You may be one of the many schools wondering what happened to Google Reviews in recent months. Organizations categorized as schools are experiencing a range of issues including placement of reviews, removing the ability for users to leave reviews, and in many cases, seeing reviews going away entirely.
So what happened to Google Reviews?
Google disabled reviews for education institutions
Many K-12 independent schools we come across are experiencing this: A user still has the ability to actually leave the review, and doesn’t get an error message but after posting the review, it simply doesn’t show up anywhere.
Google confirmed that the changes schools are experiencing, such as not being able to see any new reviews, or simply no reviews at all, are working as intended, as they disabled reviews for educational institutions, starting 2019. As it continues to roll out, it is impacting more schools each day.
Why did Google disable reviews for schools?
Why do Google Reviews matter for schools?
Google is the largest search engine in the world, and these reviews were prominently displayed for all to see, within a school’s Google My Business Knowledge Graph, or in Google Maps. Google My Business (GMB) itself, continues to be a free service for businesses and organizations, designed to highlight information quickly and easily to those searching. In addition to listing all the basic NAP data (name, address, phone number), GMB also provides a platform for telling the story about your school via pictures, videos, posts, events and (until recently) reviews and star ratings! (See screen shot below for an example of a school's profile, versus another nonprofit).
GMB is also a great place to mine insights like where your audience is coming from, what keywords they are searching for, and more (check out how schools can optimize their GMB in this EMG blog). GMB is still one of the top sources of traffic to many school websites. Even with recent rollbacks on google reviews, it’s still important to keep your profile up to date with the latest and greatest information and content from your school, while keeping an eye on other user-generated content feeding into it, like photos, Wikipedia, other review websites, and more.
How can I manage my school's reviews online?
Since Google has not shared more about if the functionality will return in the future, it’s time to look closer at other digital platforms for reputation management. To get started, take a look in your Google Analytics, and start to re-prioritize getting reviews in the places parents are finding you. If you are a private K-12, you might see Facebook, Niche.com, GreatSchools.org, PrivateSchoolReview.com, or BoardingSchoolReview.com as top referrers to your website. Ask parents, students or ambassadors to leave a review for your school on one of those websites, instead. (More on that in this blog on reputation management online!) Reviews from other platforms still directly feed into your Google My Business Knowledge Graph, and Google search engine results in general, so it's worth the ask for many reasons.
Also consider taking any great testimonials from Google Reviews (if still accessible) and highlight a few on your website, print, digital advertising, or social media posts instead. There are a lot of ways to share your school’s unique stories and reviews online - just maybe not on Google Reviews, for now. Connect with us for more tips on sharing your school’s stories online and for other enrollment marketing strategies.