Popular times ranking boost data

Google’s Popular Times Graph: An Unexpected Boost in Search Rankings

In this blog, I share findings on how keyword rankings fluctuate in relation to peak activity periods found within the popular times graph. By examining real-time busyness data and its potential impact on search rankings, businesses can better understand when they might see a boost in their rankings. From timing promotions effectively to monitoring hourly keyword trends, these insights can help refine your local SEO strategy.

After analyzing several businesses and comparing hourly ranking data, I observed a trend where keyword rankings tend to rise just before peak hours. Furthermore, leaked Google API documents may indicate that live data on the popular times graph can potentially boost rankings.

Real-Time Busyness: Potential for Boosting

Periods marked as “Live, Busier than usual” on Google Maps possibly correlate with a boost in search visibility. According to the Google API documents; “Time range (start time and end time)” is used to identify periods when “a LiveResult is considered “hot” and thus a potential for boosting.”  The Google Api indicates a correlation between a boost in ranking and the LiveResult data.  Could the LiveResult be the live data we see on the popular times graph?

Google specifically discusses how “Busyness patterns identified by popular times are useful.”  They leverage the location history data in real time, allowing their systems to detect sudden spikes in activity and display it as “Live” on Google Maps.

Real-time busyness information: how busy a place is right now

Timing is Everything: How Peak Hours Impact Keyword Rankings

By running hourly keyword scans, you may notice a trend of improved rankings before peak hours. It is important to note that hourly trends in keyword rankings identified in this article are potentially just one of many ranking factors. For instance, a business can still rank well even during closed hours, and a less busy business can still achieve high rankings.  Let’s consider the keyword “pizza takeout.”

All scans were performed at various hours on a Wednesday.  According to the popular times graph displayed, Hungry Howie’s peaks at 2 PM and 6 PM.

Popular Times Graph

 

The following ranking reports shows an increase in ranking from 12 PM to 1 PM and again from 4 PM to 5 PM.  As the business approaches peak times, the rankings start to trend upward. Monitoring keyword rankings in relation to popular times can provide valuable insights for your local SEO strategy and reporting efforts.  You can find more examples in my recent blog, Menu Items and Google’s Popular Times Graph Can Boost Your Local SEO Ranking.

Rankings trends based on Popular Times

Key Takeaways for Leveraging Popular Times Graph on Google Maps

  • Monitor Hourly Trends: Regularly analyze the popular times graph on your Google Maps profile to identify peak activity periods. Understanding these trends can help you plan and execute strategies that align with your business’s busiest times.
  • Leverage Real-Time Data: Recognize that live data indicating your business is “busier than usual” can be a signal for a potential ranking boost.
  • Run Targeted Promotions: Schedule promotions and special events during identified slow periods to drive more customer traffic. This increase in activity can lead to improved visibility and higher keyword rankings.
  • Track Keyword Rankings Hourly: Conduct hourly keyword scans to observe trends in your rankings, especially before peak hours.
  • Understand Multiple Ranking Factors: Recognize that while popular times data can influence rankings, it is just one of many factors. A business can still rank well outside of peak hours or even when it appears less busy compared to competitors.
  • Optimize Based on Insights: Use the insights gained from monitoring popular times data and keyword trends to continuously refine your local SEO strategy.

Reputation Arm can help you optimize your Google Business Profile, leading to enhanced rankings, contact us for professional SEO help.  Follow me on X for continued ranking insights.

popular times graph

Menu Items and Google’s Popular Times Graph Can Boost Your Local SEO Ranking

In this blog, I’m taking a close look at how  menu items like Caesar Salad on your Google Business Profile can affect your search rankings. Even though it’s not a high-traffic keyword, it’s a solid example of how your menu items influence search results. In addition, I’ve also stumbled upon some interesting findings about how Google’s popular times data impacts rankings for a business. Let’s dig into how Google preferences the popularity of your business and the data you feed it through the Menu integrations.

Menu Items, A Ranking Factor?

A local restaurant is known for having table side Caesar salad.  A chef rolls a cart over and prepares a delicious Caesar salad in front of the table, anchovies and all. Fairly new, they opened in September of 2023 and had 555 reviews (4.7 average rating); out of the 555 reviews 47 mentioned Caesar salad.  Out of the 47 reviews, 43 were positive.  Despite the popularity they did not rank for the keyword Caesar salad.

