Review Gating means to filter your guests before asking for reviews - for example, sending a "feeler" email asking if the guest had a good experience at the inn. If they reply "Yes", they get a follow-up email asking for a review, with links to review sites. If they reply "No", they get a call or email from you asking how you can help. What they do not get is that email asking for a review. This has been a great way to gather good reviews, while at the same time helping to salvage the bad guest experience and head off bad reviews, and has been a common tactic used by review garnering services...until now.
Google issued their guidelines concerning reviews on April 12, 2018, and has put the kibosh on review gating:
"Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers."
Google hasn't said specifically what could happen to you if you were to be caught review gating, but it's safe to speculate that your ability to gather Google reviews might be restricted, which would have an impact on your Knowledge Panel presence.
Quality review companies, such as GetFiveStars (our preferred choice), immediately went into action and removed whatever review gating strategies they had in place:
"On 4/13/2018 we made an update to GetFiveStars to be in compliance with the new Google TOS changes regarding review gating. We sent an email to all Account Owners notifying them of the update.
You'll notice with Ultimate Mode, Review Mode and Legacy Mode (Direct Mode is already in compliance), we've added a new step to the process called the "Negative Landing Page - Review Request". This step is triggered when a customer submits their negative details on the Negative Landing Page - Apology. The new step will contain the online review links setup in GetFiveStars. I've attached image examples so you can see the negative feedback process with the new step.
As with anything related to Google, we will continue to monitor their TOS and ensure that our system is compliant. We take TOS compliance seriously and our primary focus is on protecting the reviews your business gains.
If a business isn't interested in gaining reviews on Google or TripAdvisor (the two sites with TOS prohibiting gating), you can disable the new Negative Landing Page - Review Request step with on/off toggle on the Request Modes page."
Regarding Tripadvisor - here is what they have to say:
"When it comes down to it, it's just not that honest to cherry-pick for positive feedback. TripAdvisor provides a platform for all travelers to share all their opinions, not just the ones that you like. And soliciting feedback from everyone helps insure that you remain in compliance with our fraud policy. "
So - if you are using a company or software to gather reviews that makes use of review gating, or if you're not sure, you'll need to contact them to see what they have done in response to the updated Google review guidelines. If they're not, or do not plan to be in compliance, you will want to consider keeping yourself safe from reprisals by not using that company.