In a small test within the US, Google has begun showing third-party reviews along with its usual Google reviews. This is the first time in over a decade since Google has done this for non-hotel listings. It does not seem that Google would wish for all business types to replicate the unique profile style of the hospitality industry, but this may be outside Google’s hands.
This test is likely due to new potential legislation on Google, disallowing self-preference for their own reviews. This would mean that Google would be under obligation to show third-party reviews, something they have shown themselves capable of providing within hotels already. This legislation may not come to pass but the company needs to be ready for the possibility, the test a necessity for compliance with new regulations.
Google’s preference for the intake of fresh first-party reviews is proving to show a different issue as well. Spammers and abusers are taking advantage of Google’s practice of placing new reviews on the top of listings, and the fact that an updated review is considered “new”. Disgruntled customers have found a way to game Google’s system and ensure their negative reviews always remain billboarded on a business’s profile. By bad actors “updating” their review every few days, their negative review is raised back to the top of the listings, pushing down other customer’s genuine positive reviews.
Google has not yet given a formal method of combating this type of abuse. All that can be done for now is reporting the review for harassments and hoping Google will eventually remove the offending comment. Including third party reviews that don’t receive that type of preferential treatment could help combat this harassment tactic, but that would only be a happy coincidence to Google’s potential necessity of compliance.