I quickly realized that the menu on the Google Business Profile that was fed through an api did not have the keyword Caesar salad.  Instead the menu stated Caesar Kitchen.  After updating from Caesar Kitchen to Caesar salad on June 6th the rankings did improve.  June 7th the rankings were 71 by the 8th we were ranking #1.

ranking report

 

You can find reference to local menu items here in the Google API leak.  The leak contains mentions of price constraints, quality constraints and local scalable attributes.  I personally love adding attributes to a GBP because it directly impacts your visibility for a search intent.  For example, the attribute “serves happy hour food” on a GBP signals to Google that the restaurant offers happy hour therefore helping you rank for a users search intent with the words happy hour. For more information on attributes, read my blog on Enhancing Search Visibility in Google Maps with Attributes.

 

Understanding Ranking Data at Different Times 

Despite showing positive results, my ranking data from Local Falcon compared to Whitespark seemed off.  With Local Falcon I was ranking in the top 20 for the keyword Caesar Salad but the data on Whitespark showed better ranking positions.  At that point I realized that I was not factoring in the open times and scan times of the restaurant and starting scanning later in the evening.  This is when I stumbled on the correlation with the popular times graph and rankings.

Popular Times Graph Corelates with Better Rankings

The popular times graph on the GBP helps users understand when a business is typically busier or quieter by showing the average customer visits at different times throughout the day and week. Google states, “Google uses aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History”.  The graph provides live visit data, visit duration and wait time estimates.

My research shows that if a business is busier at a specific time of day then they outrank their competitors. Below are a series of ranking reports for the keyword Caesar Salad near me.  Notice the various times of day and how the rankings get better each hour based on the popular times graph data above.  For a deeper dive into Google’s Live popular times data and its “potential for boosting” click here.

Keep in mind that 7:00 PM is a popular time for many restaurants, and later in the evening, most tend to die out. Although, 8:00 PM isn’t this restaurant’s peak time, they still saw a rankings boost. By analyzing competitor data, I found that less busy competitors allowed this restaurant to rank higher.

Lets compare how two local business rank side by side based on popular times data from their GBP.  If I had to guess Crispelli’s will rank better at lunch time and J. Alexander’s will rank better in the evening around 7 PM solely based on the popular times data provided below.

Scan run at 12:39 PM; Crispellil’s for the win!

Scan run at 7:00 PM Crispelli’s for the win.

Scan run at 8:00 PM, J. Alexanders for the win.  As popular times for J. Alexanders increases so does its ranking visibility.

 

Not convinced? Then why is this unverified listing outperforming J. Alexander’s?  This manual search was done at peak lunch time.

Unverified Listing

 

Follow me on X  to keep up with GBP tips and new feature sightings.

 

 

image0 (1)

Enhancing Search Visibility in Google Maps with Attributes

Your presence on platforms like Google Maps can greatly impact your visibility to potential customers. In this article, we explore how attributes can enhance your search visibility. We’ll show you how to use attributes to make your profile more effective and improve your search relevance. Let’s get started!

What are Attributes in Google Business Profiles?

Attributes in Google Business Profiles are specific features or services that describe your business, such as “free Wi-Fi,” “outdoor seating,” or “wheelchair accessible.” These details help potential customers understand what you offer and match your business to their needs, directly influencing their decision to choose your services.

attributes on GBP

Enhancing Search Visibility with Attributes

Attributes play a key role in improving your business’s visibility in search results. When you accurately list your business attributes, Google can better categorize your establishment, increasing the chances of appearing in relevant searches. Incorporating attributes is a good practice and should not be neglected if you want to optimize your presence on Google Maps.

Relevant, Searchable attributes that Resonate with user Queries

The GoogleAPI.ContentWarehouse describes scalable attributes that can enhance search functionalities for business profiles. Scalable attributes, like “outdoor seating” for restaurants or “serves breakfast,” play a critical role in how businesses are discovered and evaluated by potential customers on Google. These attributes are not static; they can vary widely between businesses and are relevant for Google to distinguish a business in search queries.

In order to fully leverage search engine rankings every business needs to pay attention to the attributes and “amenities” in their profiles.

