Google Now Makes Anonymous Negative Reviews More Visible

    April 30, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google made local business pages (and the reviews contained within) a lot more visible this week, with the launch of Google Now for the iPhone and iPad. That includes negative reviews from anonymous, non-accountable “Google Users,” just so you know.

Are anonymous reviews on Google business pages a problem? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Google Now was introduced last year as part of the Android Jelly Bean update. It is often referred to as the future of search, or at least the future of Google Search. It pushes information to users when they need it (or when Google thinks they need or want it) without the user having to search for it.

The majority of Android phones still don’t even have it yet, but as time goes on, that will change. I only recently upgraded my own device to one that has access to the feature, and have only begun to learn first-hand just how powerful Google Now can be. The more it learns about you, the more it has to offer.

One of the things Google Now has to offer is a flow of suggestions for places that are near you when you spend any considerable amount of time in some location. For local businesses, this can be a great thing.

Google Now Places

What’s not so great for a business, is when Google pushes negative reviews in front of any number of users.

Negative reviews are one thing, but anonymous reviews allow people to say whatever they want without being held accountable. Businesses are already suing people for defamation over some of the things they say in online reviews, when they are saying things they can be held accountable for. Anonymity just lets people say whatever they want. Even if they’re trashing your business. And anonymous reviews are still appearing right in front of Google Now users curious about what place Google is telling them is nearby.

I noticed this the other day. I took a look at the Google Now “Places” card and saw that the Lock & Key cafe was nearby. Here, you can take a look at their page. The top reviews from real people have “Very Good” and “Excellent” descriptions across the board. Then it gets into the anonymous “A Google user” and the rating is “Poor to fair”. This is followed with another anonymous review, also with a rating “poor to fair”.

At least Google is showing the positive reviews from users with names at the top, but are they always doing this? Sure, not all anonymous reviews are negative, but many are.

Google has actually moved away from anonymous reviews in policy. When they made the move from Google Places to Google+ Local as the format for local business pages, users were supposed to be required to sign in with their Google account to leave reviews (they’ve adopted a similar policy for Google Play). When I have tried to leave a review while not logged into mine, I’ve been prompted to sign in. But as we’ve seen in recent months, this isn’t always working for some reason.

Old anonymous reviews from before the change are staying on business pages. That’s nothing new, but a few months back, we looked at an example where even new reviews were coming in from anonymous users. One user complained about this in a Google help thread. The Google representative acknowledged the problem, and indicated they were looking into it.

I checked back on the page in question today, and those anonymous reviews are still there. It’s unclear whether they’re still accepting new anonymous reviews. I’ve seen no indication from Google that they have corrected the problem.

When I looked at that Lock & Key page that Google pushed to my attention, it dawned on me that Google is likely pushing a whole lot of anonymous negative reviews to a lot of Google Now users. Then this week, they greatly expanded the user base for Google Now by launching it for iPhones and iPads.

For those concerned about Google Now pushing negative reviews in front of users, there is a silver lining. Well, for one, it also pushed positive reviews, which hopefully far outweigh the negative ones anyway. But also, iOS simply isn’t able to take advantage of Google Now the way Android is. It doesn’t use the iOS notifications system, so basically users have to specifically open the Google Search app, log in (if they’re not already logged in), and find the cards at the bottom. Not quite as much of a game changer as the Android version. In fact, Fast Company says, “The future of Google Search is leaving iPhone users behind.

But still, Google Now is (apparently) the future of Google Search. It’s expected to come to the Chrome browser, which will put it in front of significantly more people. It might even come to the Google homepage, which would obviously be huge.

It will be interesting to see if Google does anything with the anonymous reviews. Even as the old ones (which apparently Google has no intention of getting rid of) continue to show up, local businesses would do well to encourage new customers to write reviews, and hopefully bury any old unfavorable, anonymous reviews. Of course, it would also help if Google keeps from letting new ones flow in.

Have anonymous reviews been a problem for your business? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.quantisoft.com Howard Deutsch

    I think Google is making a very big mistake by featuring anonymous reviews, including both positive and negative anonymous reviews. It is so easy for a competitor or a disgruntled employee to place multiple anonymous negative reviews for any competing business (restaurnts, banks, hardware stores, etc.). Similarly, any business can readily add multiple anonymous positive reviews about their business. This just makes no sense.

    Last year Google introduced its Penguin update to supposedly penalize websites that were not playing by Google’s rules. There were very significant unintended consequences. Unfortunately Google ended up hurting huge numbers of businesses regarding their search positions, many of which never tried to game Google’s rules. No business has control of who adds inbound links to their site.

