a screenshot of these imported reviews. (By the way, I think this is great social proof of your service once you get people on the Facebook page.)

      Bullard Family Dentistry Facebook reviews #1

      But these are not the review stars showing up in Google results for your Facebook page.

      Bullard Family Dentistry Facebook SERP

      There are 50 of the imported reviews, and there are 51 of the native Facebook reviews, which have a 4.6 aggregate rating. This screenshot below is what is showing in Google results for your Facebook page.

      Bullard Family Dentistry Facebook reviews

      2) As you suspected, you can’t import your in-house reviews into Google reviews. I would encourage people to search for you on Google Maps and leave a review that way.

      I actually send people the link to leave a Google review via email when a project is wrapped up, as this whole process is really complicated for the average person to figure out on their own.

      Pretty much all third-party platforms will make your customers sign up for their service to leave a review. It would be too easy for businesses everywhere to manipulate the system if they were somehow allowed to import reviews they collected on their own website into Google or Yelp, and add those to the native reviews.

      These services (Google, Yelp, Facebook) collect ancillary information from the person doing the review to make sure it is authentic (IP addresses, making sure user is logged in, has a profile, etc). Yelp is the most stringent about this, Google is fairly relaxed, as is Facebook.

      I would suspect to consumers, reviews that are collected natively on these three platforms look more authentic than ones collected on your own website, in large part because the profiles of the patients/clients leaving the reviews have validated social profiles.

      3) Your reviews stars for getting five Google reviews did show up, it just took some time. This is normal.

      These show up when I search for your business name, and also for pediatric dentists in your area.

      Bullard Pediatric Dentistry SERP

      Sheyboygan pediatric dentists

      Note that you will see your Google star rating when you appear in the 3-pack map at the top of page one (sometimes known as the “snack pack”), and when people search directly for your business name or address, and it triggers the Google My Business profile in the right hand column of the search results screen.

      Occasionally, you will see star ratings for businesses in the rest of the search results, but these are fairly inconsistent. The only times (as of right now in autumn 2016) that you will see rating stars is on your Google+ business page profile, on Google Maps, and in the 3-pack of map results at the top of page one of search results.

      4) The way that your customers write a review should not have any effect on a business displaying rating stars for Google reviews. What it will affect is what review snippets are likely to display in the right hand column when your Google+ profile appears.

      Google seems to want to display review snippets that are the most helpful to other searchers or consumers. The criteria for which review snippets appear seems to change periodically.

      The best thing you can do is continue your efforts to get reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, YP, and any other service that allows for service ratings. (This is what we call “barnacle SEO”, named such because you get your business ranked again on the strength of these other websites ranking for a given local search term.)

      Hope this answered your questions, Nicole!

      Thanks,
      John

  12. Thank you for the awesome information about Google star ratings. Recently I reviewed a product on my blog that was a plugin review, but the star rating is not showing in Google. Can you please check? The URL is http://www.bloggingtipsandtricks.com/2016/09/oio-publisher-review-wordpress-plugin.html

    • Hi Rohit:

      There are lots of reasons Google may not be displaying the star rating for your plugin review when it appears in organic search results. There does not always appear to be a pattern, but here are a couple of things that seem to help.

      1) More often than not, the search results that have review stars showing seem to be using aggregateRating as part of the Schema markup. It looks like you are using Rating already, but I would look into this page, and see if you can change the markup in your web page to use aggregate ratings.

      I would be sure to double check the markup using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.

      2) I would also do everything possible to make your overall site more authoritative. Meaning, if your site comes up more often in search results for other related keyword searches, then your structured data may have a better chance of appearing.

      Google seems to randomly show review stars in organic search results for some websites, while not showing review stars for similar websites with nearly identical markup. My theory is one of the factors could be how much Google trusts one site compared to the other sites in its category. Take care of your overall technical SEO, build links, keep publishing great content, and experiment with the Schema markup for your page. Take a look at what other people are doing who have review stars displaying.

      Keep in mind, over the last few years, Google has greatly reduced the numbers of search results that show rich snippet and review star information. Five years ago it was everywhere, and now is it more scattered in occurrences.

  13. Hi John,

    I have 9 reviews on Google Maps but our reviews are not showing stars yet. Is there something we have to do to get the stars to show up?

    Thanks,

    Rusty

    • Hi Rusty:

      It looks like all your Google reviews came in the last week. It usually takes a little while for Google to catch up. Sit tight and they should show up on Google Maps. I would also continue to collect reviews in a natural-looking manner. If you get a burst of eight or nine reviews all at once, and then don’t have any for a long time after that, it may look unnatural for your overall organic rankings.

      Your reviews and the stars on Google Maps usually take a week or so to synchronize.

  14. I used to have to send people to my Google Maps to get a review. Now Whitespark has a cool new Google review link generator where you can email or text your clients a direct link to your website. (I know this seems spammy, but I’m not affiliated with them–just super jazzed up that’s it’s easier to send clients to review me on Google now.) Google Review Link Generator: https://whitespark.ca/google-review-link-generator/ .

    Here are four other options (that includes creating a widget for your website):

    https://www.reviewjump.com/4-ways-to-direct-link-your-google-business-reviews-page-for-customers/

  15. Avatar for John LockeNick says:

    I have written a review on a business and when I log out of my Google+ account I cant see the review….why is that?

    I also uploaded photos to a location and its been over a week and I cant see the photos….why is that?

    • Hi Nick:

      When you write a Google review of another business, it usually takes a day or two to show up in the rest of the reviews.

      If you are adding photos to your Google My Business account, and you look at that page logged out or as someone else, and you go to [The page] > About, you will only see three photos. These are the usually one each of the last photo from Posts, Identity Photos, and Photos at Work.