 

order online

Removing Third-Party Vendors from Google Business Profile: A Guide to Streamlining Your Food Ordering Links

 

Google has recently mandated that third-party providers offer an easily accessible option for businesses to request removal of provider links from a business’s Google Business Profile (GBP). This change is particularly relevant for businesses utilizing third-party services for food ordering links such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, Slice, and DoorDash. Often times these providers attach themselves to a GBP with no notification and without consent of the business owner.

The New Google Update Explained

Google’s latest update to their Local business links support document has brought a promising change. Now, third-party providers are required to remove their links from the profile within five days of receiving a removal request. This update aims to give businesses more control over their profiles and the ordering links they choose to display.  If a remove provider link is not displayed (as shown in the image below) the business can file a complaint using the Business Profile third party complaint form.

Remove Provider
Remove Provider

Real-World Challenges

Despite these guidelines, the process of removing third-party services is not as seamless as one might hope. In my experience, the response from these providers often falls into a black hole: forms filled out to request removal seem to vanish without acknowledgement, and follow-ups remain unanswered, stretching well beyond the stipulated five days.

For instance, efforts to remove providers like Uber Eats and Postmates from a Google Business Profile were met with significant resistance. Initial responses from support teams claimed inability to remove the listings, prompting a series of follow-ups, direct contacts, and even social media appeals to management to ensure compliance.

 

Uber Eats

 

 

Similarly, discussions with Slice about removing their ordering link from a specific location revealed a stark communication breakdown regarding who was responsible for the removal. Despite Slice’s initial compliance in removing themselves from the Google Food Ordering system (which was never turned on), discrepancies remained about removing the provider’s link off the order now options.

Slice

 

What is GFO?

GFO otherwise known as Google Food ordering is often displayed with “Storefront by.”  This option allows the customer to order right on the GBP without having to be directed to another third party site.  However, GFO is getting discontinued by the end of June 2024 and will no longer be an option.

 

Google Food Ordering
Google Food Ordering

Navigating the Process Successfully

Here are some actionable tips for businesses facing similar challenges:

  1. Start with the Remove Provider Options: Go to the ‘Food Ordering’ section of your profile. Next, locate and select ‘Edit your service providers’. Choose the provider you want to remove and scroll to the ‘Remove provider’ option. Click on this to proceed. You will be redirected to a webpage provided by the service provider that includes detailed instructions on how to request the removal. This could be through a form, an email, or a FAQ page with specific guidance.
  2. Wait 5 business Days: Once you have submitted your email or completed the form to request the removal of a service provider from your Google Business Profile, allow five days for a response. If you do not receive any communication or see no changes, proceed to fill out the Business Profile third party complaint form. TIP: If you are an agency working on behalf of the client, make sure to use their contact information and not yours.
  3. Email Your Provider’s Rep: If you have a representative from the provider, email them and let them know that you would like the provider link removed from the GBP.
  4. Documentation and Persistence: Keep detailed records of all communications with third-party providers. This includes saving copies of filled-out forms, emails sent, and any responses received. Persistence is key, as repeated follow-ups may be necessary.
  5. Direct Escalation: If the usual channels fail, consider escalating the issue in the Google Forum.

Conclusion

The ability to control which providers are linked to a Google Business Profile is important for maintaining the integrity of a business’s revenue and online presence. While Google’s policy updates are a step in the right direction, the real-world application of these policies often requires a proactive and determined approach. By understanding these challenges and preparing for them, businesses can prevent third parties from intercepting customers and redirect them to their own ordering systems, thereby protecting revenue that is rightfully theirs.

Google Bugs

Mastering Local SEO: Navigating GBP Bugs for Optimal Visibility

Struggling to rank in local city searches? Many businesses assume they will rank naturally in local city searches because their physical address is located in that city.  While this holds true for many businesses, the reality is more complex for others.  It may be important to identify if the listing has been compromised by a Google Business Profile bug affecting the address.  This article will help you identify some common bugs that will prevent you from ranking accurately.

business doesn't show in search / maps

 

Review Your Location Map Pin Placement

In your Google Business Profile, it’s important to check the accuracy of your location. To do this, click on the map image and review where your map pin is placed. Be aware that there’s a common issue where the map pin may revert to a previous address after updating to a new one.

