Late last month, business owners, marketers and SEOs alike noticed that for some reason, Google had temporarily disabled new local reviews as well as the ability for businesses to post review responses.
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After weeks of dealing with various problems, delays in posting new listings or hours/address updates, business owners can begin to rejoice. Google has re-started the publication of reviews and review replies — as well as worked to resolve many of the other issues that were occurring.
Recently, Google shared an update: “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.”
How Google reviews got 'quarantined'
As business owners and consumers were dealing with the emerging COVID-19 crisis, some began to notice that Google reviews were not functioning as expected.
In fact, Google had released an update about Google My Business during COVID-19 in their online help center:
“During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services.”
Google went on to state that it's focus "will be on the quality and reliability of information on Google Search and Maps allowing us to ensure users and business owners have access to the essential features like whether the business is open or has special hours.”
While reviews are an important feature during normal circumstances, they appeared to not be a priority during this crisis.
The potential benefits of a quarantine
Although the reason Google suspended its review component was limited staff availability, I think it was actually a blessing for businesses.
With businesses operating short-staffed, undersupplied, and with an increase of pressure to make revenue, “business as normal” has gone out the window.
Many businesses have been unable to meet their usual customer demands.
As a consumer, I have experienced extended hold times when trying to call businesses. I have noticed delays in shipments of products, and I have even had orders outright canceled.
Although I know how hard the employees of these companies are working, I still get frustrated.
Imagine now if everyone who has had a similar experience during this time (who is also dealing with the anxiety and stress of the pandemic) was able to go online and write a review about whatever situation took place.