      Most of these photos will show up in Google Maps, or in the right hand column if you search the business name directly in Google.

      Much of the stuff in Google My Business (Google+) is being emphasized in Google Maps now.

  16. Hey John-

    My pleasure, thanks for the great blog and website. Keep up the good work!

  17. Avatar for John LockeRihab says:

    Hello,
    I am the owner of this website http://www.reussirlegmat.com. it is an educational online website so I don’t have a location on Google Maps. I am new on Google+.

    How is it possible to have my first 5 reviews on Google Plus, and to be able to ask customers to review? Because the Google Maps option is not available as my work is virtual, and searching my website name on desktop will not give customers the ability to review me. Until now, I don’t have the 5 first reviews!

    So if I want the 5 first costumers to review me, how to do so without Google Maps?

    • Hi Rihab:

      In the case of your website, I would focus on getting reviews from other sources besides Google. The reason is, Google is moving business reviews over to Google Maps, to highlight businesses with physical locations.

      What you can do instead is set up a Facebook page for your educational site (if you have not done so already) and ask people to Like you there.

      You can also submit your site to Product Hunt and look for up-votes there.

      See if you can get coverage of your website in the local press, or look for other means of building your brand.

      Google reviews are not going to be available to you as a virtual business with no address, so you must look for alternative ways to reassure customers that your website is beneficial.

      Review stars are only one form of social proof. You will need to use other means of social proof to convince potential subscribers that your course is helpful.

      Thanks,
      John

  18. Avatar for John LockeAlennajohn says:

    Hi, I have a problem for rating stars in Google. My rating stars have gone again and again. Could any one help me with this problem?

  19. Avatar for John LockeDennis says:

    Can you also add stars for organic searches?

    Like the stars you see when you are Googling?

    Greetings

    Dennis

    • Hi Dennis:

      For your site, it sounds like you are trying to add review stars for your products. It looks like your site is running on Magento, so you will need to add some sort of product review system that supports structured markup, or Schema metadata.

      Your site records reviews, but they are not marked up in Schema or Microformats metadata, so Google cannot parse those reviews to show the stars in Google search.

      You can test to see what structured data Google sees on your page by using their Structured Data Testing Tool.

      What you will be looking for when using this testing tool is Review markup. If the testing tool shows nothing, you will have zero possibility of showing review stars in search.

      Thanks,
      John

  20. Avatar for John LockeMatt says:

    How do we know what search terms our company is indexed for in the maps?

    Thank you in advance for your reply!

    • Hi Matt:

      Part of it is going to be the business category(s) you choose in your Google My Business account. For instance, you have chosen Insulation Contractor for your main category. Part of it will be the words you put in your Google My Business description. Another part will be what words are on the homepage of your website. Anchor text (the words in links back to your website) also matter. Google Maps and organic search results on Google are usually closely correlated.

      You are doing better than many small businesses, as you come up on the second page on Google Maps for insulation contractors near Houston. You have five Google reviews (right now) which is a great start.

      A key thing to realize is that if you are in the first page for a specific search term on Google Maps (for a given geolocation), you have a chance at getting into the three pack map that appears at the top of organic search results.

      I would go into Google Maps and make some searches and see where you come up. For insulation near Houston and Galveston, you are doing pretty good, but for general contracting, you don’t rank as high.

      Some things I notice that you might want to do:

      – Get more reviews outside of Google, BBB and Home Advisor (though you are doing excellent here). If you can get some reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List, Houzz, and YP.com, these will also help. Yelp especially.

      – Whatever additional links back to your site you can get will also help. Chambers of Commerce, local news or other publications that are online, links back from products you are a dealer or partner with…these all help boost you in rankings.

      You are on the right track. In 2017, I would work on getting a more diverse back link profile, and that will help you move from page 2 to page 1.

  21. John, Can you give me any insights as to why I am not ranking. I have more Google reviews then of my competition where I live. I have 70 reviews. Out of those review I have one 4 star review and one 2 star review. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Andrew:

      I did see you have 70 Google reviews — nice job! You’re currently ranking #5 in Google Maps for “carpet cleaning Wichita KS” and #6 in organic for this term. I’m guessing this is is your main search term.

      You are also ranking #3 in organic search and in Google Maps for “Wichita carpet cleaning”, which is excellent.

      Here are some things you are not currently doing that may help you rise up a bit more.

      1. On your website, you don’t have your address listed anywhere. This is a huge opportunity.

      If possible, put your business address in the footer of each page, and your hours of operation on your contact page with an embedded Google Map.

      If a customer lands on your site, would they be able to locate you? These are questions Google looks to see if you answering.

      2. You have some inconsistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone) listings. See here: https://moz.com/local/search/city%20steam%20clean/67217.

      Basically, you want your business name, address, and phone number to be the same wherever they are found online. Accuracy of information is important to the search engines.

      You can read more about NAP citations here: http://lockedownseo.wpengine.com/citations-for-local-seo/.

      Also look here for specific sites you should have NAP citations on:

      Best Citation Sites for Carpet Cleaners, 1-10.

      Best Citations by City (scroll to bottom to find Wichita, KS).

      3. Keep focusing on getting Yelp reviews. None of the other carpet cleaners in your city are breaking away from the pack. Google reviews are good, but Google also looks for reviews on other platforms, notably Yelp, followed by BBB, YP, etc.

      4. You have a service area set on Google Maps, which is great. If it is possible, listing your business address here wold be good, too.

      5. The biggest obstacle to you getting to #1 in Google is you need more relevant, local back links to your site.

      To be fair, OxiFresh has multiple back links to their site (because they are a franchise), and yourself (City Steam Clean), Snow White, and everyone else is a distant second in back links.