    Penguin was supposedly put in place to eliminate “unnatural” links. Aren’t all anonymous links unnatural links?

    • http://www.dreamgains.com Amit Chaudhary

      Hello Everyone, I think Google is not going good in showing these anonymous positive and negative reviews because as Howard Deutsch have written almost same thing and I also support this statement that there is no credibility of these reviews specially negative reviews as a competitor or a dissatisfied employee can post these reviews from different IP addresses and through multiple fake gmail ids. Any ways any prospect or future customer will always Google any company’s past performances and reviews.

  • http://www.marketsharewebdesign.com/ Kathy

    I’d like to know how to post anonymous reviews, because I see no way to do it anymore. Every time you try to make a review you have to log in. So where are they coming from? Just installed the Google Now app and it makes you log in.

    If some one can make a anonymous review please tell me how? I would love to know.

  • hugh

    Reviews are poison, fake, contrived, spiteful, stupid, never written by experts. User generated content trumps all. Rise of the Unreasonable. Do I get compensated for the use of my reviews over and over? Why is building out more reviews the only answer to negative reviews? Why do customers have to be responsible for reviews? What if your customers never write any reviews despite your best efforts? What if you have low sales volume and few customers? Reviews have been monetized by Power Reviews. I’m not ever leaving another review ever unless I get paid for the use of the review by third parties. Why should I leave a review for a product to have it used over and over on other properties I’ve never been to? Reviews are the worst thing that has happened to a lot of small businesses who do not know how to game the system. Reviews are slanted, biased, moronic and in no way presents even a sliver of realism. 15% of all reviews are tossed by the review collectors, bad reviews, fake reviews and even real reviews, all tossed by machine. Now the truth….Most people going to a business don’t give a rats ass about reviews, they go there because it is close and they know the people. Reviews are for frightened nellies in new surroundings.

  • http://www.timberframemag.com Bonnie Pickartz

    I find anonymous reviews (good or bad) suspect. If you don’t want to sign it, don’t say it. Our local paper has a section of Rants and Raves…unsigned. It’s ugly and does nothing to help.

    We’ll find people posting raves about their own or friends’ companies and competitors trashing each other. Ugly and of no benefit.

    I know “we are the product”, but this is just unnecessary.

  • Martin Largent

    Google makes money off negative reviews. When someone sees a negative review, there is a possibility that they will click on one of the paid ads surrounding the search results. If there are no negative reviews, the searcher is less likely to do so.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      What statistics do you base that claim on?

  • http://www.toxigon.com TOXIGON

    How do u think Google makes money from negative reviews, sometimes you are wrong when u try to be clever, if the restaurant is serving cockroach and rude to people we shall know about it, and yeah its so good that they cannot sue you, cuz they don’t know you, so its better they improve them selves to avoid negative reviews, let google make money, they deserved it, when u design something like google now, we can speak :)

    and no its not bad to feature it, the counter of good vs bad reviews will decide no matter how many competitors you have, who cares about business? do it right or don’t do it. if you lose your business and starve to death then that’s what you deserve, you got no more, no less then what you deserve, just tell me of one thing that protect consumers?

    thanks google for giving ppl the freedom, no thanks to you coin lovers.

    • Jamel Morrison

      Judging by the way you talk, you obviously don’t have a business. Enjoy yourself as a lone consumer…you.

  • Born on the 4th of July

    Highly dangerous situation, to say the least. Peoples’ livelihoods can be destroyed by allowing negative reviews. I wonder what Google would do if their competition or ex-employees started posting negative anonomous remarks about them and slamming them all over the internet? Is there a real brain working at Google? It’s common sense not to allow this. Or perhaps the “Mensa” group doesn’t have common sense?

  • http://compusolver.com Hank Castello

    Whether negative or positive, we need reviews, but there really should be some sort of accountability or recourse for negative reviews.
    A year ago, we discovered that several of our employees were doing drugs – on the job even! We immediately fired them and they immediately got online under various names and started posting negative reviews in Google/YP/etc. One of them emailed me saying that for $1000 they would stop. This really hurts a small business. It’s very rare that a happy customer will post anything, so there isn’t any way to balance out negative reviews. They should at least have to be truthful.

