Anyone Else Using Birdeye & Losing Google reviews?
Chatter at Home
I love my job. I don’t mean to play favorites, but I tend to have a soft spot in my heart for people in the trades (plumbing, electricians, carpet cleaners, HVAC, etc.). Their general candor and skepticism about Google is amusing/understood. So when I received a phone call from a client of mine, who began using colorful language to explain a chunk of his Google Reviews disappeared, my interest was piqued.
In early October, I had been hearing chatter about Google cracking down on Google My Business reviews. I agree with Google’s intentions– fake reviews are a HUGE problem; with that said, I do not agree with what I think are minimal efforts from Google to fix the problem. I think giant tech companies’ lack of accountability in general about activities on their platforms (See: Russia FB Ad Controversy) is best summed up by Senator Dianne Feinstein at the latest Google/Facebook/Twitter hearings on Capitol Hill:
“You created these platforms .. and now they’re being misused. And you have to be the ones who do something about it – or we [the Federal Government] will.”
*the internet crowd goes wild.
Side Note- Yelp seems to be the “Lone Ranger” in taking accountability for fake reviews on their platform. Small businesses are not allowed to even solicit reviews on Yelp (Yelp believes asking for reviews results in inaccurate data). This has been the status quo for a while. Now, Yelp is going as far as threatening to demote business listings in their algorithm for solicitation infractions. It is an unprecedented move to demote rank on any platform.
To sum up my point—Google isn’t doing near enough about their fake review problem, but let’s talk about what they decided to do in early October.
October forum chatter about a Google review update was abuzz. The consensus was that Google is generally taking review accountability more seriously. Google has several patents that give us hints at what they could be looking at, including things like review length, grammar, user location, and business/user history of spam. But nobody was sure what this October update meant specifically. That is, until someone posted to the Local Search Pros community inquiring about Birdeye:
“I have a few clients using the Birdeye review platform. Found out that Googles review algo removed any reviews that came in via the Birdeye email link sent to clients during the time period of July12- Oct11.
Wanted to share this info as it seems Birdeye is not contacting people that this has happened to. When I called- the Birdeye support team said they are working on getting the reviews back up on Google. Don’t have a lot of confidence that this will happen.
Curious if anyone knows any additional info that can be shared. Thank you!”
Birdeye, as described by their website, “is the #1 software to improve business reputation and customer experience”. In other words, they are a closed-circuit review system. The general concept– you ask every customer for a review via (most likely) email. Bad reviews are filtered internally for review by the business. Good reviews are sent to popular review platforms: Google, Facebook, Better Business Bureau, etc.
The narrative here is Birdeye had updated their platform on July 12th, Google’s algorithm that detects review spam filtered reviews from Birdeye from that date until it was fixed by Birdeye on Oct. 11th.
Here is a statement from the Birdeye’s “VP of Customer Happiness”:
“We did recently discover an issue with Google Reviews obtained during the timeframe of July 12th to October 10th of this year. During that time we introduced a new workflow to make it even easier for consumers to write reviews. On October 10th we received notification of an error with that workflow and reverted back to our previous workflow on Oct 11th. Between that time and the week of the 23rd we worked with the Google team to identify why some reviews were being removed. We discovered that a bug in the workflow introduced on July 12th was the cause. Because of that, some reviews obtained during that July 12 to Oct 10 timeframe were removed.”
Let’s Talk About the Bug
I have a couple things I want to point out with the statement from Birdeye:
-It has been the consensus that ALL reviews from Birdeye’s email service were removed. The way Google’s spam review filter has worked in the past, it would have only removed part of the reviews, pending several factors that feed into it. This leads me to believe it was likely a manual action from Google, not algorithmic.
-If it was a manual action, it was likely because Birdeye’s new workflow broke a Google review policy.
-If you (a consumer) lost reviews during that time-period, it’s because technically you would have been breaking Google’s review policy.
If this was the case, it’s important to find out which policy you might have been breaking. Our team was able to track down an email from around that time period. In the email, there is a link to Google My Business. The feature implemented by Birdeye auto-fills review stars on Google My Business to 5-stars when you click the link.
BirdEye Review Email
GMB Review Box from BirdEye Link (07/12 – 10/11)
This feature would likely break the following Google review policy:
“Impersonation: Don’t post reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or connection with the place you’re reviewing.”
Google could easily track the reviews that came in from Birdeye using the referring link from the email. From there, (1) the method could have been cataloged by Google and (2) the reviews removed by Google’s review team for the policy violation.
To further back this point up– Birdeye has removed the auto-fill feature for Google My Business.
I mentioned all of this to my carpet cleaner, (his first words: “Looks like I’m gettin’ a refund.”) understandably, he was upset. Most companies don’t focus on getting a steady stream of reviews at all, which in my opinion is a huge mistake. Here was someone trying to do the right thing, use what he thought were the right tools, and then had 3 months of work erased.
The final count of reviews he lost due to Birdeye’s error—about 40.
Birdeye has yet to release a public statement about the issue. I’m curious to see how they will address this. If there is any indication from the “VP of Customer Happiness”, the auto-fill “feature” will be downgraded to “bug”.
Also, the carpet cleaner called Birdeye. He said they immediately acknowledged the problem; he received a refund for each month that he lost reviews. The reviews are likely lost for good due to the policy violation. I highly doubt they will be restored.
The carpet cleaner is going to continue using Birdeye.
Options Across the Web
For those affected who would like to switch, we understand. If you’re looking for a recommendation, Classy Brain has had good results using Get5Stars.
Contact us if you would like to talk about either (1) your reviews being filtered during the mentioned time period and/or (2) switching over to a different platform.
We would be happy to help you in any way we can.
In the interest of full-disclosure, this is all speculation. The issue could have been something else as well. As with everything in this industry, we make educated guesses.