Additionally, you can determine if there’s a misplacement of your map pin by examining the “service in…” section found in the knowledge panel. This step helps identify where your business is correctly represented and located on Google Maps.

maps placement

Identifying Map Pin Discrepancies Through Driving Directions

This issue with the map pin can also be identified by examining the driving directions provided for your business. Even if the driving directions display your new address, they will guide your customers to the location where the map pin is currently placed, which might be your old address. The end destination in the driving directions often reveals the actual position of the map pin.

Driving Directions

 

What to do if you find your map pin on your Business Profile is inaccurate?

If you find that your business is incorrectly listed as providing services in an old city location, far from your actual location, move your map pin within the edit address on your GBP. A common issue with Google Business Profiles (GBPs) is that the map pin may revert to a previous address or fail to update properly when a new address is entered. One important tip to remember: including a suite number in the main address line can sometimes prevent the map pin from moving to the correct location.

How to edit your map pin

Attention all SABs not ranking at their new address!

For Service Area Businesses (SABs) on Google Maps, the option to verify location accuracy through driving directions or the “service in” feature on their profile isn’t available.  However, it is recommended that if you find your business ranking at an old address contact Google support and specifically request them to ‘register’ your new address on your Google Business Profile (GBP). This step is essential due to a prevalent bug affecting SABs, where the new address, although entered, doesn’t get properly registered on the profile. This glitch can prevent a business from being accurately positioned within the boundaries of the new city on Google Maps.

Often times support doesn’t understand the request to register the new address.  If this is the case, you can always create a new listing and then ask support to transfer the reviews.  For more information on creating a new GBP, read 3 Steps to Move Your Service Area Business Google Business Profile Without Destroying Your Ranking.

Kansas Bug affecting Service Area Businesses 

A known issue often referred to as the “Kansas bug” is impacting numerous service area businesses (SABs), causing them to appear in search rankings for Independence, Kansas, even though they are based in different states. Why Kansas? Independence KS is near the center of the United States.

If the business address isn’t correctly registered or recognized by Google or perhaps another bug that causes the address to get removed, the business might end up without a specific location on its profile. As a result, Google’s algorithm might default these businesses to a central location, in this case, Independence, Kansas. This phenomenon isn’t just limited to the United States; similar situations could potentially occur in other countries if GBPs there are also missing precise location data. 

Kansas BUG on GBP

 

When searching for ‘All American Electricians’ within the North Kansas area (specifically at coordinates 39.1406, -94.5746), the business appears prominently in search results, as illustrated in the ranking photo provided. Interestingly, this same business, which is actually based in Tecumseh, MI, does not show up in search rankings when searching from its actual physical location.

 

 

Ranking-Report-for-All-American-KS-vs-MI
Ranking-Report-for-All-American-KS-vs-MI

 

 

Understanding Service Areas on your GBP

Adding service areas to your Google Business Profile serves primarily to illustrate the regions you cover on the service area map within your profile. It’s important to understand that this action is about visually defining your service boundaries and does not directly influence or enhance your ranking in those specific areas.

Understanding Service Areas on your GBP

Why is My Service Area Map in the Ocean?

It’s often thought to be a glitch with Google Business Profile, but in reality, if your designated service area is excessively large, Google might inaccurately display it in the ocean or extend it across state lines. It’s important to regularly check and update your service area to ensure it’s accurately represented on the map. Remember, to comply with Google’s guidelines, your service area should not span beyond a two-hour driving distance.

Map Pin Placement in Ocean or Across state lines

 

Mastering local SEO requires meticulous attention to detail, especially regarding your Google Business Profile (GBP). By diligently reviewing and updating your GBP information, addressing common bugs such as map pin discrepancies and ensuring accurate service area mapping, businesses can enhance their chances of ranking prominently in local searches.

Openness Ranking Factor

Understanding Google’s New ‘Openness’ Ranking Factor

Google has recently confirmed that a business’s operating hours now play a more significant role in local search rankings. This ranking signal, known as ‘Openness,’ is particularly influential for non-navigational queries, where users search for services or products rather than specific business names. Google now prefers to prioritize businesses that are operational at the time of a user’s search, assuming they are more likely to address user needs.

