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In May of this year, many small businesses lost a number of Google reviews. A month later, Google provided my colleague Mike Blumenthal a statement that confirmed the reviews were not coming back:

The reviews removed were old reviews from anonymous profiles that didn’t have a profile attached to them. Since they didn’t have profiles attached, it would also take you to a blank page when you tried to click the username, which is not the greatest user experience.

How many reviews were removed?

BrightLocal looked at nearly 2 million Google reviews for over 40,000 businesses and found that 3 percent (just over 50,000 in their sample) were removed as a result of this.

I wondered if this would be a good opportunity to figure out if the number of reviews on a listing impacts ranking. I looked through dozens of examples comparing the search results before this update to what they were after. I wanted to find cases where several ranking businesses lost reviews to see what the impact was.

My case study

In my research, I found several ranking business listings lost a good number of reviews. I’ve captured the most extreme cases below.

Here’s a screen shot of what the search results looked like for “dentist NYC” when I searched using a New York City ZIP code on May 23. Focus on the business results in positions 5-8.

On May 25, just two days later, the same businesses had significantly fewer reviews than two days prior:

For the businesses that lost reviews, it took a few days for their ranking to drop, and by May 28, only four days later, the following was the result:

  • Manhattan Dental Spa lost 11 reviews (31 percent) and dropped two spots from position 5 to 7.
  • 209 NYC Dental lost 11 reviews (4 percent) and dropped two spots from position 6 to position 8.
  • Smile Arts of NY lost 125 reviews (56 percent) and droppedfive spots from position 7 to position 12.
  • Emergency Dentist NYC lost 57 reviews (56 percent) and dropped two spots from position 8 to 9.

A month later (June) Manhattan Dental Spa and 209 NYC Dental have maintained their positions. Emergency Dentist NYC lost one more position, and Smile Arts of NY moved up one position and also gained 14 new reviews, which likely helped.

The majority of sites I reviewed didn’t have this many lost reviews, so the rankings didn’t change much. This salon lost 14 (22 percent) of their reviews and only dropped one position.

Although it seems safe to say the number of reviews does impact ranking, there are also 200 additional factors that are used to determine how a page ranks, so it rarely comes down to “who has the most reviews.”