      As a result, the OxiFresh domain has more authority than the other carpet cleaners in Wichita.

      You can test that here: https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/.

      I would look at some of the back links that OxiFresh has, and see what you can duplicate.

      For example, they are listed as a sponsor on this local Wichita site: http://www.kwch.com/kansasproud/.

      It also looks like they have write-ups in Business New Daily. I would look at publications like the Wichita Business Journal, and see what it takes to get coverage there.

      Reviews are an important part of SEO, but on-site content and local back links are still a bigger piece of the puzzle.

  22. Avatar for John LockeAndrew Armstrong says:

    Thank you for all the GREAT information! I really appreciate your time in looking into this for me.

    I have a another question. How important is it to have a physical business address for in regards to Google ranking? Being that I have a smaller, one van operation, I work out of my house. So Google won’t allow me to use my address for my business.

    Any ideas?

    • Hi Andrew:

      Whether or not to use your home address for your home-based business is always a tricky question. I use my home address, but many people may feel uncomfortable doing that.

      It looks like Yelp and MapQuest are already using your home address for your business address. I would decide which route you want to go, and make sure all the places that list your business follow the same format.

  23. Avatar for John LockeDebra says:

    Great view, thanks! I have 10 5-star reviews but I still don’t have the orange stars on my listing – do you know why?

    • Hi Debra:

      I did see that you have numerous testimonials on your site, but you only have one Google review.

      What you will need to do is find your business on Google Maps, and send happy clients to that listing to fill out reviews there.

      I would also concentrate on getting reviews on Facebook and Yelp(if you are on Yelp in NZ). Those reviews also show up with stars in Google search results.

      Thanks,
      John

  24. Avatar for John LockeDebra says:

    Hey John I actually have 10 Google reviews (see http://designqueen.co.nz/tmp/Google-reviews.jpg) – but they have all been written in the last 1-2 days, is there some time required for them to show on my international listing?.. as in NZ they are definitely showing as 10 – I’m so confused!

    • Hi Debra:

      I see what’s up. You have a duplicate listing on Google Maps.
      The other listing.

      If you’ve received most of your reviews in the last couple of days, then it may take Google a bit to catch up and display the stars in Google Maps, and in the local 3-pack.

      Getting ten reviews all at once probably triggered some sort of safeguard in the system, so give it some time. Getting a ton all at once can look suspicious to the algorithm, and the Map Maker Team may be doing some sort of manual review.

      I would also delete the review the review you wrote from your personal Google+ account. Make sure you don’t have any star ratings from yourself or any employees on Google Maps, or any other review site.

      Your star rating should show up within a few days.

  25. Avatar for John LockeDebra says:

    thanks John, actually I wanted to delete it but couldn’t see how to – do you know how I can delete it? Thanks!!

  26. Avatar for John LockeDebra says:

    also do you know how I can delete that old Google listing?

  27. Avatar for John LockeDebra says:

    it’s ok I figured out to do both now – thanks for your help!!

  28. Very useful and much needed article. Everyone who owns a business wants to understand how to be fairly represented online. Thanks for the tips.

  29. Dear John Locke, I wonder if you can help me.

    Two issues:

    1) I have offices in two towns. Had great reviews in both Google map locations, however, today I discovered to my surprise that the Arlington reviews were removed. Gone! A new one has been posted today and that is good, but the steep fall in calls from that area is now understood.

    2) At that same review site, I had a person who met me for an introduction, took a personal dislike to me and posted a negative review.

    I told him people will not realize he did not actually get my service and would he remove his review. He did ultimately remove it, but before then I posted a response to his review and put 5 stars to counter his two.

    I removed my response but don’t know how to remove my 5 stars. It looks absurd for me to be giving myself 5 stars. Can you help me with this? Please respond by email, thank you!!!

    • Hi Dr. Thomson:

      – You mentioned you had reviews removed from your Arlington office. On Google Maps, I am seeing five reviews each for your Littleton and Arlington offices. IS this on another platform besides Google?

      – Secondly, you mention getting a negative review on a review platform, then posting a five-star review in return. Which platform is this on? It does not appear to be Google.

      Thanks,
      John

      • Dear John Locke,

        Thank you for taking the trouble to check. Today the reviews are back and my embarrassing self given 5-star review is not there. I am perplexed by this, because yesterday it looked different. The 3-star review by a person who never used my service is still there, but I guess I should not complain too much, as long as the good ones are back in place. I notice that Yellow Pages has my 5-star and only the new review from yesterday.
        Hmm. Your kind responsiveness is greatly appreciated!

        • It is bewildering. I just checked again, and find that the record shows two reviews and again shows just my 5 stars and not even the new review. I use a macBook. My husband uses an iMac. I know it should not make a difference, but why these changing results?
          Is there a number I can call to actually reach a person at Google?
          Can you teach me how to get rid of the 5-stars that I put there?
          Thank you and apologies for the bother. I’ve added my husband as a subscriber, by the way. He is my ‘webmaster.’

          • I’ve discovered how to remove the stars. Thank you!

            On your computer, open Google Maps.
            In the top left, click the Menu Menu.
            Click Your contributions.
            Choose Reviews.
            Next to the review you want to edit or delete, click More More.
            To edit a review, click Edit review.
            To delete a review, click Delete review.

          • Glad you figured out what you needed to do, Dr. Thomson. Have a great weekend.

  30. Avatar for John LockeBesfort says:

    Hi John,

    First let me thank you for thegreat content you covered here.
    I have a question regarding the Google Map Reviews. I have two different places added for my Business, I would like to show these stars also under organic search results!
    I have tried to enrich my Snippets with JSON-LD, but the biggest problem is that these data aren’t dynamic. Is there a way to do this? Is there a way of creating a dataLayer-variable in Google Tag Manager?

