Google's Suggested GBP Updates Nuke Reviews

Make sure you know your GBP CID numbers and have backups of your reviews; you'll need them sooner or later.

Google's Suggested GBP Updates Nuke Reviews

Google automatically (and annoyingly) pushes updates to Google Business Profile (GBP) listings and then forces listings managers to manually reject the changes. It's often unclear where these changes come from; they're often wrong. This becomes increasingly problematic the more listings you have; the current dashboard for rejecting them doesn't work at scale.

But recently it has become significantly more problematic.

New GBP bug?

A number of posters in the forum, after their listings were auto-updated, lost all of their reviews. Here are some representative posts:

  • Change in Profile and lost reviews: Suddenly I woke up to see the the details about my profile were changed and all the reviews were deleted. I am confused about how to approach this situation. Do guide me.
  • All Reviews Gone: On Friday (11/4) I got an email from Google that my business profile was updated. Much of the information changed was changed to incorrect information or just removed entirely. I went to review and undo many of the changes. Today I noticed that all my reviews are now gone. I had 18+ reviews on my profile and I need to get them restored but I don't know how to go about getting them restored
  • My genuine reviews have all been removed, 95 of them: 95 reviews have all been removed, even 5-6 1 star reviews. They also slightly changed my business, I was able to instate [sic] though. But I haven’t had no luck getting my reviews. Please help
  • Customer reviews disappeared: [105] reviews were lost all at once. Google had automatically updated my business   information. They had shortened the business name to (Sydney Steemer) without the carpet ​cleaner. And changed my website information to a different link that also went to my website. This when I realised all the reviews had VANISHED!
  • All reviews are gone: We had 170+ all 5 star reviews. One day they were all gone. In the settings it showed that google changed the name and phone number and short name for our business. After trying to contact them with the issue for over a week we still are not able to get reviews back or any answer. Also, some changes that google made we are not able to accept or decline.

ResTech was one of the businesses that ended up with zero reviews. They lost 18 accumulated over 10 years in business

What's happening

Google has a new review filter and, of late, we have seen a lot of reviews being lost. But these missing reviews are not a function of that new algorithm. The affected businesses did not appear to be buying or incentivizing reviews. It became clear that, in every instance, reviews disappeared immediately after the Suggested Edits update.

With some digging, I discovered that in each case Google had changed the CID, the identifier Google uses to tie all relevant information to a business, including reviews. Usually the CID only changes when two listings merge or Google has hard-suspended a listing for guidelines violations and then reinstated it.

Changing the CID and losing reviews with a Suggested Edit update is a new and disturbing bug. It could happen to almost anyone for no reason, or no apparent reason. Yet, in Google's infinite wisdom, it could also be working as intended.

Prepping for doomsday

The best way to avoid disaster is to be prepared. In the case of Google and your business profile, it's not an issue of whether it will go wrong – but when.

You should always capture and store your Google CID and Place ID somewhere safe. Gatherup's Google Review Link Generator chrome extension helps you get those numbers easily as does Pleper's free Google CID converter.

It always makes sense to capture and store the content and user name for every review on your listing. Google sometimes cannot restore a review to a listing without knowing either the user name and/or the content. Gathering these details can be done with an occasional manual copy and paste of your Google reviews or using one of the many monitoring tools that store reviews and allow you to download them for safe keeping. Google also sends email notifications of any reviews received so you could hang on to those emails and store in a folder. (h/t Amy Toman)

Finally you should carefully track and reject, if appropriate, Google's Suggested Edits. Obviously, tracking these changes has become more important than ever if Google is going to nuke your reviews when pushing a round of edits. If you turn on notifications in GBP, Google will send you an email of the edits they have made. Yext and rival tools do this at scale as well.

If it happens to you

If you wake up one morning with a changed listing and no reviews, the first thing to check is whether your CID has changed. Use the GatherUp or Pleper tools to compare your new and old CIDs.

If the CID has changed, immediately reach out to support via the GBP Support Form and provide the details you have about the suggested edits and the changes to your CID. Ask that your reviews be restored.

This is a newly breaking bug (feature?) so you should also head over to the forum, read up on the state of some of the cases and create a new post highlighting your issues if appropriate.

Here are the cases so far identified (if you find more let me know):

Credibility of multiple complaints

The GBP forum is both a filter and a megaphone. The reality is that, compared to the number of businesses that any given Google problem affects, a tiny percentage of them post in the forum.

If one person posts about a problem you may think he is a bit of flake. If two do it, you might think "two flakes." But there's more of a possibility it's true. If three post, you begin to think Google has introduced a new bug once again.

After five or six complain about the same issues, you know Google has again caused a fairly large-scale problem, which they are totally unaware of and probably ill-equipped to fix. That leaves who knows how many businesses in the ditch, praying for a tow.

Update  11/16 from Google on the bug

After waiting for word from Google for almost a week and hearing nothing, I reached out to Danny Sullivan on Twitter:

And got this answer back.

As of the morning of Wednesday, Nov 16th, five of the eight reported cases had their reviews restored. Exactly why Google didn't comment and acknowledge the bug previously is a mystery.

This article was updated on 11/13 to include additional cases and their narrative.

And again on 11/16 with the Google confirmation of the bug and the partial fix