The Impact of Review Gating
Review gating has been banned against in the Google My Business guidelines for a long time now, perhaps even forever. But what exactly is review gating, and how does it impact your star rating and review volumes? Read on to find out!
What is review gating?
Review gating is basically filtering through candidates before asking them to leave a review. This is generally done by sending all customers an email template asking them if they had a positive or negative experience. If the customer selected "Positive," they're asked to leave a review on Google. However, if the customer had a negative experience, they are prompted to leave private feedback but aren't sent an option to review the business publicly.
But does review gating impact star-ratings? Studies have shown that gating has little impact on the average star-rating. However, it does significantly affect review volumes - businesses that stopped using review gating saw a considerable increase in their review volumes.
Review Volume Increases
GatherUp did a study back in October 2019 comparing 10,000 locations that had gating turned on a year before Google's clarification in their guidelines, and then had gating turned off a year after. They found that by not gating review requests, the difference in the average star rating was actually quite small. In fact, the difference was so small that it didn't really impact the rating score much at all.
For example, in one study, GatherUp found that one business had an average 4.66 star-rating the year before turning off gating, with 32,901 total reviews. After a year of having gating turned off, the same business had an average star-rating of 4.59, but with a total of 54,557 reviews.
The volume of reviews increased by 68% during this period! You can see with this business that the significant gain in review volume offset any small drop in the rating score.
What You Should Do if You're Review Gating
The first thing you need to do is turn off the gating function for any review-soliciting platform. If you decide to continue review gating in spite of Google's guidelines, you'll be risking Google taking action against you by removing all of your reviews. In our opinion, it's not worth the risk, so don't do it!
How Customers Use Negative Reviews
Negative reviews do affect purchases because consumers want to do as much research as possible on a product or service before purchasing, especially if it is expensive. For as many shoppers out there that trust positive reviews, there are those who prefer to read negative reviews as well before buying.
People look to negative reviews to understand the downfalls of a product, identify factors that may not work for them (such as allergic reactions), how the product was used, and to balance the customer feedback in order to get a better understanding of the review content.
Customers aren't really searching for perfect five-star reviews to validate their decision to purchase something. Instead, perfect reviews can come across as "too good to be true" and an average rating between 4.2 and 4.5 stars has actually been shown to be more effective and realistic in comparison to a perfect 5-star rating.
How Negative Reviews Can be Beneficial
- You can increase your conversion rates. Studies have shown that just by simply displaying reviews (good or bad), the chance of a visitor converting into a customer increase by 270%.
- You can establish greater trust with your audience. Being successful comes with being honest with your customers. Having negative reviews show up publicly will show your customers that you are being 100% transparent with them and that you aren't afraid of some people not being able to understand/enjoy your product in its entirety. Not only do negative reviews help validate the authenticity of review content, but they also help drive customers to the products that best suit their needs.
- Negative reviews can drive improvement. Many people are going to interact with your products and services, and customer feedback, both good and bad, is invaluable. Dig into your customer reviews to get product insights that might be missed otherwise. You can also find ways to make processes more efficient and cheaper.
For some tips on responding to both negative and positive reviews, check out this blog article!
Using Reviews for Improvement
While most businesses love review gating because of the discomfort that comes with negative reviews, removing the gating process can actually help improve your business.
For a long time, businesses have had the mindset where they need to request reviews from all of their customers, but still fear those negative public reviews. However, many businesses are starting to realize that reviews are the building blocks for improvement and that they don't need review gating in order to be successful.
Every review, good or bad, will build you a better reputation and a better business.
Let's bring the spotlight to your business today.
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