    Kind regards

    • Hi Besfort:

      To display the Google star ratings, you will have to get the site into the three-pack map at the top of local search results. Star ratings from Google no longer show in organic results.

      The good news is Google seems to have lowered the threshold from five to three stars for displaying a rating in Google Maps.

      Occasionally I see organic results that have star ratings for the website. In these cases, they have a mechanism for voting on the website itself, that is not connected to Google ratings.

      These sites use Schema markup or JSON to display the on-site voting results, but these are not Google ratings.

      Aim for the top of the Google Maps listings. This is the only way right now to guarantee the star ratings show up for your business.

  31. Avatar for John LockeScott says:

    At our dealership we are trying to move up a level from 4.6 to 4.7 on Google, but it seems even after 51 5-star reviews our number isn’t moving. How can I find out how many we need to get it to move? Or maybe you can tell me, LOL.

    • Hi Scott:

      It looks like you had a whole bunch of reviews come in within the last week. Google usually takes a few days to sort all those out and update your score, so I would be patient.

      Also keep in mind that the more reviews you have, the harder it is to pull up your score, because each review has a smaller effect on the overall percentage the higher you go.

      One thing to watch for in the future would be getting an avalanche of new reviews all at once. If that is not the normal pattern for how you have been getting reviews in the past, that sort of activity may trigger a flagging mechanism. Abnormal patterns may cause the activity to be manually reviewed, so be aware of that.

      Thanks,
      John

  32. Avatar for John LockeScott says:

    Thank you for responding. You’re correct we did, we sent out a campaign asking our customers to post a review about their experience at the dealership. I did not know it takes a few days. I’ll wait and try to be patient, LOL. I will remember your advice for future reference and thank you again.

  33. Avatar for John LockeScott says:

    I found this website and figured it may help others figure out how to reach their star review goals.
    https://gofishdigital.com/yelp-improvement-calculator/

  34. Avatar for John LockeRob says:

    Hi John,

    Excellent information, thank you.

    I’ve got a bit of an issue and was wondering if you had any idea. I’m using 3rd party reviews, which however never got pulled in SERPs properly. Both product and reviews markup didn’t help either, even though we did lots of tests.

    Now, all of a sudden we can see a single review being pulled in for some of our product pages. I’d assume this came from G Places, where we have 5 review but 1 only is being pulled in.

    Any thoughts of what we could be doing wrong?

    Thanks in advance.

  35. Avatar for John LockeMegan says:

    One of my clients came to me concerned with his Google reviews just not matching up correctly.

    He has 7 reviews. Six of those reviews being 5 stars and One of those reviews being 1 star. The 1 star review was posted 4 months ago and the rest of the reviews have been within 1-2 week time period. His overall rating is a 1 star even with 6 other 5 star reviews.

    Why is this? Does he need more reviews for a more accurate reading or is his overall rating just taking awhile to show up correctly?

    • Hi Megan:

      I could be the new reviews are just taking a while to be calculated and added to the cumulative score. It’s hard to say without actually looking at the business on Google.

      If you email me the business name and address, I could take a closer look and give you my thoughts.

      Thanks,
      John

  36. Avatar for John LockePeter says:

    My competitor has five stars showing and only one review. I have two reviews with no stars showing. Why is that?

    • Hi Peter:

      This is something I have been noticing more and more in recent weeks. The reviews seem to take longer to be integrated into the final review score.

      I saw the competitor you mentioned on Google Maps, the one with the generic search term for their business name.

      Your two reviews came in the last week. Theirs is six months old.

      Google seems to be taking longer to evaluate reviews and add them to both the review average and star ratings. I would keep an eye on how long it takes from day of review to being added to the cumulative score and expect that same timeline for reviews for clients going forward.

      Thanks,
      John

  37. Hi John:

    Until two months ago my website had no reviews, and we were not too concerned as the website did not show star ratings at all. Until recently, we had one one star review from a someone who was not a customer. That attached a one star rating to our website!

    Google did not even wait for a batch of three or five reviews to show the rating. This made the site look really bad. I complained to Google with no result.

    So we thought we should encourage our clients to leave some 5 stars review to in attempt to improve the overall rating. We did that in a short space of time which I now know we shouldn’t have done, but they are all genuine.

    How long does it take for the star rating to change? And should we continue to encourage customers to leave reviews? Many thanks.

    • Hi Dr. Elmanharawy:

      Asking patients (or customers) for reviews on Google, Yelp, and other review sites is never a bad idea. It is always a good idea.

      Some things you experienced are new behavior for Google.

      In the past, it took five reviews to determine a rating. In January 2017, Google started rolling out star ratings for businesses on Google Maps, even if they had a single review. Google Maps and your listing on Google My Business are interconnected.

      Something many people have been reporting to me in February 2017 is that they get a number of reviews all at once, and Google does not automatically add these reviews to the cumulative star rating score. This used to take a few days.

      Now it appears if you get a bunch of reviews all at once, this triggers a flag in the system. These may be manually reviewed, or the score may be discounted in the final score. This is something to keep an eye on for now, to see which it is.

      Keep asking for reviews, but realize that if you have a pattern that doesn’t fit the normal pattern for your business or industry, it may take longer to add thee to the final score. This is new behavior, so I am also watching to see how these are handled.

      These flagged reviews seem to be triggered when a business has a score they are trying to bring up, and they get an avalanche of reviews in a short amount of time from profiles that either have no prior reviews, or maybe one prior review. You have to admit, it looks like manipulation, even if it is completely legitimate.

      The other thing you described, asking Google to take down reviews — that almost never happens. Everyone that would ever receive a negative review would complain, and so this is probably why Google leaves those in.

