The Ban on Gating Reviews … and what to do instead

Welton Hong
March 20, 2019
THE TALK... | Strategies & Practices

Last year, Google declared that if it discovered any “review gating” by businesses after April 12, 2018, any reviews posted after that date could be eradicated. Review gating is when companies put together a system that gets potential reviewers to reveal whether they want to post a positive or negative review. If they select the positive route, the reviewer is sent straight to a place where they can leave a review. If they select the negative route, they are effectively detoured away from posting a review, forcing the reviewer to contact the business directly instead.

Seems logical, right? With as many as 84 percent of people using reviews to help them make a purchasing decision, no company wants negative reviews dragging them down. But Google viewed review gating as cheating the system and depriving online searchers of an honest look at consumer interactions with a given business. And while in theory, businesses that only receive positive reviews come off looking better, the reality is that consumers actually trust businesses more when they have a few less-than-perfect reviews. 

For those using an automated process to cultivate reviews, make sure customers at least have the option to leave a positive or negative review without being routed away. Still, there are ways to influence whether someone chooses to leave a positive review in the messaging. There's nothing technically wrong with this practice as long as there is still an option to leave a negative review.

Here’s what all of this means for window and door retailers and manufacturers:

A mix of review ratings: Businesses are likely to have a few less-than-perfect reviews alongside the five-star winners, and that's okay. Again, consumers are more likely to believe reviews when they aren't all perfect. Also, having more reviews is better than having all pristine reviews, as long as the company’s overall star rating is positive.

Private or public is up to the customer: Companies can't force where good or bad reviews go. Businesses can still ask consumers to leave private feedback or to post public reviews; it's just that the final decision must belong to the customer.

Customers can highlight the positives: If a job or sale goes particularly well—or if a customer indicates so in person—feel free to ask for a review. You don’t have to do the same if you don't think the customer was delighted with the products or service.

Reviews are powerful influencers on branding and online marketing. Play by Google’s rules, offer great service and let the customer speak on your behalf.

Welton Hong is the founder and internet marketing director of Ring Ring Marketing, an Internet marketing firm that specializes in window and door businesses. Contact him at welton@ringringmarketing.com or 888/383-2848.