Recent events revolving around online reviews on Google have raised questions about the role that they play in regard to the way that local businesses rank in online search results. Research into the topic yields some interesting, if not totally conclusive results.
Numerous small businesses lost reviews off of Google in May of 2018. The reason for these reviews being removed was due to the fact that they had been made under anonymous accounts. Google’s no longer allows anonymous reviews but also went back into reviews that were posted before that policy went into effect and removed them as well. It appears that the total number of Google reviews that were removed number at nearly 2 million. These reviews were for in excess of forty thousand different businesses. Percentage-wise, this added up to as much as 3 per cent of total reviews for these businesses. The question that arises then, is, did the removal of these reviews affect the rankings of these businesses on Google.
The answer to the question of how losing reviews affected the rankings of different businesses on Google seems to depend on how many reviews were lost. Businesses that lost a significant number of reviews as a result of Google removing them did experience a drop in their ranking while businesses that had a minimal number of reviews lost seemed to be more or less unaffected. The final results of this analysis seem to indicate that the loss of large numbers of Google reviews does, in fact, have an impact on a business’s search ranking. The problem is that it is difficult to determine exactly how significant that impact is. The drop in rankings experienced by some of these businesses was generally only by a few spots. It needs also be noted that there are in the neighborhood of two hundred other additional factors that play into how a page ends up ranking in regard to its search results. It cannot be said that having the most reviews is the final determining factor in regard to a pages SEO ranking.
In just taking one sampling of four different businesses, three of them dropped down two spots in the search results and one dropped down five spots. This isn’t ideal, but given the other number of factors that contribute to a website’s SEO ranking, it is still difficult to pin these drops solely on the fact that a large number of reviews were removed from Google. Two of the businesses that had dropped two spots in their SEO ranking were in the same position a month later and the business that had dropped five positions had managed to move up a position.
It seems that the bottom line is that there would have to be more research done in regard to how the numerous other factors that affect search engine results really do play into the total equation. Either way, these results are quite interesting and show that reviews do seem to have some level of impact on search engine results for local businesses.