In November, I wrote about the shake-up that worried us and many dentists about what Google thought about BirdEye and other services like it. Was Google penalizing businesses for soliciting reviews via a third-party service? We now know that BirdEye has been in communication with Google and is doing everything that they can to comply with their terms, conditions and policies.
Google Does What it Wants…
…And BirdEye has nothing to say about it. When Google puts the hammer down, Solution Reach, Weave, DemandForce, and all the rest have nothing they can do but get in line. You probably saw my email last week, passing along the announcement from BirdEye about the changes they are making to their system. We changed everyone’s BirdEye settings to turn off their Sentiment Checker- what some have referred to as a “review gate”. BirdEye is making this a mandatory change for all new accounts and is forcing it on all existing accounts in June. I figured, why wait? Let’s not risk angering Google.
What if You Don’t Use BirdEye?
If you’re using Weave or some other service to collect reviews, be sure that they are turning off their Sentiment Checker. You don’t want to risk having your reviews that pass through those systems removed. It’s extremely easy for Google to see where a visitor was before they arrived at your profile to post a review. All they have to do is backtrack and see if that system is asking about the patient’s feelings before they are presented with an opportunity to do a review.
The next step I see in Google’s mission to create a more transparent environment for user reviews is to insist that negative reviews aren’t filtered on profiles like BirdEye’s public profile for practices or Solution Reach’s Smile Reminder profiles. A change like this would be in the same spirit of tearing down review gates: According to Google (and Yelp 👎) if you’re filtering out negative reviews, you’re not telling the full truth about your business online. We will monitor this situation.
We Still Need Reviews and BirdEye
BirdEye is still the best system for building positive reviews. The changes that BirdEye has made and the fact that they are doing so ahead of other companies builds trust for me in BirdEye. They want to be one of the good guys in Google’s eyes. I’m sure that other companies will work out similar strategies, all because reviews still matter and Google still holds massive market share in search.
In fact, reviews will likely factor more heavily in algorithmic calculations as Google feels they are more adept at filtering out fraudulent or unbalanced reviews for local businesses. Crowd-sourced rankings must have an appeal for Google as they can help teach Google’s artificial intelligence what quality really looks like.