Google’s Management of Reviews and Q&A During COVID-19 – Updated
July 14, 2020
This post is being updated as we follow Google’s management of reviews and Q&A during COVID-19. The most recent updates are at the top of this article and the first update is from 3/20/20 when Google announced they were temporarily pausing reviews and Q&A features.
Finally, finally there are reports starting to trickle in of furloughed medical reviews. H/T to Jim McDannald, DPM of Podiatry Growth for pointing this out. Reviews in medical categories that were left between 3/20 and 6/17 went into limbo and their reappearance is the last missing piece in Google’s return from their cessation of review publishing at the start of the Covid crisis. You can follow the many ups and downs below of the slow and winding path back to a working review and Q & A system on Google.
We are getting there. Almost back to normal. Google Q & A has been fixed by Google so we now are once again able to give, respond to and monitor Google Q & A on all locations, even medical facilities. Both the front end link bugs AND the API have been repaired and are working normally.
With the return of Q & A to fully operational status, the only missing piece are the reviews furloughed for medical categories that have not yet returned. So while you can leave a new review for a medical practioner, Google has not yet chosen to display provided during the 3/20 to 6/17. Hopefully soon.
There are reports that reviews are starting to be allowed to be left for some of the medical categories that have been absent up to now. There has been no indication that furloughed reviews have returned yet.
Some general observations about the on-going return of Google reviews and Google Q & A:
1- The return of Google reviews and Q & A is on a rolling schedule per category and country. While they might roll out in the US or in specific categories they might not yet be rolled out to other countries or all categories.
2- There will be no notification from Google when “furloughed” reviews have been published. So any reviews that your customers left during the furlough period will just show up in your GMB dashboard. This makes GatherUp’s review monitoring which includes alert emails and the activity dashboard more important.
3- The Google Q & A rollout so far is more limited than reviews … restaurants and shopping and a few other categories and only in the US.
4- So while things are returning, it is still wonky and you need to realize that you might be in a country or category that has not yet been fully turned on.
Google has noted that review replies, user reviews, user photos, and Q&A are now available in all countries with some exceptions:
The following services are still currently unavailable:
- Reviews, photos, and Q&A for businesses in a narrow set of medical categories, such as hospitals and doctors’ offices
- Video uploads
- Q&A via API (there is also a Google bug that is preventing scraping as well)
We started seeing Google Q & A return to a few more categories in the U.S. today with them now visible in car washes, plumbers and hvac categories.
Review counts, at least in the US, have normalized and now reflect the actual number of reviews that a business has. All of the reviews received during the “furlough” are now counted accurately. Review counts often lag behind the actual number of reviews.
Google new review alert e-mails have returned but they are currently delayed by up to a day. This recently received alert (rec’d at 11 am) was from a review left early yesterday.It is unlikely that you will get notified for older reviews that show back up so you want to be sure to check your listing or your GatherUp Dashboard. GatherUp alerts are coming through in a timely fashion.
Google Q & A, which returned to shopping and restaurants on 4/23 has still not returned to other categories.
We are seeing both our own Google reviews for GatherUp and many of our client’s furloughed AND new reviews coming in hot! And this is in almost all other categories and not just shopping or restaurants.
We are starting to see the ability to leave new reviews for lawyers, dentists and service businesses. That is beyond just retail and restaurant reviews that could be left previously. The “furloughed” reviews have not started to show back up for these new categories.
Reviews that were “furloughed” (ie accepted but not shown in the later part of March) have been returning for shopping and restaurant categories.
Google Q & A which reappeared on Google for shopping and restaurants categories on 4/23, disappeared on 5/2/ but has returned once again on shopping and restaurants. Roughly half of all Q & A has returned..
Furloughed reviews have started to return. We are starting to see reviews left during Google Review shut down. This review is dated 4/05, during the height of the shutdown and it was seen via the API today. Like new reviews and Q and A these are coming back to shopping and restaurants first.
Reviews can now be left on shopping and restaurant business categories worldwide. Other categories have not yet been turned on.
We are seeing new reviews consistently posting for restaurants and major brands. None of the reviews that were furloughed during the hiatus have yet to return.
Some new reviews are being published, sort of. It is too early to tell when all new reviews will be published as some still are being temporarily filtered but some are being shown. It is likely that it will be off and on for the next few days but you should start seeing them reliably.
Update 4/9/20 – 9:00 PM
Google has updated their GMB Covid-19 page to indicate that leave a review functionality is rolling out on a region by region basis:
“Review replies are now available. New user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will gradually return by country and business category.”
Google has reopened the ability of businesses to reply to reviews via the API within GatherUp as well as the Google My Business dashboard and app. They have also noted that new user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will gradually expand by country and business category over this week and next.
On Friday, Google changed the messaging upon leaving a review and now Google has now indicated that they will in fact attempt to republish reviews and review responses that have been filtered during the Covid crisis. Their aim is to moderate and publish that content as they resume normal operations.
Google has apparently removed visibility of all existing Google Q and A from business profiles. Initially they had just limited the ability to leave new ones and respond. Google has indicated that these will return but timing is not at all clear and it is likely to occur after reviews have been fully restored.
Original Post on 3/20/20
On the Google My Business Covid alert page, Google has just stated that: “New reviews, review replies, and new Q&A will be unavailable during this time”.
They have noted that they have taken steps to reduce the number of staffers that come into their offices and as a result are focusing their few remaining staff on Google Maps and Local search information “quality and reliability”.
So existing Google reviews, replies and Q&A are all still displaying, but for the time being no new ones will post.
Google is noting that:
We will prioritize reviewing all edits for critical health-related businesses. At this time, we will also prioritize reviewing open and closed states, special hours, temporary closures, business descriptions, and business attributes edits for other verified businesses.
The approach that Google seems to have implemented is that a user can post and see the review themselves but the review is not visible to the public.
Our api based responses for both reviews and Q&A are received by Google but not showing publicly.
We do not know if Google will show these reviews in the future but given the many other demands on them I wouldn’t count on it. And it is prudent to stop asking for google reviews.
We will update this post if or as more information becomes available on this.