How To Leave Anonymous Business Reviews In Google+

For a long time, I’ve had some doctor friends complaining to me that once Google Places changed over to the new Google+ format, all their patients lost the ability to leave anonymous reviews (thus hurting their business and their rankings).

They asked me what to do; and I, in turn, asked my fellow SEO friends what to do.

No one really had a good answer, except to start leaving reviews on doctor-specific sites like healthgrades.com and vitals.com. That never seemed like a good answer to me, so I kept searching. Even answers from Google staff (in Google Groups) don’t shed much light on the situation:

Jumping into this thread to confirm that all new reviews on Google+ Local are tied to a Google+ profile and therefore must be left under a user’s Google+ profile name.

We believe that sharing reviews publicly creates a strong foundation for high quality and trustworthy reviews in Google+. Publishing reviews under your Google+ profile name is also a benefit for businesses, who commonly receive spammy/critical reviews written by competitors who don’t identify themselves. For businesses and users alike, we’re committed to surfacing high-quality and accurate information. We believe that when reviews are associated with the person who’s writing the review, we’ll see a better experience for all.

I understand what Jade was going for in her response above. It does make some sense to require people to use their full name when reviewing a restaurant, bar or café. Unfortunately, in some other cases, that’s not true. It does not matter how awesome (or horrible) your proctologist, gynecologist, psychologist or oncologist is — you might not want your name associated with a review of their services online for all to see for the rest of eternity.

Anonymous Reviews On YouTube

I always felt bad about my inability to help my doctor friends, so when I finally saw Googler John Mueller share something on Google+ about leaving anonymous reviews on YouTube, I was intrigued — why was this possible for silly cat videos, but not for serious medical practitioners?

I added this question to the Google+ comments about the article, and John was nice enough to respond, telling me it was 100% possible to leave anonymous business reviews.

john mueller anonymous reviews

Apparently, in a move that seems to go against the primary goals and spirit of Google+ (and the quote from Jade above), they actually allow you to leave reviews via pages created off of your primary Google+ profile. (OMG. This seems 100% evil, and fraught with potential abuse — and my white-hat mind would hardly allow me to conceive of it or, for that matter, of a Googler suggesting it!) Anyway, here is how you can leave anonymous reviews in Google+ Local….

Anonymous Business Reviews Via Google+ Local

Go to your profile page in Google+ and click on the upper left-hand drop down, and then click on the button that says “Pages.” Once the new page loads, click the “Create a page” button that appears in the upper right-hand corner (as shown in the image below):

CreateaPage

After that, you have to pick a category — in this case, “Other.”

Pages-Other

You can name your dummy account anything you want, keeping in mind that it will show up next to the reviews that you are going to post later.

If you are being serious, I suggest something like “Anonymous” or “A Google User.” Note that older anonymous reviews from before the Google+ Local transition are shown with the user name “A Google User,” so that one is probably the most standard.

MakeUpaName

Once you are done, just hit “Continue” and then you will be taken to the “Pages” dashboard that, in my case, looks like this (notice the real business page on the right, and the new anonymous commenting account on the left):

PagesDashboard

Now, all you have to do when you want to leave an anonymous review (or a couple) is:

1) Switch to your new dummy profile by clicking the primary account profile picture in the upper right-hand corner, then select the dummy account from the resulting drop-down.

NewUsr

2)   Find the business in Google+ Local by clicking the other drop-down, in the upper left corner. In the drop-down, click on “Local,” then search for the business, click on the pencil image to the right of the business listing, and finally, write your review. Mine looks like this:

ReviewDazbog

 

When you are done, you will get a “Thank You” message that looks like this:

ThanksForReviewing2

But They Could Be Gamed

The problem is, I don’t think anyone but SEOs will do this to leave a legitimate review — and honestly, most SEOs will probably try to game it a bit. Being tied to a primary account gives Google some governance, but what is to keep people from creating, optimizing and building up lots of dummy primary accounts with multiple dummy sub accounts (then potentially even monetizing the accounts or the reviews from the accounts).

No doubt Google has algorithms to check for this, and reviews do go through additional processing once they are submitted, but the system may indeed still be gameable.

To be clear, I am not suggesting anyone partake in spammy behavior — that would be a clear violation of Google’s guidelines (and the terms you agree to when you set up the accounts). There would probably be serious consequences if Google discovered attempts to manipulate the system. And remember that if you are spamming from your primary Google+ account, that could be tied in with all your other Google accounts (including Webmaster Tools, AdWords and Analytics) — so don’t put those at risk!

