COVID-19 Impact on Google Reviews

As we all know, COVID-19’s impact has been widespread and touched all of our lives. Businesses were forced to shut down, lay off or furlough employees, and make changes to core aspects of their strategy. Even Google, which is viewed as an omnipotent force by business owners and marketers, made the move to remote work for its full-time employees.

This led to what occurred in late March when the company announced that it was restricting the capacity of its business listing tool, Google My Business (GMB), in order make sure capacity was being used in the right way:

“During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services.”

After this announcement, business leaders understandably had many questions about how to proceed. Reputation management is an important part of a comprehensive marketing strategy, which directly coincides with Google Reviews. At National Strategic Group, our goal is to be a resource to our clients and anyone trying to navigate this complex “new normal”. Here’s an interview with Eugene Shatsman, Managing Partner at NSG, explaining the developments of the last few months as they relate to Google Reviews:

Q: What happened to Google Reviews?

On March 20th, Google said any new reviews posted on a Google platform are not going to appear live. Google publicly came out and said they chose to suspend all GMB properties because they didn’t have the bandwidth or capacity to oversee all the reviews being published and flagged. However, they also may have been attempting to help business owners who were impacted by frustrated customers.

Looking back to March and April of this year when everything suddenly shut down, people were still showing up to closed businesses. Which would be, understandably, frustrating to customers. While it wasn’t the business owner’s fault that they were closed, many patrons took to Google Reviews to complain. By temporarily closing reviews, Google could protect businesses from an onslaught of negative reviews.

Q: When can I expect those Google Reviews to be posted?

When the time came to reopen GMB, Google moved in stages. Some industries, such as the home services industry, were able to start seeing reviews come in as early as the beginning of May. Whereas, in the eyecare industry reviews were not visible until late June.

What was interesting was that location also played a role in Google’s GMB relaunch strategy! For example, while other parts of the country could see Google Reviews for weeks New York City’s properties were just starting to trickle in. One can assume, due to COVID-19’s effect on the city, that was a conscious decision inside Google.

Q: What happens to the reviews that were submitted while Google Reviews was inactive?

In many ways, this is still the million-dollar question, and unfortunately, Google hasn’t come out with an official policy. Early on, some of our clients saw a few positive reviews trickle in. However, they were showing up as new reviews, not older ones.GMB Updates During COVID-19Many marketers believe that there is someone inside of Google manually overseeing these reviews, determining if it is an accurate representation of what happened inside the business, and finally deciding whether the review will go live. However, this is not confirmed.

Whether these reviews will continue to trickle in, if there will be an onslaught of old reviews, or if they will never be released, we don’t really know. What we can do is continue to monitor trends and keep our clients educated.

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