  • http://www.deedeejays.com John Williams

    I have found first hand that unsubstantiated, uncoroborated anonymous negative reviews are a breeding ground for scam & fraud artists! My company has been plagued by an obviously fabricated complaint on a site called Rip Off report for a few years now – the ip adress of the complaint is located in California & my business operates in Toronto, Ontario, Canada! The complaint describes criminal activity and it is blatantly included every time someone googles my company name and I am sure customers automatically check it out whenever they see it! I was alerted to the complaint by an independent company offering to push the complaint site down for several hundred dollars or to expunge it completely for thousands of dollars! I used to think the American culture stood for innocent until proven guilty or at least a smoking gun approach before endorsing this kind of slander! Even that organisation “Anonymous” provides undeniable proof of guilt! In my opinion this kind of support by google of a flawed and fraudulent enterprise only invites more of the same! In business a competitor can create false reviews, in personal life people can malign innocent rape victims or make false claims without redress! This to me is not rocket science! To give a spotlight to unsubstantiated claims or complaints helps no one but the criminal element or the unscrupulous to further their enterprises! I say “no proof”, “no name”, no opportunity to defend one’s reputation & good name then no exposure! Shame on GOOGLE – Classless, undeniably boorish idea!

  • http://bossy-girls.net/ Lila Sovietskaya

    Anonymous might be OK if there is away to do a rebuttal online
    The issue is that someone might make trouble with untrue accusations Example, “site has child porno”. The site should have a way to reply. This accusation is excellent if what is said is true because it alerts authorities. Giving a tip to the FBI, requires identification. Some people do not like to identify themselves.

    • http://stowevintage.com Barry

      Yes there should be rebuttal!

  • Rohit

    This is too bad. We are paying Adwords or for SEO but someone when search about our site the bad reviews came the first. These Anonymous reviews ruing everything. I believe Google should allow webmasters to block those bad links from FIRST PAGE Google search result.
    Is there is any way to stop it please share.


  • http://stowevintage.com Barry

    Yes, any crazy or competitor can snipe at you and “poison the well”. Very nice.

  • http://www.freequote.com Jerry

    I dealt with a small local financial company.For years they were great then they became monsters. I was a good customer and will not go into details but they turned into bad people. An objective but negative anon post is what they deserve.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Why anonymous? What value is an anonymous comment? If the review is valid, why the need for anonymity?

      How much ‘value’ would you apply to an anonymous review, one that could just as easily have been posted by a competitor or a disgruntled employee?

      How would you like it if your company had a negative review and you had no way to interact with the reviewer to try to remedy the situation?

  • Mags Baylan

    Big Mistake. This will just prompt erroneous, malicious Reviews with the only intent to bash a company by disgruntled customers or competitors. It wont do us any good, nada, nothing! Purely no non sense move by you Google. They want to Review, make sure they register and have verified accounts.

  • Ron

    Negative Reviews? Whats that? Take care of your customers, have them write reviews, overwhelm the bad. Damn Google, just trying to make bad people shine.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Overwhelm the bad? How could anyone possibly overwhelm a bot-net with 10’s of thousands of zombie bots posting bogus reviews or black-hat-SEOs for hire who pay people $0.001 per spam comment in 3rd world countries to spam forums and comment sections with both positive and negative reviews, depending on who their customer is?

  • http://www.damienelsing.com Damien

    I think the ideas about “malicious” fake reviews are kind of overblown. I mean really – who’s going to bother? If that’s the best use of your competitors’ time then you don’t have very strong competition…

    Anonymous reviews, rather, enable people to say what they actually think. Having to put their own name to it can deter people from actually saying what they think.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      And yet some competitors already contract with black-hats to trash their
      competitors’ sites.

      Anonymous reviews don’t allow anything other than making it so people who are already pretty much anonymous and can hide behind a bogus.name@free.mail.service.com address have no accountability.

      For what it’s worth, what would prevent someone who is known from writing a poor review if it is warranted?

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      If you can’t attach your name to your opinion it counts much less. Anonymity is for cowards.

  • http://binaryone.com.au/train-tracker/ AllanIT

    The solution to this is easy. When registering to post on any site the site SHOULD collect your IP address and verify your actual identity with your service provider before allowing you to post. Then by all means you should be able to post anonymously but with the knowledge that if what you are posting is untrue or slanders you could be sued because the site owner COULD hand over your information to the person/company you are slandering.

  • http://themedia3.com/ suresh

    This is going to real bad for a website, this is going to be easy for a competitor to get on…!

  • http://musikterbaruindonesia.blogspot.com Stieawan

    Bagus chui….

