Is Having Clusters Of Reviews A Red Flag For Google Ep. 187 600x900

Exploring the Impact of Google Reviews for Local SEO Ranking Factors

In this episode of the Local SEO Tactics podcast, we dive into the topic of Google reviews and their impact on local SEO ranking factors. Specifically, we examine whether having clusters of reviews on Google My Business is a red flag for Google, and how it may affect a business's visibility in local search results. Our expert guests share their insights and experiences, providing actionable tips and strategies for businesses to optimize their review profiles and improve their local SEO performance. Join us as we explore the critical role of Google reviews in local SEO, and how businesses can leverage this powerful tool to boost their online presence and attract more customers.

What You'll Learn

  • How businesses can leverage Google reviews to improve their local SEO performance
  • What are the red flags for Google when it comes to too many reviews on Google at once.
  • Why having clusters of reviews on your Google Business profile can affect SEO rankings

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Jesse Dolan: A good rule of thumb is if you're getting reviews and they're posting and everything's looking good, then you're fine. Any disruptions you're seeing, speaking of Google here, then that's definitely something you're going to want to maybe look at your practices. All that said and done, Bob, like we were just talking earlier, getting reviews on a regular ongoing business as a business, running a good business, getting reviews. This will even out all of the spikes, all the peaks and the valleys as long as you're doing that continually. Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I'm your host, Jesse Dolan, here with Bob Brennan, Sue Ginsburg. How are you two doing?

Sue Ginsburg: Hi, really great.

Jesse Dolan: Here to tackle SEO questions from the Worldwide Web. Sue, what do you got queued up for us today?

Sue Ginsburg: Today's question comes from a client of ours who has been crushing it on reviews and other things. The question is, "Is having clusters of reviews a red flag to Google?" Thank you for the question, John Mattioli, Giant Enterprises, Atlanta, Georgia, and other locations. Quote of the day today, "Business is a game played for fantastic stakes and you're in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be master of the game." That's a quote by Sidney Sheldon, which I think a lot of us think of as a fiction writer. But in looking him up, I learned that he first started working on Broadway and then in motion pictures, the Patti Duke Show, I Dream of Genie, which were pretty big shows, and then started writing after he turned 50 and one of his novels was Master of the Game, and that's what that quote is from.

So I think we all know that reviews are really important to both Google and to us humans. If you've ever looked for anything online, which we all have, you know that you look at reviews. When we first started working with Giant Enterprises, they by the way are trash compactor and scent control business. A few years ago, their website was about 15 years old and they weren't doing anything for online marketing. They had a great service offering a great team, and they had shown continuous growth for more than 20 years. And all of this without consistent or ongoing marketing. One of the first things we worked with them on was getting more reviews. They had great relationships with their customers doing really good work, and they understood the importance of reviews and they went all in. After many discussions and trials of automated review request programs and other aspects of getting reviews, they found what worked for them and have been crushing it ever since.

They have almost 350 reviews now for their main Atlanta location, 35 and growing for their Florida location, and on their new location in Nashville, they already have a couple and they're working on getting more. So clearly they understand and are doing something knowing the importance of reviews. When John Mattioli, the co-founder and owner of the business asked this thoughtful question, I knew that other business owners working on increasing their reviews would benefit from hearing what the experts have to say. We know that Google has shared that reviews are a very high priority, but what about reviews? The way that this question is asking or clusters of reviews is one thing I'm sure Jesse and Bob will talk about and also tell us what don't they want to see when we're talking about reviews and other things that may not be as intuitive to other business owners so that we can go forward, get more reviews and do it the right way.

So like Sidney Sheldon said, "If you want to win in business, you have to be a master of the game." Those of us in digital marketing are well aware that we are all playing on Google's playing board and in order to win, we need to play by their rules. So where reviews are concerned, what are their rules, what works, what can we do that we can manage and control? And that's the part that we can all do better at. So Jesse, Bob, give us your expert opinion. Let us all hear what we can do to get reviews in the right way and not to do something that will be a red flag to Google.

Jesse Dolan: And we'll let everybody know too Sue, John Mattioli, episode 183, one of our recent episodes we had him on for the interview talking about the work we did with his brand and things like that. Awesome episode for everybody if you want to know more about John and a little bit of context on that question, that's who he's talking about that he brought up. He had reviews. Bob, we've talked about reviews for forever I think. Yeah, we're up in the 180 some episodes. I think in our first couple episodes we did, we started talking about reviews. It's always a big part of SEO and local SEO, especially here. And Sue, this is a good question because it's kind of a different wrinkle towards reviews. Is it okay to have a big cluster of reviews? Can you have spikes in reviews and things like that? And it's like all SEO answers, this is a it depends type question... or I'm sorry, it depends type scenario.

