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Where Did My School’s Google Reviews Go?

5 min read
Feb 17, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Wondering what happened to your school’s Google reviews? Here’s what’s going on.

As a school enrollment consultant, I would always tell schools who were trying to improve their placement on Google to register their site with Google Business Profile and to encourage happy parents to leave reviews. Lots of good, qualitative reviews!

These reviews were critical in how Google perceived the “quality” of your school and impacted where you showed up in search. They also sent a powerful message to readers that parents liked you and you were a great place to send their children.

But if you have checked your school’s profile recently, you have probably noticed a change in your profile. For many schools, their Google reviews are no longer showing up.

But fear not — there is a solution to ensure you can still get and showcase reviews, which I’ll share at the end of this article.

So what is happening with Google reviews for schools?

In 2019, Google rolled out a policy that limited what kind of businesses can have public reviews on their platform. And although schools were included in this new policy, it was seemingly only enforced sporadically and within certain “categories” of schools — until recently.

Now it seems like Google is getting serious about ensuring full compliance with their Google Business Profile policy.

How can you tell if your school is impacted by this policy?

Go ahead and Google your school. If you see the button that allows you to view and subsequently leave reviews, your reviews are still enabled for now.

Some schools still have their pre-policy reviews still available, but the ability to collect more has been disabled. Other schools seem to have all of their reviews hidden or archived. 

the write a review feature for a school whose reviews aren't disabled yet

If you don’t see the Write a Review button above when you click your reviews, it’s likely your school has been impacted.

The image below does NOT have any reviews listed or a way to leave reviews. This is a school that has had its review capabilities disabled:

example of a school google business profile that has had its review capabilities disabled

Why are some schools impacted and others are not?

Good question! I reached out to Google and was informed that, in theory, all schools in all categories (elementary, private, charter, etc.) should have reviews disabled.

The caveat is that schools that are categorized incorrectly — for example, as a tutoring center or daycare facility — or schools that have an unclaimed business profile COULD circumvent this policy.

Should you try to game the system and miscategorize your school?

I do not recommend miscategorizing or not verifying your school’s Google Business Profile as a workaround.

An incorrect categorization and an unverified business profile will almost certainly negatively impact where your school ranks on a Google Search. Any benefit you might receive from having “more” reviews than your competition will be offset by not being shown in correct searches.

But doesn’t this give some schools an unfair advantage? 

Over the short term, it would absolutely seem that way. And if Google knows more about the rollout of this policy and its seemingly recent crackdown on more schools’ reviews, they certainly aren’t saying.

For now, I can share that out of 10 schools across the country that I spot-checked, I couldn’t leave a review for 8 of them.

Hopefully, the widespread impact of this policy will mean that the playing field will eventually even out with all schools held to the same level of policy enforcement.

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Why did Google stop allowing schools to have Google reviews? 

The reason, according to Google, is that schools are considered “critical services” and, therefore, any review could potentially impact their reputation and ability to provide education to students.

In short, Google does not want to provide a platform for negative reviews that could harm a school’s image and deter students from attending.

If Google isn’t an option, how DO we get reviews then? 

While this decision by Google may seem like a blow to schools that want to showcase the quality of their education to prospective families, it’s important to note there are still other ways for schools to receive feedback from their students and parents.

For example, Niche, Facebook, and GreatSchools are all excellent examples of websites that allow and showcase reviews from parents and students.

Google even allows these reviews to show up within your Google Business Profile panel in the Reviews from the Web section:

how school reviews from niche and greatschools can show up in the reviews from the web section of a school's google business profile

The phasing out of Google reviews means that reviews on sites like Niche, GreatSchools, and Facebook will hold even MORE weight than they used to.

So while the decision by Google to no longer allow schools to have Google reviews may be disappointing and frustrating, it’s important to remember there are still other ways for schools to receive feedback from their students and parents! 

What advice do you have for a school impacted by this policy? 

As a former school admissions director, I’d say to give yourself a few minutes to be disappointed. You probably spent a lot of time and effort into getting parents to leave Google reviews. Having them disappear or locked down is frustrating!

But what you do next is important.

You can complain to Google with a ticket (I did this already so that you wouldn’t have to — their answer is that a policy is a policy) and say it’s out of your hands. 

Or you can be one step ahead and strategize on other ways to collect and showcase reviews.

If I were you, I’d get ahead of the competition. Now is the time to update the old information on your Niche account, claim your GreatSchools profile, and encourage your followers to leave some Facebook reviews.

And then I’d give the friendly enrollment team at SchoolMint a call to help you with other ways to improve your online presence and reputation.

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