      The only two instances where I can say they would take down a review would be conflict of interest or hate speech.

      If the review is threatening or has hate speech, that is one legit case for removing a review. The other is conflict of interest, such as an employee of the reviewed business leaving a review.

      In any other cases, your reviews, good or bad, will stay on Google.

      The best advice is ask for reviews after you deal with customers, when they are happiest with your service.

      Refrain from asking a ton of people all at once, and never ever hire an outside service to write false reviews to enhance your rating (that is for anyone else reading, not yourself).

      Hope this answers your question in greater detail.

      Thanks,
      John

  38. Our website was created in Dec 2016, it is indexed but appearing poorly. On Google Maps, if you search for “karate crewe” we appear in positions 4+ despite having reviews and 1, 2, and 3 do not. Any ideas?

    • Hi Red Dragon:

      Reviews are important, but they are not the only metric that Google looks at when determining how to rank sites.

      Some things that your competitors have over you in other areas besides reviews:

      – Address that matches their Google My Business listing on their website. You do not have the address listed on your site.

      – Better back link profile. If you do not have links to your website, and your competitors do, Google will trust their site more.

      – Your domain name is less than a year old, theirs are older. Spammers often get domain names for only a year. If you register the domain name for a few years, and wait for it to become over a year old, that will be another sign you are in business for the long haul.

      – Your competitors do not have WHOIS privacy on their main records, while you do. Google looks at domain privacy with an air of apprehension. Better to have your name out there as a legitimate business. Domain privacy is not necessary for most businesses.

      These are just a few of the top of my head that I noticed. I encourage you to look at the blog archives for SEO on this site to get some additional ideas for improvement.

      Thanks,
      John

  39. Had a very similar experience (see two posts above) with a non-client making a one-star (regarding my alleged texting while driving) review on a site I had previously thought fairly benign until I saw that now that site prominently displays one star after just one review. I’m currently working to ‘flood’ the site with positive reviews but it appears from what you’re saying, Google will most likely see a different pattern and question the reviews? Isn’t it a normal response to counteract as quickly with as many positive reviews as you can?

    • Hi Nancy:

      In all likelihood, your five-star reviews will eventually be added to your score. But to understand why Google or any other search engine views the pattern with apprehension, you must think about it from their perspective.

      Every search engine relies on the integrity of their rankings (and reviews) for their continued business. If consumers lose faith in their ranking and reviews, they will simply use another search engine.

      To preserve that integrity, they have pattern detection built into their review algorithm. The reason they have to do this is because there are unscrupulous people out there that will try to manipulate any advantage they can to get an edge on their competitors.

      In other words, there are businesses that would think nothing of hiring people to write fake reviews to make their score look better, if that would yield them an advantage in the market.

      Because there are literally hundreds of millions of businesses out there, some of that screening has to be automated. So they look for unnatural patterns.

      Take for instance your business, Artistic Garden Concepts. The domain name dates back to 2007, and the first review was about four months ago, and it was a one-star review. Now suddenly, there are three more reviews that come in the space of a week, and they are all one to two sentences long and five-star reviews.

      This is an unnatural pattern given the fact that the business only received one Google review in the previous ten years.

      Yes, it is natural for business owners to want to hurry up and get a bunch of positive reviews to counteract a bad score. But that’s what they should be doing anyway.

      The best defense is a good offense, to quote the old idiom.

      Businesses should be proactively looking for positive reviews from customers, not just when they get a negative review, or when business is slow, but when business is good, and when they already have good reviews coming in on a regular basis.

      By looking for positive reviews all the time, the effects of a one-star review, if and when those occur, will be greatly diminished.

      The mistake that many businesses make is worrying about good reviews only when their score is damaged by a random one-star review.

      But here’s why your one-star review should not cause you to panic.

      Intelligent and discerning customers who see that one star rating are going to be curious and click on that review to read it. When they see that the review is completely random, has nothing to do with your business, and most likely a hit job by a competitor, they will shrug it off.

      I know your next question will be, can I get fake reviews removed?

      The only way that Google removes reviews is if they are either hate speech, threatening violence, or a conflict of interest (like an employee leaving a review).

      99.99% of the time, you won’t be able to get the review removed. This is why it is so vital to get a steady stream of reviews from customers that doesn’t look manipulated. These organic reviews will be a steady defense from any random reviews that come from people who are not your customers.

      I hope that answers your question.

      Thanks,
      John

  40. Avatar for John LockeEdgar says:

    Thanks a lot for the post. It’s just the information I was looking for.

    I kind of figured some of those things mentioned in your article when I started having more and more reviews from my customers, but my rating didn’t go up for a while.

    I thought there might be a tool where I could calculate the reviews I needed to get to 5 stars again, but with the info that you gave, I can be focused on other things — like how to improve the SEO of my website.

    Thanks again.

  41. Hi John, fantastic reading above.

    Regarding Google reviews, we as a company had our first one negative review on Google 4 months ago. This turned out to not be true, but what can you do. All the time it sat there, Google showed one 1 star review. At this, I then turned to some of our customers and asked if they would be so kind to review, is which they have. As almost a week in, the one star still shows despite getting 11 almost 5 star reviews. The same applies with yell.com for “we do doors”.

    Will Google update this at some point? Or will it possibly be frowned upon looking like this may have been fabricated as we have so many in such a short space of time?

    Regards,
    Sean

    • Hi Sean:

      I found your Google My Business listing, and you are correct on one count. Google has been “holding” reviews for a longer period of time when it breaks the normal pattern of reviews for either your business, or the industry.