 

non-navigational queries
non-navigational queries

As this update reshapes the SEO landscape, businesses are advised against attempting to manipulate search rankings by falsely claiming 24/7 operating hours. Such practices are likely to backfire, potentially leading to penalties like suspension of your Google Business Profile or a significant drop in rankings​​.

Openness Ranking Factor

 

Google Search Liaison stated:

To adapt and thrive under this new ranking factor, businesses should:

  • Maintain accurate operating hours: Regularly update your Google Business Profile to reflect current hours, considering changes due to holidays or special events. Accurate hours build trust and reliability with potential customers​​.

 

  • Monitor your local rankings: Observe any shifts in your rankings after changes have been made and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly. If you notice a decline despite accurate operating hours, it may be time to re-evaluate other aspects of your SEO​​.

 

  • Consult with SEO professionals: If you’re unsure about how to navigate these changes or improve your rankings, consider seeking advice from SEO experts who can provide a customized strategy for your business​​.

 

Google’s focus on “openness” reflects their commitment to user experience. By prioritizing businesses currently open to meet needs, Google ensures search results are relevant and timely, saving users the frustration of navigating maps for a open business. This shift, while questionable if it really benefits searchers, incentivizes businesses to maintain accurate and up-to-date information, ultimately creating a more reliable and efficient local search landscape for everyone. Remember, keeping your operating hours accurate on your Google Business Profile isn’t just good for SEO, it’s good for your customers too!

While Google’s “Openness” update prioritizes instant gratification, the question remains: does it sacrifice future planning? Researching weekend dinner plans or booking appointments might become a frustrating dance with business hours, leaving users to wonder if “Openness” comes at the cost of convenience. Time will tell if Google tweaks its focus to strike a balance between immediate need and future plans.

 

 

 

How to reinstate your Google Business Profile

Essential Business Documents Google Requires to Restore Your Business Profile

Facing challenges in reinstating the Google Business Profile, despite adhering to all guidelines? Chances are the documents you sent to Google to verify your business are not sufficient enough to prove legitimacy.

Essential Documents for Registered LLCs to Submit to Google

While Google suggests submitting a utility bill for reinstatement, it often isn’t adequate on its own. To expedite the reinstatement process, provide Google with the following essential documents:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • EIN documents
  • Assumed Name document or a Doing Business As (DBA) document

It’s worth noting that many businesses use a separate mailing address from their physical location. It’s crucial to ensure that the business name on your Google Business Profile aligns with the name on your Articles of Incorporation. If there’s a discrepancy, you’ll need to present your DBA document to Google.

  1. Articles of Incorporation or Organization: These documents often require listing the physical address of the registered office or place of business.
  2. Business Licenses and Permits: These often require the address where the business operations are conducted.
  3. Commercial Lease Agreements: If your business rents its space, the lease agreement will show the physical address of the rented property.
  4. Assumed Name Document/DBA: If a business operates under a trade name, the DBA filing often requires the physical address of the business.
  5. Utility Bills: If the utilities are in the business name, these would show the physical location of the business.
  6. EIN Confirmation Letter: This document doesn’t necessarily list the physical address of your business, it might contain the address where the IRS should send correspondence which could be the physical address.

The documents listed above are what Google is looking for when verifying or reinstating your Google Business Profile. Offering comprehensive information can expedite your reinstatement process. Keep in mind, Google’s primary aim is to confirm your business name and physical address. Therefore, make sure to submit documents that clearly highlight your business’s name and physical address.

How do I upload more then two documents to Google?

When applying for reinstatement with Google, you’re initially limited to uploading just two documents. However, post-submission, you should receive an email containing a case ID. Use this email to respond and send additional documents to further verify your business. While the response may seem generic, always assume that Google will review the supplementary documents you provide.

In your correspondence with Google, it’s best to steer clear of showing frustration or desperation about the reinstatement. Such sentiments won’t aid your cause. The suspension team’s primary focus is to determine that you’re a legitimate business, authorized to operate in your country.

Essential Documents for Sole Proprietors to Submit to Google

Sole proprietorships are abundant on Google Maps. These types of businesses are popular among handymen, appliance repair technicians, cleaning services, consultants, tutors, home-based ventures, and more. If you operate a sole proprietorship from your home, it’s essential to hide your address to stay compliant. For more details, refer to the Guidelines for Guidelines to Maintaining a Service-Area Business.

