One of the issues with Google, Yelp and most online reviews is that they’re easily gamed by competitors. It takes nothing to sign up for a free email address and post negative reviews on your competitor’s sites or positive reviews for your own business. While it’s not a rampant issue today, it’s obvious in some competitive niches. Just yesterday, Google linked up their Google places – the map results that you see sometimes when you search for something local – with Google+. While this has all sorts of implications for making businesses more social, it also annihilates the issue of anonymous reviews by linking reviews to an online social profile.
So how does it work?
Once you start writing reviews for Google+ Local, your reviews are under your full name and are linked back to your social profile on the Google+ network.
Will this discourage honest reviews?
While this new practice resolves the issue for businesses who want to put a face to a complaint, I feel like it reduces the likelihood that I will complain about other local businesses because of fear of repercussion. Many people can’t take criticism, even constructive criticism, very well.
For example, if I complain about a restaurant’s wait time in a Google+ Local review, they will now have a face and name to go with that complaint. Are they going to “sabotage” my food next time I go there? Or go to my company’s page and complain about me? I’ve seen business owners lose their minds when they see negative reviews on their Google Places pages. By publicly giving a negative review, I’m opening up myself to that potential wrath.
In the future, I’d really hope that Google+ Local gives the option to leave a review under initials or something a bit less identifiable. While social graph checks aren’t necessarily a bad idea to ensure people aren’t making puppet accounts, I really can’t see myself leaving any negative reviews for a business I might need to return to in the future. Not until Google makes that change.
Note: The old reviews have been imported as coming from “A Google User”, but I haven’t seen an anonymous option for registered users. I’d imagine that Google will prioritize registered, trusted reviews over the old anonymous ones.