      Many people have asked the same question you have asked after trying to get their Google review score up. When Google sees a pattern of one review for several years, and then ten reviews in the space of a week, that raises some eyebrows. My guess is they have some sort of trigger that sets off when you cross a certain threshold of reviews in a certain amount of time, if that is not historically what your business has received.

      Everyone that I have seen so far has the reviews added to their cumulative score. Knock on wood. It seems to take at least a week for the reviews to get added in if you trigger the red flag. Normally, it takes a day or two to add the scores in.

      This behavior in the reviews has been in place since about February of 2017. It feels like they are targeting review spammers. (There are people out there that are buying illegitimate reviews).

      Will Google not count reviews that they feel are false in the future? That’s hard to say, but they might follow the lead of other services that do this already (like Yelp). So far, I haven’t seen signs that reviews are being discounted, but the fact that they have a holding period means they may have humans from the web spam team trying to figure out how to judge a false review from a real review in the future.

      My advice would be to send out a follow up email to customers for a review to the top two or three sites you want to get a review from after the job is done. If you can figure out what sites they are already on (like Yelp or Google), then target those.

      Getting a steady stream of reviews going forward as opposed to sudden rush of reviews should keep you from getting screened by Google, allowing you to keep your review star total up to date in the future.

  42. Avatar for John LockeNeil says:

    Hi John, We have two locations, the first being our flagship store with 109 reviews, and the second newer store has 55 reviews. Why does our second location show near the bottom of of search results below other businesses who don’t even have a website?

    • Hi Neil:

      This is an excellent question. After doing some research on your two locations, I’d like to share some things I found.

      First, it’s important to understand that Google collects information about businesses and forms a virtual profile. Your website is very important, but is one source of information. Local and regional business records and DBA listings tell Google there are other car stereo shops in the vicinity, but profiles on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and hundreds of other sites also feed information into the machine.

      Depending on what people are searching for, and what device they are searching on, and where they are physically located, Google will show them different results.

      If a customer is searching for “car stereo installation” or even “car installation in Milwaukee”, Google will usually return whichever shops are closest to their location in the three-pack map at the top of Page One, provided they do not have a negative reputation.

      Google tries to figure out the intent of searches, and return the best results. For most services, this will include the closest services that fit that description. Darren Shaw talks extensively about how proximity affects the map search results here.

      Reviews are definitely becoming more a difference maker in local search. But I sense you would like your West Allis location to show up higher in search for car stereo installation for people searching locally in Milwaukee.

      Your original location is optimized well. It comes up in the three-pack map for me when I search for car stereo installation.

      Google search: car stereo installation in Milwaukee

      I know your second location in West Allis must be somewhere between 8 and 12 months old. You have both of these locations verified separately in Google and Facebook, which is great! But one thing I would do is clean up the rest of your local citations for each location. If you click this lik to do a search for Stereo One in Moz Local, and click the link to see all results, and follow the links for your 84th and 27th Street locations, you will see some inconsistent information.

      If you don’t have the direct logins to each of these data aggregator profiles, it is worth it to pay the small annual fee to get that information consistent.

      Another thing I’d like to point out is your two locations on Yelp have slightly different spellings. I would fix this, so Google and customers understand this is the same brand.

      Google Search: Stereo One milwaukee

      I have your original location at #2 in Yelp for car stereo installation near Milwaukee, and the West Allis location at #5. Focus on getting more Yelp reviews (and Google reviews) for the newer location. Yelp reviews really seem to move the needle in local search.

      The West Allis location is also ranking between #4 and #11 in the map (for me) when I search for car stereo installation in Milwaukee, depending on how I phrase that search.

      I would make sure that you have the correct business category for the West Allis location as the primary category. I noticed you have the 27th St location categorized as Car Stereo Store, but the main category for the 84th St location is Car Alarm Supplier. Be sure to put your main category first, and add the other categories after that.

      One last thing I would advise is make your website reflect the hierarchy of your enterprise.

      In the header of your site, you have the address and phone number of your 27th St location. I noticed sometimes when I load the page, there is a small pop-up with the second location in the top right corner. But it does not always load, and I can close it out. Also, on your Find Us page, you have the information for the original location in the main part of the page. But the 84th St location is over in the sidebar.

      Google is going to look at the West Allis location as secondary if it reflected that way on your website.

      I would consider changing your Find Us page to display the map, address, and phone number for both locations with equal prominence. You might even add a location page for each spot, complete with driving directions. I would also figure out a way to display the address and phone for the two locations in the header.

      If you grow to three or more locations, I would then suggest adding the information for each location to the footer, with a link to a Locations page in the top navigation.

      I don’t think you’re that far off with the West Allis location, but some of the information you have on secondary sites and your main website could be tightened up.

      I hope this helps.

      Thanks,
      John

  43. Avatar for John LockeJason S says:

    Thanks for the info John. Why does Google not express the same concern in checking the legitimacy of a negative review as they do the positive? It seems there is no recourse for damaging reviews regardless of how factual they are or are not.

    • Hi Jason:

      You pose an excellent question. Google reviews are, for the most part, automatically approved, or approved very quickly. This process is not overseen by humans, unless you bring it to the attention of the support team. Even then, it is highly unlikely that the negative review you received would be overturned.

      Because there are hundreds of millions of businesses to keep track of, screening out negative review complaints from business owners would be near impossible from a staffing standpoint. This is why most reviews on Google stick, and it is very rare to see them filtered out.

      Does review spam happen? Absolutely. Do rival businesses leave false reviews to hurt their competition? Yes.

      The problem is that it can be difficult to discern who is a legitimate customer and who is not.

      I see you have reached out to past customers and got an influx of positive reviews. These should be added to your total score in about a week.

      As you may have seen in other threads in the comments section, many businesses start collecting reviews when they receive a one-star or two-star review as their initial review.