  • http://www.astro-holidays.com Paul

    Howard with you all the way, the other industry this will spawn is the busy bodies of this world trick or treating by threatening and or blackmailing you for freebies or else giving a bad review.

    It happens. Not too much of a problem if there is a right to reply.

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    The problem I have with anonymous reviews is it makes it close to impossible for the business to respond in a meaningful way if they aren’t able to know what the reviewer is referring to specifically. For example, if someone is complaining about an order or shipping or whatever, how can the company know what the situation may have been exactly?

    Also, why does one need to review anonymously in the first place, it’s not like random.user@free.mail.service.com really truly identifies someone.

    Companies should have the ability and information they need to both respond if necessary as well as possibly correct some processes or situations within their company. If reviews aren’t constructive and useful, what good are they?

  • Gabriele Muellenberg


    Kindly excuse me for not inserting my website link of the Tenerife holiday home insider.

    Tenerife and all the other Canary Islands of Spain live by tourism only. More than 5 million a year. Above all big companies and hotels want all those for themselves and don’t want to share, as the competition is tough enough.
    Howard Deutsch is spot on with his observation of Google making not only a big but a huge mistake to admit anonymous reviews. Just like the thousands of negative links my web has received from so called competing black hat homepages, even webs with authority. So are we all free to do the same? Is that how the cookie crumbles of a new business game? Nevertheless, not everybody likes to play dirty. If everybody was to follow suite this would be worse than a civil war. The big question would be why it may be rather encouraged to happen and who would profit by it. It must all be a mistake. It must be… I don’t want to believe that it may be master minded.

  • http://www.partywares.ca Kelly Maygard

    This is very disturbing and needs to stop or at least give us the ability to post a response. We need competition. Google is gaining too much control and needs a little competition to put them in their place and start focusing on their customers. Customer service. Not at google any time soon.

  • Vince

    Wow, Chris, show me one of the anonymous reviews on the page that you speak of that are from less than a year ago. Way to stir up nothing because of not paying attention.
    If there is an anonymous review showing high in the ‘most helpful’ sorting order and it’s a bad review….it’s there because it’s been voted as ‘helpful’ by other users (assuming that a business has other more ‘helpful’ to other people reviews).
    While there are cases of competitors bashing other companies, this isn’t always the reason for a bad review, sometimes companies just suck.


    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      As noted in the article, the page with the anonymous reviews from more recently still shows those reviews. And either way, Google Now is still pushing old negative anonymous reviews in front of people.

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Gracious Store

    How can anyone trust the reviews of anonymous people whether positive or negative review? So how can Google publish reviews whose source is questionable?

  • Mandee

    Being anonymous is what makes it safe for a lot of users to say what they really think. Just because someone doesn’t put their name on something it doesn’t mean that they are hiding because they are being dishonest. I use Express VPN because it hides me from hackers and snoopers, not because I want to say and do bad things on the internet.

  • http://www.paymentway.com.ua Saveliy

    I do not think that to the people it will be good from it.Now there is much different information in the internet, but here people can search and choose.

  • http://modern-hacking-tricks.com Addy

    I think this Gonna bring Both Bad And Good Results
    but I dont know why Google did this.

  • http://www.how2guide.in meet

    It Makes Safe For the Users being anonymous But Also How can Someone Believe the Reviews Of anonymous Peoples?

  • me

    Why not just give the net back to the people….. Money killed it.

  • me

    Some will say without the money (ads) the net would not be what it is today, Well what is it today? crap

    in the good old days you could do an actual search and find something and the site may have an ad on it, and since the search led the searcher to the site it may have been somethid the person may be interested in and buy something. No need for anonymous, no one cared. No need for reviews, the acted on the ad or the did not.

    This is so silly.

  • me

    and sorry fot the TYPO’s, I’m getting old.

  • http://Barkedmonton.webs.Com Sarah

    Please do not use this company I saw one of the ‘trainers’ taser a dog twice in less then 10 minutes for no reason at all. Disgusting!!!!

  • http://www.techburnett.com Jim Burnett

    Why not just have them all visible with a report link if a review is obviously negative. Or, perhaps have a peer review where people can submit counter reviews to the negatives?


    Hello! I have a false review on google from 2011 by an anonymous reviewer. When I click on the name profile it is innactive, not like the other ones where it gives you a link to their profile. I have contacted google and it meets their regulations nothing I can do about this. I have a susspicion of who this person is and I am so anxious to proove myself write. Is there a way I can find out who this user is? Please help me