To assist Google’s suspension team in verifying your business, provide the following documents:

  • Local Business License or Permit: While many jurisdictions don’t require sole proprietorships to register at the state level, obtaining local business licenses or permits might be necessary based on the business type and local rules.
  • Utility Bill
  • Cell Phone Bill
  • Better Business Bureau Profile: Secure your complimentary BBB Business Profile

It’s crucial to emphasize that if your documents don’t confirm your business address and align with your business name on your Google Profile there’s a risk that Google won’t reinstate your business listing.

What If I Don’t Have an Address Listed on My Google Business Profile?

Hide your Address on your GBP

All Google Business Profiles mandate the input of an address. After entering it, you’re given the choice to conceal this address. It’s essential that the address in your profile aligns with the one in your documents. If you’re unsure about the address you’ve used, just navigate to the address field and select ‘edit’. From there, you can input the address again and then switch off the ‘show business address to customers’ option. Your profile’s map will display your service area, not the stored address.

Service Area

If you require assistance with reinstatement, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Google Suspension Help Document

Critical Steps to Take on Your Suspended Google Business Profile

How do I get my Google Business Profile reinstated?

Are you stuck wondering why your Google Profile was suspended?  You are not alone, there are several businesses that have suspension issues and don’t understand why they were suspended off Google in the first place.  Unfortunately, Google doesn’t tell you why you were suspended.  There are a number of reasons Google will suspend your profile.

#1. You Violated Google Profile Policies

The most common violations are changes to your address, category, name, website or phone number.  You may have multiple variations of your business name online or you have duplicate profiles.  Another violation is multiple businesses claim to operate from your address.  You must clarify any outstanding issues prior to filing for reinstatement.

#2. Incomplete or incorrect NAPs (name address phone)

It’s the owner’s responsibility to provide Google with the most up to date information about your business.  This includes the hours of operation.  Not only do you confuse your customers but it will raise a red flag with Google.  Ensure your Google profile has the most up to date information on your

  • Business Name
  • Business Address
  • Business Phone Number
  • Business products or services
  • Business Hours

#3 Repeated Policy Violations

If you have received a suspension notification, you must take it seriously and optimize all areas of your profile.  Be sure to examine all areas and review Google’s guidelines.  What triggered your suspension may not be the only reason you are staying suspended.

#4 Your user account is has red flags

If you have been recently suspended, Google may advise you that your user profile has been flagged for suspicious activity.  When this happens there are some extra steps you may need to take to get your account reinstated.  For more information, read Red Flags On Your Google Business Profile: Tips To Maintaining A Healthy GBP

6 Critical tips you need to review before you file for reinstatement on your Google Profile!

  1. Make sure your address and URL matches all your social links. Many people make the mistake of updating their Google profiles prior to updating their website, FB and other social platforms.  Having consistent data across all your social and website is one way Google can verify your business.  Having accurate name, address and phone numbers (NAPs) are critical to your business
  2. Update your Google map on your website. If you relocated make sure your website has been updated with the proper Map schema.  To learn more about how to embed a Google Map on your web page click here.
  3.  Add an exterior photo to your Google Profile. When you add the photo make sure to include your signage.  Window signage is also good.
  4. Review Google guidelines and make sure you are compliant. Reading through and verifying all aspects of your profile is important before you try and file for reinstatement.
  5. Get your business license handy and a utility bill. Its always helpful to provide Google with as much information to verify you are a legit business.
  6. If you are a service-area business, you must hide our business address from customers.  For example, if you are a plumber and run your business from your residential address, hide the address from your Business Profile.  To learn more about Service Area businesses on Google, visit here.

After reviewing all aspects of your profile and you are sure that all updates are up to date then you can file for reinstatement with Google.  Visit Fix Suspended Business profiles.  Most profiles are reinstated withing 3 business days.  However, it could take up to 2 weeks.

If you do not have the resources or time or simply can not get your account reinstated, reach out to us.  Reputation Arm has a 99% reinstatement record.

