Say Goodbye to the Anonymous Google Review

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.

Google+ Local Reviews Signup

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.

Trusted and non-trusted reviews
Trusted and non-trusted reviews
  • Guest

    I agree, Google making review authors identifiable is going to make honest reviews a thing of the past. People leaving good reviews will be the only people leaving reviews, all the people with a less than perfect experience will be hesitant to leave a review due to the possibility of repercussion. Sounds like the end for google reviews unless they change the author name to just a first name, or initials like the article author said. Removal of the picture is needed also, the owner or employees of a business might not need my name when I’m there, but a picture will be a dead give away. Too bad, I liked Google, sorry to see them ruin a good service with such a poorly executed policy.

    • I have heard of a local business owner going a little bit sideways over a particularly negative review – and I think to my point above. If reviewers are taking a balanced and constructive approach to providing a review, I don’t think you’d have to worry about retribution.

      I think Google might be taking a step in the right direction to give the business owner a little bit of protection in making sure that people will stand behind the review they give. Which begs the question, if you aren’t willing to stand behind your review, is it valid?

  • Agreed. I actually just logged on to try to leave a review which had some good and bad components to it, but there’s no way I’m going to do it now. I don’t want to get horrible service or be tracked down by an angry employee!

    • I’d like to think that businesses who are interested in utilizing Google review would welcome feedback on areas of opportunity where they or their staff could improve. Do we really have to worry about horrible service or being tracked down by an angry employee if we leave balanced and fair (positive or negative) reviews?

  • Foodie

    I have an unusual name, and so I am very easy to find just by a single google search. Even though I never say anything in my reviews I wouldn’t own up to, I will not let my personal opinions get data mined (I work with data mining; it can reveal far more about a person than he or she intended).

  • Rob

    Also, even if you’re writing a positive review for say a plastic surgeon or something you’d rather not broadcast that you had plastic surgery to the world.

    • Ha, I didn’t think of that one. I guess less savory businesses out there would have difficulty getting reviews as well.

    • PrivacyPlease

      This is my problem exactly. I go to a wonderful hair removal place (I am female) but can’t leave an anonymous review, so I can’t share my experiences to promote the business. There is no way I am publicly telling the world about this private issue I’m dealing with!

  • JLR

    I’m so annoyed with this! I worked for a company that was absolutely horrible behind closed doors and I want to post a review so that the public knows, but I don’t want to be sued by the business for posting the truth about their unprofessionalism. Now, I can’t do that.

    What are you thinking, Google????

    • OM

      I know exactly what you mean. I worked for a company that was engaging in illegal activity but like everyone else I mostly kept my gob shut, and SO many of their staff left under bad circumstances, including myself, that I wanted to give my five cents back to the public to be aware, or anyone else that chooses to work there, that things aren’t always as they seem. I’ve seen customers review them poorly online, but doubt they would care very much, as their customers (and staff) weren’t that important to them anyway.

  • Mz. Truth

    Once I worked for a company which practices REGULAR anonymous surveys/reviews of itself. Now this company belongs to the “50 Best Companies to Work For” club. Obviously, it would’ve been a better world with the same feature on a Google scale. I am sad Google misses this opportunity to follow their own “Do not be evil” motto.

  • Guest

    Once I worked for a company which practices REGULAR anonymous surveys/reviews of itself. Now this company belongs to the “50 Best Companies to Work For” club. Obviously, it would’ve been a better world with the same feature on a Google scale. I am sad Google misses this opportunity to follow their own “Do not be evil” motto.

  • Ben

    Anonymous reviews are essential… Keep them!

    What if you want to review about a strip club? Or an embarrassing
    medical situation? Or your a-hole cousin runs a terrible pizza shop?

    It’s like having who you voted for plastered all over your Facebook page.

    Abuse can still be easily identified, tracked, and dealt with. I
    myself have been the victim of malicious competitor reviews, and they
    stick out like a sore thumb: No very negative reviews EVER over seven
    years, and then 6 within two hours, all originating from the same IP
    address? C’mon.

    This is just Google trying to overstep, and get people to use G+.
    The result is that I will not be reviewing anymore, for fear of
    retaliation. Adios, Google+Whatever.

    • Maybe if they made the star ratings system anonymous, there would be more room for other opinions.

  • KMC

    Unless something is flat out horrid to the point i want to cry, i wont
    take the time to leave a negative review on anyone (especially because i
    feel most people are more inclined to leave a neg review cuz their
    pissed and want to yell about it than a positive one where they’re
    satisfied and just want to go about their business.).

    I do however go out of my way to leave positive reviews to places where i
    really enjoy their customer service and products. And like Foodie I am
    disinclined to leave reviews with my full name attached, even positive
    ones b/c i don’t want everyone on the planet to know all that
    information. I would rather not be data mined and b/c of my line of work
    i am often googled and must be fully aware of what is searched about me
    and what i put out there.

    But I want the use of my full name on my gmail account so clients and
    people i professionally work with know its me and not a random nick name
    that looks like i’m a 12-yr-old.

    Initials i feel would work best at least. Or something along those

  • Scared Off

    My son’s private school just asked everyone to do a ‘good’ review and get credit for volunteer hours! But, then I saw I’d have to post my name and information. My previous foster child now my son is ‘stalked’ by his birthfamily so I’d never put out my name with a school review…geez. And, I would never complain now even if the school wasn’t doing a great job. Particularly with schools I would never post a bad review under my name but also when considering schools, it is not end all be all, but it is the 3 star reviews that seem more real/honest. No school is ‘perfect’ especially for every child so a school with all 4-5 stars just seems fake but do you want to be the parent to post that you’ve seen roaches in the bathroom or moldy food behind the daycare changing table, let alone that my a child in Kindergarten was suspended for breaking the dress code for wearing mickey mouse swim trunks.

    • Reviews like this are going to be extremely hard for Google to find because they’re coming from real accounts. So, I guess you’ll be working the Bingo instead?