      As the old saying states, the best defense is a good offense. A good way to prevent having a poor Google review score going forward is to be proactive about collecting reviews from future clients. The more reviews you collect, the harder it will be for negative reviews to tank your average.

      I would also put some effort into getting positive reviews on Yelp. These seem to move the needle in local SEO.

      Remember that you can also reply to customer reviews on Google. (This practice is discouraged on Yelp). Use the reviews you receive on Google as an opportunity to show that your customer service is professional and above reproach. Most prospective clients will see one negative review out of dozens as an aberration, not a pattern.

      Thanks,
      John

  44. Avatar for John LockeTessie Byer says:

    Hi,

    I’d like to know if there’s a way to get the contact number or email address of the person who leaves a review?

    • Hi Tessie:

      Not directly, there’s not. If you click on the name of the person who left a Google review of your business, it will take you to a screen with their contributions, including their reviews.

      Your best bet is to search for their Google+ profile using their full name. Some people list their email address or phone number, though most do not. You may also try to find them on other social media profiles.

      Thanks,
      John

  45. Hi John,

    Google allows people to post new comments again and again.

    In your experience, do multiple reviews from the same person have any effect on the overall rating?

    Thanks and good work here,

    Dave

  46. Avatar for John LockeAndrew says:

    What do you mean it could be a good or bad thing??

    • Hi Andrew:

      In the case of the comment thread above, if they get multiple one-star reviews, it can be bad, as it hurts their overall average. If they get multiple five-star reviews, it can help their average.

  47. Avatar for John LockeBo says:

    Hi John,

    Thank you so much for your post. You have helped so many people. I have a question and have been finding it so difficult to get any information.

    I had a disgruntled ex employee put fake and disturbing posts on my Google review for my business. The posts have been removed by this person but I was mortified when I found out about them. How do I find out or where can I get the information to find out how many people actually saw and read this post? I have been doing everything I possibly can to find this out and Google won’t help.

    • Hi Bo:

      It might be difficult to know exactly how many people saw a specific review during a given time period, but you can get a rough idea of how many people saw your Google My Business listing, which would include that review.

      Here are the steps you can follow to see the Google Business Insights for your business:

      • 1. Sign in to Google My Business.
      • 2. Switch to card view if you are not already using it. If you’re viewing your listings as a list instead of cards, switch to card view by clicking the cards icon on the right side above your pages.
      • 3. Click the location whose insights you want to view.
      • 4. Click Insights from the menu on the left side of the page.

      This is what it looks like in list view when you are about to navigate to Insights.

      Google My Business Insights

      And this is what your Insights for the month will look like.

      Google Insights

      The graph shown will tell you how many people saw your business listing in Google Search and in Google Maps. From these numbers, you should be able to extrapolate how many many people potentially saw reviews for your business.

      Hope this answers your question.

      Thanks,
      John

  48. Avatar for John LockeSean Juan says:

    Google still shows Review Ratings in the organic results. Check it out here
    https://www.screencast.com/t/9cOImMqUCQm8

    I thought it was the Schema markup but it’s pulling the stars from Google reviews itself.

    The other location pages don’t have schema markup.

    • Hi Sean:

      Thanks for stopping by. Glad to see you doing so well with Smek Digital.

      I would watch the Google search results page and see if it is pulling in reviews from Google. I haven’t seen that for a long while. My hypothesis would be that the search results are pulling the star rating from the ratings box at the bottom of the South Brunswick location page.

      ABC Taxi Limo South Brunswick NJ

      The only reason I say that is because in the last year and a half, I’ve only seen star ratings in the organic search results when there is a mechanism for collecting star ratings on the site itself.

      I haven’t seen any cases where the search results pull a star rating from Google reviews (or anywhere else) in a while. But they may be trying something new. Let’s keep an eye on the search results and see if your theory bears out. I’m curious to see what Google is doing.

      Thanks,
      John

  49. Thanks for this amazing post. I have been blogging near a year now, but I am not getting traffic from Google and I did everything. Also, how do I know if I am penalized by Google?

    • Hi Said:

      To see if you have a manual penalty from Google, log into your Google Search Console, and look under Search Traffic > Manual Actions. If you have a manual webspam penalty, it will be listed there.

      To tell if the Google algorithm is penalizing your site vs your competition, ask yourself these questions:

      • Does my back link profile consist of lots of questionable back links?
      • Have I used a Private Blog Network to build links in the past?
      • Does my content say anything original, or present new information that is not found dozens of other places?
      • Is my site user-friendly? Or it is not mobile-friendly, slow to load, filled with ads, or popups?
      • Does my site content exist to get people to click affiliate links, or does it exist to genuinely solve a customer problem?
      • Am I relying on ghost writers or article spinners for content?

      If you have been hit by a Google algorithm adjustment, these are the most likely suspects.

  50. Hi John, thanks for the post – response.

    You can now claim – verify your Google my business account, via Mail, telephone, e-mail and web domain name.

    But my question was not about how to claim accounts and how secure they are, but how unsafe they are whilst unattended and what state they’re in.

    You said it yourself there are probably more unclaimed accounts than claimed ones. Alarm bells should be ringing John.

    The blame for this mess should be laid at the feet of Google Maps, because they never had consent from the Owners to place the Map Marker in the first place. If they had received consent, then there would be willing participants not a mine field of misinformation, see what happens when you don’t know about or don’t pay for something, companies/people take over what is not theirs.

    You quoted, Of course, there are advantages to claiming your business on GMB, and any business interested in improving their search rankings should claim their profile.

    ( SEO Tip, Right?)

    Back to my question about review section – scores for these accounts, Does Google Maps refresh reviews on a yearly basis? (Does it zero the Counter?)