Crisis Averted: Take Control of Your Google Reviews with These Expert Tips

Google has recently updated its algorithms to flag business reviews, causing widespread concern and frustration among businesses and customers alike. Many businesses are reporting that their Google Reviews are missing, and legitimate customer reviews are not displaying. This has caused confusion and frustration for businesses and customers who rely on these reviews to make informed decisions.  In response to these concerns, Google issued a statement on Local Guides Connect acknowledging that “our protections took down more than expected policy-abiding reviews from a set of Local Guides.” This suggests that Google’s algorithms are not yet fine-tuned enough to effectively identify and only remove reviews that violate its policies, resulting in the removal of genuine reviews.  Google has implemented a moderation system for all new reviews, automated by machines. However, the algorithm is not perfect, and it appears that authentic reviews are also being wrongly filtered in this moderation process. As a result, businesses across the world are experiencing negative impacts on new review generation for their business.   
Missing Review
Business complaint in the Google forum over missing reviews
 

Google’s Policy on Reviews and User-generated Content

Once a reviewer hits “post” on a review left on Google Maps, that review goes through a moderation process. The system is designed to evaluate whether it violates any Google policies. Google provides information on what it considers to be prohibited and restricted content. With the millions of reviews left daily, Google relies on algorithms to moderate the vast amount of reviews received daily. These algorithms focus on: 
  • The text of the review 
  • The account that left the review 
  • The business receiving the reviews 
While some reviews may clearly violate policies, others may not be as obvious. It’s important to note that what a business may consider offensive or off-topic does not match the same criteria as Google’s machine learning. This can be frustrating for businesses looking to remove negative reviews. 
Fake Review
Business complaining about fake reviews
In an effort to combat fake reviews, Google examines the account that left the review. Is it a newly created account or has it left multiple reviews? Does the account have a history of suspicious behavior? However, sometimes Google’s trained machines make mistakes. To ensure the authenticity of reviews, Google also examines the business in question. Their trained machines recognize categories that typically receive a regular stream of reviews compared to those that only receive a few per month on average. Therefore, if your business experiences a sudden influx of new reviews, you may be flagged for “suspicious activity.” Nevertheless, Google does take into account whether a business recently received negative publicity via social media or news outlets that could have triggered a surge of fraudulent reviewers. This helps maintain the integrity of Google’s review system.  Mike Blumenthal, co-founder of Near Media and a Google Product Expert, conducted a study on missing reviews and identified the categories most affected by Google’s new algorithms. His findings showed that service-related businesses were the most impacted. New business profiles, particularly those created in the last three months, were also highly targeted. Businesses that asked for reviews using the “ask for reviews” URL from their Google profile were greatly affected as well. Additionally, Google now considers whether the reviewer actually visited the business, which has an impact on whether the review will be published or not. 
Get More Reviews
Give customers a link to review your business on Google
For more information on why you are missing Google Reviews, check out 7 Reasons Why You Are Missing Google Reviews

How to Remove a Fake Review for Your Business: Steps to Take

Machine learning is not perfect but will improve over time.  Businesses can report “fake” or “inappropriate” reviews on their Google profiles here and end users can report them here.  
Manage your Google Business reviews
Manage your Google Business reviews
To escalate a review removal request on Google, businesses can seek help from Google Product Experts by posting their issue in the Google forum. The escalation process involves manual review by trained operators and analysts to evaluate the claims made by the business. To ensure a successful escalation, businesses should include the following information in their request: 
  • Your Maps URL
  • Images of the “fake” reviews
If you have followed the process to remove the reviews and are still unsuccessful, you can post your issue in the Google forum and have a Google Product Expert escalate the review for you. The escalation process allows for trained operators and analysts to manually review your claims.  For a deeper dive into combating Fake Google Review Attacks read Mike Blumenthal’s Step-by-Step guide.

