Last updated June 9, 2021
In December of 2016, The Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) was passed with help from a vigorous campaign from Avid Ratings, which made it illegal for companies to threaten consumers or contractually prohibit them from posting honest reviews about a company or service online.
With the manipulation and coercion of customer reviews across all industries, including the building industry, this bill played a major role in addressing the authenticity of customer reviews. Google, which has been long against review gating, updated their policy surrounding review gating to clarify their stance on it and enforce the CRFA.
What is review gating?
Review gating, also known as “cherry-picking”, is the practice of seeking feedback from all customers, but only asking for reviews to display online from customers that had positive experiences.
The call for action against review gating came partially as a response to the growing number of reputation management platforms emerging as the importance of online reviews continues to remain high on the list for attracting leads, gaining consumer trust, and driving sales.
Now strictly against Google My Business review guidelines, review gating comes with business-damaging retribution for any company that attempts it.
How does review gating hurt your business?
Before we get into Google’s policy, let’s talk about people. While a large number of bad reviews can certainly hurt business, a lack of any negative reviews at all actually doesn’t help much either. In fact, having some negative reviews can benefit you.
Perfect isn’t better
When people are looking for a credible business they want to see authenticity. Reviews should provide people with a candid idea of who your company really is and what to expect from the products and services you provide. If every single review is a fantastic five-star, red flags may be raised that your company is filtering out bad ones or even paying for fake ones. This may actually drive potential customers away because they feel it must be “too good to be true”. While “striving for 5” should remain the goal, don’t be afraid to receive and post not-so-perfect customer feedback.
It’s also important to note that review gating limits the number of ratings and reviews your company posts online. It’s a common fear of businesses, building industry professionals included, to collect transparent customer feedback and not only have to realize that their customers aren’t 100% satisfied but be willing to display less than perfect feedback online. However, studies show that the quantity of reviews impacts consumer decisions more than perfect ratings.
In 2019, Womply conducted a study and found that volume of reviews correlated strongly to revenue for small businesses. In fact, businesses with 5-star ratings actually earned less than those with lower, but still good scores. An Uberall study the same year found conversion rates peaked at 4.9 stars. Additionally, research completed by Northwestern University and PowerReviews found purchase probability hit its peak with an average rating of 4.2-4.5 stars.
And to drive this point home, Google has specifically stated that review volume helps improve local rankings.
Here’s where review gating becomes a real problem. Google uses algorithms and policy violations as red flags to determine if a Google My Business account is gating.
If it’s discovered a business is violating review gating policy, Google may remove all of that company’s reviews. Losing all of your reviews can severely impact your online presence. Imagine hundreds or thousands of reviews that have taken years to collect gone in a second.
What’s worse, Google also suspends or bans Google My Business accounts that don’t comply with their terms of service. Not having access to a Google account could be a death sentence for a company today. Sure, people could find reviews of your business elsewhere, but having a Google My Business account is imperative for showing up in local search rankings. Considering Google has over 90% of the market share for search engines, the ability for consumers to find your business, especially as a homebuilder or remodeler where local searches are critical for online visibility, would be extremely difficult.
Needless to say, review gating doesn’t seem too appealing at this point.
Avid Ratings’ promise to authentic reviews
Avid has been an advocate for unfiltered reviews for years, warning our customers of the impact review gating will have on their business. Our mission is to provide transparent feedback for housing industry professionals and encourage them to use this information to improve their organization and deliverance of an exceptional customer experience.
To learn more about Avid’s role in passing the Consumer Review Fairness Act and our stance on protecting the rights of consumers, as well as the reputations of companies who operate fairly and ethically, read the press release here.