So I think we'll walk through a couple situations here where maybe this is bad to have a big spike in reviews in the eyes of Google and where it's okay. So I think to start off though, first is the best way to get reviews, right? First and foremost, we want to see reviews continually. And Bob, I know we've talked again extensively about getting reviews, asking people in person, automated software solution, things like that. And I want to tell everybody the best case scenario for you is to just constantly get reviews for your Google business profile. I mean, anywhere you're getting reviews is great. I think we're talking 80% of our energy or more here is on the GBP, continue to get reviews, it's good for Google. They see steady engagement from the users, not from you as a business owner or the marketing person, but from the actual customers and prospects out there.

If you're getting reviews on your business continually, whether it's a slow drip or if you get 10 a day, whatever it is, it's a great pattern. It shows continual engagement from human beings out there. Great signals for Google. We know about getting reviews if you're getting photos or if the people are talking about the services and the products in those reviews, that's great for your SEO as well.

And there's another hidden layer there I think, which is worth underlining for people why it's important to keep getting reviews on a steady basis. Bob, we are chatting as a business owner and running businesses, it's hard to get your employees and your team members motivated, trained in and in that process of asking for reviews in person, and we know of all the ways to get reviews. We're big proponents of software to automate it, but you're going to get the most reviews from asking human being to human being. And if you're not constantly doing that, if you're starting and stopping that or things like that, it's hard to get traction in there and get people reengaged and get that thing off the ground. Do you want to comment at all Bob closed circuit production wise [inaudible 00:08:15].

Bob Brennan: No, and I think what I'd like to do is defer to you on some of the strategic, so one of the questions was that bundle piece, I mean is that something... I mean, do you have any further thoughts on that as far as getting, we're talking like trade shows and stuff because what I'd like to cover is towards the end is somewhat of a cultural and psychological deal and just actually bounce questions off you two to see if we think along the same lines or differently on this topic because to me it just seems to be an absolute chore to get the business owner to really drive this. You know what I mean? So if I can defer to you on some of that strategic piece in terms... not strategic, but technical on the review volumes and things like that. I mean, what are the do's and don'ts there or what are your thoughts?

Jesse Dolan:

Yeah, 100%. Makes sense to me. The bot, the algorithm, the machine, the AI that is Google, it's going to look for things that are unnatural. So if you've never gotten any reviews and suddenly you get 300 in three days and then you don't get any more reviews, you're going to be asking for some scrutiny, right? You're going to be asking to get audited. Just any scenario that looks a little fishy. So I don't think there's an actual number here for everybody that we can quantify or even a percentage. If there is, I'm unaware of it. We've never found it in our research and whatever, maybe it's out there, but whenever you have a big spike in reviews for Google, it looks unnatural. You're going to maybe get audited, maybe some of those reviews are going to get stuck in purgatory.

Definitely since COVID, we've all seen things happen with reviews as far as how long they take to post, maybe some scrutiny not getting posted. There's a lot of services out there where you can buy reviews. There's fake reviews. So this whole process of Google monitoring reviews, monitoring the spikes in reviews, where they came from, are they applicable to your business is not new or mysterious. It does happen. So I think there are some situations where this will happen naturally. Maybe you're attending a trade show, maybe you have a huge product launch, a huge sale, whatever it is, you're going to have spikes that go up and down on the volume of reviews. But when it's complete feast or famine, I think things like that are going to be huge red flags for people, especially if the pattern of the reviews, not just in volume, but where you're getting them, who you're getting them from is different as well.

If usually you're getting them all local within whatever, 10 miles, whatever your service area is, but now you're getting them all across the country or from other countries, things that look towards manipulation look like you're buying reviews or some things like that. So those are some scenarios where you're going to get huge spikes in reviews or larger spikes in reviews outside of your normal. If you're getting reviews kind of a constant drip and you're getting those spikes, I don't think there's anything to worry about. If you are wanting to know, "Should you be worried? Is there a problem? Are you doing things that are looking unnatural?" Basically, if people are posting reviews and they're showing up on Google, everything's fine. If you're starting to get more and more reviews, but you're getting a lot of feedback that they're being held in purgatory, they're not showing, they're not posting or you're seeing reviews show up and then come down two days later, those are some signs that I'd start to worry that either you have some kind of increased scrutiny or the sources for those reviews are being kind of sketchy, whatever it is.

A good rule of thumb is if you're getting reviews and they're posting and everything's looking good, then you're fine. Any disruptions you're seeing speaking of Google here, then that's definitely something you're going to want to maybe look at your practices. All that said and done, Bob, we were just talking earlier, getting reviews on a regular ongoing business as a business, running a good business, getting reviews, this will even out all of the spikes, all the peaks in the valleys, as long as you're doing that continually.