Get Missing Google Reviews Published: Steps to Take

Many business owners are expressing frustration over the new machine learning algorithms that are filtering out legitimate reviews, resulting in an influx of missing reviews.
Filtered Customer Review
Filtered Customer Review
  If your business is experiencing missing Google reviews, consider visiting the Google forum and requesting assistance from a Google Product Expert. Through the escalation process, qualified operators and analysts can manually review your claims to help address the issue. When asking for help be sure to include:
  • Your Maps URL
  • Images of the missing review(s)
In case you don’t have the image, you may try providing the Google account name.  However, it’s important to note that the account name might not always be the same as the customer’s name. If the name doesn’t match, the review restoration process might not be successful. 
Google Product Expert
Review Restored by a Google Product Expert

Tips for Posting in the Google Forum: A Guide from a Google Product Expert

As a Google Product Expert, I often come across users who waste their time and energy by posting their issues incorrectly in the forum, resulting in not getting the help they need. If you need help from a Google Expert and want to post your issue in the Google Forum, here are some tips to keep in mind: 
  1. Avoid commenting on other users’ posts unless you have relevant and useful information regarding their issue. Helpful
  2. If you find a thread helpful, mark it as such or recommend the posted answer to help other users.
  3. Do not ask for help on someone else’s thread; start your own thread. A Google Product Expert can only help one user per thread.
  4. Include all necessary images and your Map URL to avoid wasting time and receive proper assistance.
  5. Provide specific details and avoid posting vague requests, as this will not help you receive the necessary help.
    Google Forum
    Insufficient Request Posted
  6. Remember that Google Product Experts are dedicated to helping users and providing their expertise for free.  Always be respectful and mindful of their time and service. Note that they are not Google employees, but rather SEO experts in Google products.

Generating New Reviews with Reputation Arm’s Dashboard

Dealing with missing or fake reviews on your Google profile can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that Google is constantly working to combat illegitimate reviews. One way to stay ahead of the game is to focus on generating new, legitimate reviews for your business. Reputation Arm’s dashboard is a great tool to help you do just that. Our platform makes it easy to manage and monitor your online reviews, and our team is always available to help with any questions you may have. Whether you need assistance setting up your account or want to learn more about how to effectively solicit reviews from your customers, we’re here to help. You can reach us by Phone, email support@repnew.local, or by filling out our contact form. Start generating new reviews and building your online reputation today with Reputation Arm.  

How to Identify Authentic Calls or Texts from Google for Your Business

If you run a business, you may receive a call or text from Google claiming to verify your data. However, with numerous scams out there, it can be challenging to determine whether the call or text is authentic. Ignoring a legitimate call or text from Google may lead to suspension, as seen in a Google Forum thread.

I Ignored A Text From Google And Now I’m Suspended!

In this Google Forum thread a business ignored what they thought was a scam but was actually an authentic text from Google.  After ignoring the text the business was later suspended.  While we do not know for sure that the business was suspended due to non-compliance with the text, the business owner was convinced that it did trigger the suspension.

Suspension
Did not responding to a Google text cause me to get suspended?

 

How to Identify Authentic Calls or Texts from Google

When Google calls or texts you, they will identify themselves at the start of the call. It could be an automated message or a live operator. Google may also text you to confirm your business details. Here is an example:

 

Google may also call or text to confirm your business details
Google may also call or text to confirm your business details.

 

text example from google
Call example from google

Google only calls from the numbers listed below:

  • Argentina: +541152468650
  • Australia: +61-2-9160-9443
  • Brazil:
    • 600018
    • +55 1138788565
  • Canada: +1-780-851-3579
  • Chile: +56223930690
  • Colombia: +576017945853
  • France: +33 185169412
  • Germany: +491771783584
  • India: +91 4067412333, 56161187
  • Japan:  +81-345670700
  • Mexico: +52 5550912025
  • New Zealand: +64-9-884-7777
  • Peru: +5117304933
  • Spain: +34-93-003-9974
  • United Kingdom: +44-207-660-1362
  • United States: +1-650-206-5555, +1-650-763-0461, +1-855-593-8213
  • Venezuela: +582127719755

Google understands that there are many fraudulent calls and scams and has published this support thread to help businesses identify legitimate calls from Google.

  • Google does not make sales calls, do not provide any financial information or access to your Google Business Profiles
  • Google only calls in the countries listed above
  • Google will identify themselves at the start of the call

 

Ignoring a legitimate call or text from Google can lead to suspension. However, by following these guidelines, you can identify authentic calls or texts from Google and avoid suspension. Remember to verify the caller or texter’s identity, do not provide financial information or access to your Google Business Profiles, and only communicate with Google from the numbers listed above.

Google Assistant is a newer tool offered by Google at no extra charge.  Learn more about Google Assistant, here.