My point is just that very few normal people would go to this level of effort to simply leave a review. There is no way I would be able to explain this to my doctor friends with a straight face, and there is a 0% chance they would understand it or tell patients to do it. Even though this process technically works, for the large majority of people, it is seriously broken.

It Works & You’re Anonymous

When I went about the anonymous account creation process for a legitimate purpose, I felt a bit dirty. While I can now feel confident that only Google will know the various doctors that I visit and review online (or other private stuff, like kids’ daycare, voting centers, churches, funeral homes and whatnot), at least if I want to leave them a compliment or tell people to avoid doing business with them, I can now do that knowing it won’t be published on the Web with my name on it, for all to see.

Lots of thanks goes to John Mueller at Google for helping me figure this out. While I do not love the solution, I do appreciate the assistance!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | Google | Google: +1 | Google: Maps & Local | Search Marketing: Local Search Marketing | SEO: Local | SEO: Spamming

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About The Author: Cindy Krum is the CEO and Founder of MobileMoxie, LLC, a mobile marketing consultancy and host of the most cutting-edge online mobile marketing toolset available today. Cindy is the author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are, published by Que Publishing.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+



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  • sean spaulding

    Unfortunately, as a workaround it doesn’t solve the initial problem of a “patient” being hesitant about leaving a comment at risk of making their personal business, public. I don’t know any patients, customers or patrons that would navigate such a convoluted path to leaving an “anonymous” post……..Safe to assume that anyone leaving comments with an “anonymous” name is either an SEO or business owner, which renders that comment, garbage.

  • James Jenkins

    real world vs google rainbow land…and the chess match continues.

  • http://www.outsource-force.com/ Darrel Bella

    I agree with you Cindy. I think it is dirty. Sooner or later, google will find a way to stop it anyway or worst penalize you. But it is so frustrating that you can’t post an anonymous review. I am facing the same problem with my cosmetic surgeon client. None of his patients are willing to have their names displayed on the review. Thus, my client got zero review on Google. There should be an option to post a review using a personal account and not display your real name. I hope Google will see this post. Or can someone send it to Google? Lol.

  • Scott Van Achte

    It is kind of ridiculous. I have a client who is a therapist. I can’t imagine that many people would leave a review with their name on it for a therapist. Most people probably do not want the world knowing they are in therapy.

    There should be a way for Google to allow the name to be anonymous but Google can verify that the person is real as is the review. There should be special cases for certain professions where a level of anonymity is expected.

  • Philip Ellis

    A lot of hassle for said person to leave a review, ultimately bringing us back to where we started, nobody will leave reviews.

  • Cindy Krum

    I totally agree with all of you. No normal person would go through all that to leave a review – Probably only SEO’s would go to the effort.

  • http://www.searcheminence.com/ Byron Hardie

    I agree with Sean. While this is a good find from a technical perspective I think it likely doesn’t work from a practical standpoint.

    Scott brings up a good point in that there really should be a way for Google to verify the authenticity of the reviewer behind the scenes without making that information public.

  • Cindy Krum

    100% agree. I am hoping this article will get Google’s attention so that they come up with a more viable solution!

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Cindy, this article was brought to the attention of Google for Business management earlier this AM. Thanks for posting this interesting workaround.

  • Cindy Krum

    Thanks Linda – that is great news! :)

  • Cindy Krum

    Got an email wanting an official response from Google about what is and is not acceptable behavior here – I would love to know the answer too. Re-posting here with permission:

    I have run into similar issues with hospital/doctor reviews. Is it possible (and white hat) to have the hospital collect reviews from their patients (after they sign a waiver in regards to patient information) and use your strategy to post these reviews on behalf of their patients. They obviously are not allowed to use their real names in any way so I thought that using your strategy would be a good fit. The only issue I see is that it would be better for the hospital to post all of the reviews using their Google profile (and your strategy of anonymous pages) than trying to create fake or fraudulent accounts and use the strategy that way OR trying to walk patients through the strategy as the patient might balk at the time and potential complexity of creating a page just for a review. (I personally think it is a brilliant workaround to protect privacy on Google.)

    I have gone through Google guidelines and I think that what I described is a grey area. Probably not the “best practice” when dealing with reviews but I haven’t found any other way around dealing with on-line reviews and HIPA requirements for patient privacy on a medical level.

    Do you think it would be a good idea for a hospital or doctor to implement your strategy by creating pages under their own account or is what you are suggesting only good on a patient level. (Meaning that this strategy should be employed by the patient if they want to remain anonymous.)

