Recently, there has been some buzz in the dental marketing community about the loss of reviews posted to Google. It was brought to my attention that one doctor posted a video to a Facebook group called Dental Hacks Nation, where the doctor theorized that what happened was almost certainly due to Google deciding that reviews posted by way of a link from a third party were no longer acceptable reviews. We’ve been looking into this and long story short, there has been no confirmation posted by Google about this and we’re okay for now.

BirdEye’s Response

BirdEye has certainly heard from people who believe that they are experiencing a loss of reviews and have heard similar conjecture to the theory posted on Dental Hacks Nation. When BirdEye contacted Google, they received this response (according to BirdEye):

“Right now we’re being told it’s a technical issue from Google but we have not confirmed. Some people are losing no reviews, some are losing 100.

We’re aware that Google has made a few changes and we are NOT filtering reviews. We have noticed Google is starting to make sure reviews are left by real people that have interacted with your business. BirdEye is investigating how to best support this Google change in our dashboard!”

If the hypothesis posted by the Dental Hacks member is correct, that a referring IP address is going to cause Google to remove reviews, then the only thing we could recommend is texting or emailing patients direct links to your online profiles. We can’t text them a link to your website that has all of the links because your website would then be the referring IP address. While texting or emailing these links could work, it would be somewhat clumsy and difficult to implement well. At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s going to yield better results.

What Does Google Actually Say?

Toward the end of his video, the Dental Hacks Nation member doctor predicted that Google may launch a Google Reviews Business Suite where dental offices and other businesses would have to pay to essentially run review requests through Google rather than BirdEye, Weave or something else. At this point, there is no “Google Reviews Business Suite”. Here’s Google’s policy for Reviews: https://support.google.com/business/answer/2622994?hl=en&ref_topic=6001257

There’s nothing in Google’s documentation about using (or avoiding) third party services to ask for reviews, or even asking for reviews on your own website. The closest thing it says to this is “don’t post reviews just to manipulate a place’s ratings”.

Unless we want to give up trying to get more reviews, I don’t think that’s something we can consider as a reason to stop using BirdEye. No matter what we do to collect reviews, be it via BirdEye, Weave or carrier pigeons, we are trying to influence our Google My Business rating. The heart of Google’s feedback is that reviews “should be a genuine reflection of your experience with a place”.

Google wants people to use their empire of online tools and that means linking to their website. Google actually provides instructions on how to create a link to get customers to write reviews. So, it makes no sense that they would nuke every review that is posted from another website. If they did, Google wouldn’t have very many reviews actually going live.

We can turn off the “would you recommend us?” question in BirdEye…but the “Which App Do You Have?” page that links to the different profiles would still come from BirdEye as a referring IP address so…again we’re back to texting or emailing direct links if we believe the assumption that Google has brought the hammer down on using a third party.

What’s most concerning is that some offices have noticed a drop in the number of reviews that are shown here:

I don’t have a record of what that number was a month ago or a year ago. I just know that these numbers have been going up for offices who have BirdEye and are active with it. I also know that the number will naturally fluctuate as new reviews are added, Google accounts are deleted either by users or by Google, or if Google flags reviews as potentially fraudulent and then puts them in a queue for quality checking. We do know that once a review is removed, Google has no timetable for when or even if they will come back, but that’s mostly due to the sheer size of Google as an organization and the number of fraudulent reviews that they have to process.

We Still Need Reviews and BirdEye

After reviewing all of the actual data that we have access to when it comes to Google Analytics, our records for the website’s visibility, and the data of all the websites that we manage, I am comfortable saying that we can make a change if you’d like, but that it’s not a crisis that is causing a drop in our online visibility. There is no correlation. We are not any more culpable in asking for reviews than other businesses out there and to stop asking for reviews would put us at a large competitive disadvantage.

Reviews are critical to the success of SEO but they are also necessary to optimize our online marketing campaigns for conversions. Patients will be much more likely to click into our website or call our office if they see a high number of positive reviews with a 5-star rating.

If you want to try to put together templates in Solution Reach or Weave or what have you to send out review requests that go directly to the profiles themselves, it will negatively impact the number of reviews posted going forward. Having said that, I’m happy to help you if you want to go that route. For now though, BirdEye is still the best system for drumming up positive reviews in a quick and easy way for both the patient and the office. We need the office team to do one or the other though. Doing nothing is just not an option. If we don’t actively seeking out fantastic patient reviews, your office’s marketing will not be effective.