Google are clamping down on ‘fake’ or ‘cultured’ positive reviews on their Google+ local business pages. In addition the search giant is laying down guidelines for genuine reviewers, guidelines that will make it even tougher for businesses to obtain positive reviews from their customers.

Google has warned business owners that “fake glowing testimonies” written by SEO or reputation management companies will be taken down.

Written customer comments also come under scrutiny from Google: “If a business accepts paper comment cards it might be tempting to collect them and ‘digitize’ them by posting the reviews on Google+ Local. We ask that all reviews come from first hand experience and do not allow posting reviews on behalf of others.”

Having an in-business computer for customers to post reviews from is also frowned on. Google recommends that businesses should send reminder emails to customers encouraging them to review the business on their own time and also warned businesses against offering incentives such as discounts or fee gifts in exchange for reviews.

Positive reviews on Google+ Local can help attract new customers, just as negative reviews can be detrimental to a business. But while the company has toughened it’s stance on positive reviews, it seems quite happy to allow negative reviews to remain on a business local page unless they violate Google’s guidelines. Google will not work with third-party reputation management companies to have these negative reviews removed or amended, instead they direct business owners to respond to such reviews and address the points raised.

Obtaining reviews from customers is problematic at the best of times; what businesses now need is a strategy and methodology for generating positive reviews to help their business attract more local visitors.

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