Several weeks ago, before, during and after the Hotspot rollout, newly created reviews from reviewers with non-public Google profiles were having their Places reviews filtered. I tested this by writing a number of reviews, over time and many places in a secondary account. All of the reviews were accepted, none were published.
Google has now implemented a new, limited review profile called a “Places Profile” that allows reviews to be shown but requires a new, quasi private profile with at least a nickname to proceed.
If a current Google account user without a public profile attempts to write a review on a business Place Page without this new Places profile they will see this message on the Places Page and will be unable to proceed until they visit Hotspot and enter their “nickname” (click to view larger) :
They are taken over to Hotspot and presented with this screen:
This new limited public profile is accompanied by a change in the Google Profile page that makes a clearer distinction between a public and non public profile although it makes no mention of the new limited Places Profile and offers no opportunity to create it:
Google has upgraded the HotPot Help Pages to better explain the role of the new Places Profile and notes what will occur to your existing reviews if no nickname is chosen:
Existing reviews & Places profile
You may have already written reviews or rated places on Google.
When you create a Places profile at google.com/hotpot, your new and existing reviews will be publicly attributed to the nickname that you specify.
If you don’t create a Places profile, but already have a public Google profile, your existing ratings & reviews will be attributed to your profile nickname (if available) or your first name. If you don’t have a public Google profile, your existing ratings & reviews will be attributed anonymously, e.g. to “A Google User”.
In cases where your reviews are attributed to you, your name links to an aggregate view of all your place ratings & reviews on Google.
The ratings and recomendations page in the Help files note that your new “nickname” will show to all in the following public Google places:
Another change in Google’s review handling, is that new reviews often move to the bottom of the queue on the Places Page, not the top. How long they stay there is unclear but I presume that it is a change that is an effort to minimize the ability of a business to push a bad review off the top. It may be a matter of trust of the reviewer as well, as I have so far only noticed it on anonymous reviews.
This new, limited Places profile and its implementation unfortunately adds a new layer of user complexity to newbie reviewers. The extra step opens a new window to create the profile. The user is presented with an unfamiliar, empty HotSpot window leaving them with no understanding why they are where they or what they need to do to get back to the Places page.
On the positive side, it will once again allow readers to see all of the reviews by a particular reviewer, returning some transparency that appeared to be lost several weeks ago during the transition period. It will force previous non-public reviewers to add a nickname if they want to add new reviews and will require a nickname for all new reviewers.
From Google’s point of view, it will force every reviewer into HotSpot and expose them to the interface and the recommendation engine. It should, over time increase viewers of it.
This new process though, by adding a layer of complexity and moving folks off of the Places Page, runs the risk of creating additional friction in the review process.