    Thanks

    Michael

    • Hi Michael:

      The Google review score does not reset each year. It is an ongoing, cumulative score. All the reviews that have ever been placed for that business go into the score.

      For the initial question, if there are inaccurate addresses and information on an unclaimed Google My Business/Google Maps listing, that is likely the result of inaccurate information elsewhere on the web.

      One of the foundational parts of SEO is making sure your structured citations (Name, Addres, and Phone or NAP, for short) are correct.

      Often, you’ll see businesses with duplicate listings, with two different addresses on various listings like Facebook, Yelp, YP.com, Trip Advisor, za.wowcity.com, etc.

      Remember that Google’s main goal is to organize the world’s information, so they try to fill the holes with whatever information is publicly available. For a long time, they had a Google Maps Maker (now closed) where people could contribute information about a location or business. This may also be where you are seeing inaccurate information — from previous contributions, as well as old information from other sites.

      As we previously stated, getting the Name, Address, and Phone number correct on all sites, and Google My Business, is a foundational practice in SEO.

      Hope this answers your question.

      Thanks,
      John

  51. I love Google Reviews! It’s a bit annoying when a customer you thought was 100% happy catches you off guard and leaves you a 4 star review though.

    Great article. Thanks!

    • Hi Tony:

      I wish every review could be a 5-star too, but sooner or later, you’re bound to get a 4-star. a 4.9 average is not bad! Sounds like you are doing great work there in Blyth.

      Thanks,
      John

  52. Avatar for John LockeChristine Casarsa says:

    Hi John,

    I just noticed that I have a one star rating by someone I am not even sure I know and who did not write a review. Since I had no reviews before this one, this showed up negatively on the general Google Maps search. I have asked several clients to write reviews and they have posted them today, but it is not changing my star rating. I realize now from reading your advice that Google may see a batch of new reviews as being the error when it is in fact the one prior to this batch that is the error. Any advice? This one star rating from someone I am not sure I even have worked with seems like a sabotage on my professional reputation. Anything I can do?

    Thanks,
    Christine

    • Hi Christine:

      I did see you got a few 5-star reviews in very recently. Google should add those to your cummulative review score shortly.

      The old review looks like a fake, and there are still problems with reviews being written by false profiles.

      There is a great article by Whitespark on what to do if you get a fake Google review on their site with steps you can take.

      I would make sure you ask any clients for Google and Yelp reviews as part of your offboarding process. That helps minimize the damage from the rare occurrence of fake reviews.

      • Avatar for John LockeChristine says:

        Thanks so much for this support John. I see that Google has now factored in the 5 star reviews, so that is a relief! The fake one is still there so I have flagged it as inappropriate and I will see if Google takes the action of removing it. Hopefully it will be removed. It is still affecting my overall rating. Your advice has been a comfort.

        Much appreciated,
        Christine

  53. Hi John, thanks for the great article. As a new start up group of Painters in Detroit, your tips will definitely help us optimize our site!!!

  54. Hi John,
    A client left a great review on my Google business page but I can’t see it. She said she can and even text me a screen shot of it. Do you have a suggestion on how to correct this so the public can see this review?

    • Hi Julie:

      If the client left the review in the last day or two, I wouldn’t worry yet. Reviews seem to be taking about that long lately to post, though in the past they are pretty much up the same day. If it has been more than seven days since you received the review, then let me know and we can investigate further.

      Thanks,
      John

  55. Avatar for John LockeGiovanni says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the great post, I have been reading the comments, and as per most users have been experiencing the same problem.

    A restaurant which has been reviewed on our product page received a 1 star review, including a few higher ratings of 3, 4 and 5 stars but per a Google search of “taqueria cape town” the listings shows with the 1 star being pulled through.

    What I have read here so far is that this rating can be random by Google, but should adjust accordingly over time, although in this instance it has not, even though there has been more recent higher rated reviews.

    The Google map results displays 4.5 stars, which is obviously what our client would prefer.

    Is this issue due to only 7 reviews on the restaurants page, or has this something to do with the ratings systems of 3 categories or perhaps even an issue with the scheme structure?

    Your feedback would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Giovanni:

      I checked out the restaurant in question, and they have 88 Google ratings for a 4.5 average when you search them by name. When you search the restaurant name directly, the Knowledge Graph comes up with no problems.

      As you mentioned, when you do a general search for Cape Town restaurants, the top result is the third-party page where it is showing seven reviews with a aggregate rating of one star.

      Google shows star ratings for web pages if they are collecting reviews on that site, but they read the Schema markup of that page. That’s where your problem lies.

      Take a look at the source code of the page, around line 627:

      
      
      <span itemscope="" itemprop="aggregateRating" itemtype="http://schema.org/AggregateRating"> <!-- aggregate reviews -->
      <meta itemprop="reviewCount" content="7"/> <!-- number of reviews  -->
      <meta itemprop="ratingValue" content="1"/> <!-- average based on the 4 review values -->
      </span>
      
      
      
      

      The mechanism of the page is not calculating the aggregate rating of all the reviews correctly. This is what you need to fix.

      Hope that helps!

      John

      • Avatar for John LockeGiovanni says:

        Hi John,

        Thank you for the response and taking the time to assist me.
        This definitely points us in the right direction and we should be able to fix.

        Hopefully in no time the correct ratings reflect.

        Have a great day further!

        Kind Regards,
        Giovanni

  56. Thank you, John for your response. Unfortunately, my client left this response weeks ago. I’m not sure what to do now.

    • Hi Julie:

      As we surmised, your client may not have completed the review submission, or you would be able to see it in the admin panel of your Google My Business. I would reach out and have her complete it again.

      Thanks,
      John

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