Bob Brennan: And so I mean, if I can jump in on the cultural piece of just... and maybe the psychology of the business owner, right? Sue, you meet with a lot of customers, a lot of clients we have, and you've discussed this with them, which ones tend to execute the culture of review, if you will, and which ones don't? Are you seeing any correlation with any of that? Which ones become, "Yeah, I get it," type of deal?

Sue Ginsburg: Well, it's a great question and my first thought is rarely do they do anything the first time we have the discussion.

Bob Brennan: Okay, so they're human, right?

Sue Ginsburg: Right. That's right. And I think that they will try something and... they try something and it isn't consistent, and we have many conversations about this across the board.

Bob Brennan: Right.

Jesse Dolan: Hey everyone, just a quick message about our free SEO audit tool on and we'll get right back to the show. If you haven't taken advantage of it yet, go on out to or look for the yellow button up in the top right corner, click that and it's going to take just a couple seconds. You enter in the page that you want to optimize, what you're looking for the audit to score against. Enter in that page, enter in the keyword you're looking to get optimized for and enter in your email address, click the button, and it's going to take you a few seconds, and then it's going to send you off a PDF report via email.

It's a great report. It's going to kind of give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it's auditing this page, it's going to tell you some of the good things that are happening, some of the bad things that are happening too, and give you basically a checklist of some things that you need to show up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page, for that keyword that you're auditing.

Now, you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors. If you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they're scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good that you're not, and some things to improve there. So lots of different ways to use it completely free. Again, go on to or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.

Bob Brennan: Right? No, it is tough, and from my observation, it seems like the younger the business owner, the more they get it right out of the chute and then females get it. And I think part of that is females have no ego and men of distinction of my age or older, we have egos. It's like, "Look, I've been in business for 20 years or 15 or 10 years and I know who I am and I don't need your stupid reviews." You know what I mean? There's this pushback it seems from... and there's some exceptions. I think Steve's done a wonderful job down in Atlanta because he gets it, he's a salesperson, and I just don't think self-promotion becomes... it's not a natural thing. It's just most people don't like to self-promote, but it's kind of the culture we live in right now that we have to get these reviews and set up a culture of employees and salespeople that, "This is what has to be done." You know what I mean? And it just seems like that has to start from the top.

So if you're a business of six people and you've got mechanics, you've got to get all the mechanics engaged in this because it's hard to sell that vision, but they have to understand that our job is to get you in let's say the three pack, the top of the three pack. We can do that, and I've seen Jesse do it very well, but it doesn't matter if you have no reviews or far less reviews than your competition. And so you've got to figure out a way to ask for those reviews. But also, I think part of the reason that people may not feel good about doing that is as business owners, we're always questioning, "Are we providing the best service?" And sometimes that answer isn't what we want to hear and we've got to improve things and change things. So if you're going to ask for a review, obviously you got to do your job better.

And the part of that is setting that contract upfront with the customer just saying, "Hey, our goal is to give you a five star service. If we can do that, would you mind giving us a five star review?" And then when the job is done or the performance is done, then you have to follow up and everything that goes with it. But I think what we fear as business owners is egads, "What if we fail?" And let's face it, failure sucks, but it also can tell us, "Hey, when we're done installing that carpet, we need to vacuum along the edges and get all the fluff and..." You know what I mean?

It needs to look... and if we're hearing the same thing, feedback from our customers saying, "Hey, this wasn't fixed. This wasn't fixed, and you didn't button it down," well, guess what? That's what you need to do at the next job and improve yourself to a point where you know you're going to get to the five stars because you're going to do the job right. And that might be another psychological reason why people don't want to get reviews. So that's just my 2 cents on it. It's frustrating because I know how big of a deal and how it can help businesses, but I think from an outside observer, I have to ask myself, "What is the business owner afraid of?" I don't know. If any of that makes sense.

Jesse Dolan: I like how that all dovetails into, you said it a couple of times, I don't know if we've said it before. If you're running a good business, you're going to get more reviews. That can mean running a good business by way of asking for reviews and that part of it, also that you're not going to get good reviews if you're not providing a good service at the same time. So all that wrapping up, again, dovetailing in to Sue's... I should say John's question of the big spikes of reviews, "Are they going to hurt you?"

No, not if you're doing it the way that you're saying Bob like running a good business, listening to the feedback, getting more reviews, keeping that going, just asking for reviews and being frontal helps mitigate some of the negative reviews by making sure you are receptive to people. They didn't just go blast you on social media and leave your reviews all over. They know you want to hear about it and you're receptive. You roll out the red carpet for the negatives, just like the positives, but then also you're just having that steady drip so then when you do have the big spikes or reviews, you're not having big lulls of no reviews then after. And the whole process is very natural and it's a huge part, right? Back to Local SEO Tactics, this is a big part of SEO, is running a business, getting reviews, being engaged, showing Google these signals and just looking real, looking legitimate.

