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What the FTC and Google Say About Review Gating

 

Many multi-location marketers understand the importance of reviews. Our research found that reviews are the top determining factor for consumers when choosing a business. While reviews are important, how can you solicit them without breaking Google or the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) rules, especially regarding review gating?

 

What is Review Gating?

 

Review gating occurs when businesses only encourage satisfied or happy customers to leave reviews, causing reviews to skew more positively. 

 

The Difference Between Review Gating and Solicitation

 

It’s acceptable to solicit or ask customers for reviews on Google and other platforms. What’s frowned upon is soliciting feedback and then asking for a review after receiving the positive or negative feedback — which again, is review gating. 

 

For more details on review solicitation, read our blog post, “Review Solicitation: To Do or Not to Do…

 

What Google Says About Review Gating

 

Google is against review gating on Google Business Profiles (GBPs). Google recently updated its content guidelines, stating that “discouraging or prohibiting negative reviews, or selectively soliciting positive reviews from customers,” violates Google’s policies.

 

Additional language prohibits paying or incentivizing reviews or content via discounts or free goods. Doing so misrepresents a consumer’s genuine experience. For more details on Google’s content policies, visit Google Maps Contributed Content Policy Help page.

 

If you break one of Google’s content policies, the platform may take down fake reviews, or worse, genuine reviews they’re unsure are fake or not.

 

What the FTC Says About Review Gating

 

In January of 2022, the FTC released publications for businesses about reviews. One of these is the guidance document for platforms. In it, the FTC explicitly states companies should not only ask for reviews from people they think will leave positive ones.

 

Moreover, reviews should not be conditioned, such as incentivizing a positive review via a reward, discount, or free item. Lastly, companies should not impede or discourage people from submitting negative reviews.

 

The FTC takes review gating seriously and will fine companies that break its rules. As a multi-location business, you do not want to commit review gating on any platform, particularly on Google and your website.

 

What To Do Instead of Review Gating?

 

Instead of review gating, we recommend that you encourage customers to write more reviews while adhering to Google, the FTC, and other platforms’ guidelines. Besides asking for reviews, we recommend the following:

 

  • Update your GBP and website so it’s easy to leave a review
  • Respond to all reviews, starting with the most recent and negative reviews first
  • Leverage email and surveys to gain more reviews and feedback
  • Turn positive reviews (with permission) into user-generated content (UGC)

 

For more information on how to manage reviews, your brand reputation, and online presence, download The Multi-Location Marketer’s Guide to Online Reputation Management.

 

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