  • Guest

    I’ve worked with a lot of doctors for over a decade. Depending what niche they are in some of them are not even allowed to have patient reviews or they will be fined. Dentists for an example. I’ve had to get creative where the balance of authentic reviews vs reviews purchased are an issue. It’s a disaster when a patient trusts a wrong doctor based on faux reviews. YELP.com is being fined for their ‘review services’. Serious FYI – if you are a marketer or tech company working with a medical practice you are also now subject to be fine $250,000 per instance of HIPAA violations that a practice doesn’t even tell you about that you might accidentally do while helping them. I would never trust an anonymous review as you don’t know if it’s objective or not. I mean would eat a meal from a stranger not knowing if it was tainted with poison or not? Don’t think so.

  • TmWe

    I wouldn’t trust that Google would keep the account separate forever. You could wake up in the morning and find Google has linked them all in some way. In the interests of users.

  • Angelina Musik-Comp

    I’ve worked with a lot of doctors for over a decade. Depending what specialty some are not even allowed to have patient reviews or they will be fined. It’s a disaster when a patient trusts a wrong doctor based on faux reviews. YELP.com is being fined for their ‘review services’. Serious FYI – if you are a marketer/tech company working with a medical practice you are also now subject to be fined $250,000 per instance of a HIPAA violation. So it’s up to you to get educated on that as well as get insured as a precaution. PS – I would never trust an anonymous review as I wouldn’t know if was real or faux. I mean, would eat a meal from a stranger not knowing if it was tainted with poison or not? Not I.

  • Laura Grace

    Google probably doesn’t mind mentioning it because of all the effort it would take to spam now that they incorporate IP…

  • http://nilesuan.com Nile

    This looks all good on paper, but for patients to go through the trouble of creating a dummy account just to make an anonymous review. They wouldn’t want to go through all that trouble.

  • http://nilesuan.com Nile

    This looks all good on paper, but for patients to go through the trouble of creating a dummy account just to make an anonymous review. They wouldn’t want to go through all that trouble.

  • George Seinfeld

    My thoughts exactly. It seems more like a way for sabotage negative PR.

  • George Seinfeld

    My thoughts exactly. It seems more like a way for sabotage negative PR.

  • Piotrek Ozmina

    It’s still too troublesome. In countries where g+ is not popular (like Poland) it’s really difficult to get a review on google places. Sending an email requesting a review doesn’t really make sense as recipients most probably don’t have an account. The solution above doesn’t solve the problem.

  • Piotrek Ozmina

    It’s still too troublesome. In countries where g+ is not popular (like Poland) it’s really difficult to get a review on google places. Sending an email requesting a review doesn’t really make sense as recipients most probably don’t have an account. The solution above doesn’t solve the problem.

  • https://plus.google.com/112767041460502214504 Greg Miernicki

    What a waste of time. There’s nothing worth saying if you aren’t saying it yourself. Frightened and cowardly people post anonymously.

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    Many doctors have asked me about ways to inflate their reviews and ratings on Google and other rating/grading/review sites?

    So, I’m all for requiring a real name/identity.

    For patients, how about actually talking to people for referrals instead of looking online?

  • Rahul Sharma

    great post and io am fully agree with this post/………….http://search-engine-updated.blogspot.com/

  • KRS

    “I can now feel confident that only Google will know the various doctors that I visit and review online (or other private stuff, like kids’ daycare, voting centers, churches, funeral homes and whatnot)”

  • http://contextaseo.com/ Michael Lautman

    I have a client that is a criminal defence lawyer. Next time you are charged with a crime, make sure you go to the firm’s G+ page and leave a public comment.

  • Joe Miller

    Have you heard anything yet about an official response?

    This could also bolster reviews for attorneys working with DUI cases and other cases where people don’t wish their name attached (divorce per example).

    Maybe will stir up thoughts on how to purely write anonymous reviews for businesses.

    There should be some good case for a business to have a setting of anonymous reviews. G+ users would be subject to whatever type of review the business accepts. If the business displays names, their name will show. If only anonymous, their names will never show for that business. Anonymous reviews will remain persistent even if they change their business preferences (no suddenly having someone’s name show up on their anonymous review). Full of ideas now to enhance the G+ experience and reviews.

  • Joe Miller

    Have you heard anything yet about an official response?

    This could also bolster reviews for attorneys working with DUI cases and other cases where people don’t wish their name attached (divorce per example).

    Maybe will stir up thoughts on how to purely write anonymous reviews for businesses.

    There should be some good case for a business to have a setting of anonymous reviews. G+ users would be subject to whatever type of review the business accepts. If the business displays names, their name will show. If only anonymous, their names will never show for that business. Anonymous reviews will remain persistent even if they change their business preferences (no suddenly having someone’s name show up on their anonymous review). Full of ideas now to enhance the G+ experience and reviews.

 

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