You may be one of the many schools wondering what happened to Google Reviews. Many organizations, including schools, are experiencing a range of issues as it relates to users being able to review a business. This poses a challenge for schools that use Google Reviews as a way to manage their brand and communicate with prospective and current families.
So what happened to Google reviews for schools?
Google disabled reviews for education institutions in 2019
Many K-12 independent schools experience 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 is not actually visible by anyone. The school cannot respond to this review or ensure it appears for users. When you look at a school's property, most of the reviews are from 2018 and prior. Google confirmed that they disabled reviews for educational institutions as well as some other business categories, starting in 2019.
Why did Google disable school reviews, to begin with?
But, there is some good news. In 2020 Google Started to enable reviews for some private schools.
However, it is not clear why certain schools have the ability to get reviews and have star ratings appear on their profile, and others have not. If your school is still not able to get reviews, contact support.google.com/business and inquire about the review status for your organization.
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, below a school’s 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 the screenshot 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 it is unclear when or if all schools will have Google review functionality fully restored, 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 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 (you can still find the old ones in most cases!) 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.
* This blog was originally published in 2019, republished with updates in 2020.