So good stuff.

Sue Ginsburg: I think something else also that definitely Giant Enterprises realized and others can learn from it is if you ask your service people or your frontline people, whoever they are, to get more reviews and incent them on reviews that have their name in it, it's an incredible motivator for those people. It's exciting to see your name in print and especially saying, "What a good job you did." I mean, that's a great pat on the back and very motivating.

Bob Brennan: Yeah. And people want to help people. So again, if you're the carpet installation crew guy and gal or whatever, and, "Hey, if you mention my name, my boss will give me a Starbucks or whatever." You know what I mean? And most people want to help each other, so...

Sue Ginsburg: Great point.

Bob Brennan: It all makes sense. So...

Sue Ginsburg: That's very true.

Jesse Dolan: Well, I think we're good on that. Sue, if you want to wrap us up.

Sue Ginsburg: Sounds good. I would say if you remember one thing and one thing only, remember this, getting reviews on an ongoing basis will even out spikes or clusters of reviews coming in, whether that's because you're at a trade show or for whatever reason, and then just a big plug in a reminder to make getting reviews a big priority. It's important to Google and it's also important to humans. We read reviews. That's what we look for to legitimize business that we want to do business with. So repeat the quote of the day, "Business is a game played for fantastic stakes, and you are in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be a master of the game." Thank you, Sydney Sheldon, author, writer, screenwriter, and more. And thank both of you.

Jesse Dolan: Good quote. I'm going to show everybody a big reveal. We have some new Local SEO Tactics swag, but first, Sue, you brought up something there that we failed to mention, which I think is important. Talking about the spikes and reviews, everything that we're talking about there was really for Google, for SEO, for the algorithm, for all this, but human beings read reviews too, as you just said, and I think we all are smart enough. Back to the psychology part, Bob, probably on the client to the prospect side though, if we see a bunch of reviews, but then nothing in the last six months, those kinds of spikes, whatever looks artificial to Google, it's going to look artificial to us as well. If people are vetting you out and there's some scrutiny, that's not going to look good for the human beings either too. So another reason where that slow and steady drip of reviews is a cure-all for these scenarios.

All right, so that question from John, hopefully that helps out some people that are pondering reviews or maybe thinking about these kinds of things. I think everybody's been listening for a while. We've been giving away t-shirts if you call in a question. If you want to submit a question, just go to, scroll down to the bottom, click the button and submit a question. You can send it in on a text-based form or you can call it in and leave a voice recording, which we'll then play on the show. And we do have some new bribery we want to throw out there for everybody. So we have these Local SEO Tactics water bottles, which will be given out in some swag bags at the upcoming SEO spring training. If anybody wants to come meet some of us, learn some amazing SEO from, gosh, I think there's a couple dozen speakers.

It's going to be a couple of hundred people there overall. Check out, and we're going to have these... bring it in frame, Local SEO Tactics stainless steel water bottles. It's actually pretty cool. It's not quite Yeti caliber, it's a different brand. Or what's the other big water bottle? Hydro Flask, right? Very similar to that in quality. Got a sweet ass logo on it too, right? So if you want one of these, we're giving them out. You just got to call in with a good question that we'll use on the show. We'll coordinate all that with you, and we're happy to ship one out. So again, if you like the show, if you like the questions, if there's something that's been on your mind that you want us to talk about, help us out, help out everybody else in the community, in the audience that we're grinding away on the Local SEO, go to, scroll on the bottom, click the button, submit a question, call it in, and if we use it on the show, we'll send to you one of these awesome water bottles.

What do you guys think? Pretty cool looking. Did that come through on camera there?

Sue Ginsburg: Awesome.

Jesse Dolan: Show it again.

Bob Brennan: Yeah. Yeah, that's sharp.

Jesse Dolan: I don't have any bourbon in here or anything to try it out. You guys just have to trust me that it works good as a water bottle though. No demonstrations.

Sue Ginsburg: To restate the obvious. Also, can I say, if you're learning and enjoying our podcasts, please leave us a review.

Bob Brennan: Yes.

Jesse Dolan: Absolutely. That is a great point, Sue, same thing. You can go to Local SEO Tactics, down the bottom, click the button for review as we make it super easy. Of course, you got to get reviews as we've been talking and we'd love one too. That's a great ask Sue. Appreciate that. All right, great episode. Hopefully everybody learns something and got some good insights. If nothing else you learned where you can get an awesome water bottle going forward, check us out. Appreciate you guys for tuning in. Bob and Sue, awesome hanging out. Good content and we'll catch everybody on the next episode. Take care.


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