Every business wants positive reviews, and why wouldn’t they? After all, reviews often serve as a sort-of “make-or-break” system woven into many aspects of a business. Customer experience and glowing reviews lend a lot to a startup’s growth. Realistically, however, we know that “only good and no bad” looks falsified and will make your business look shady. The best way to legitimize a business is word-of-mouth.
Online reviews are the quintessential form of this, and social media has become the most efficient avenue for obtaining reviews and adding to review platforms. As the saying goes, a few bad apples can spoil the barrel. Or rather, a few bad reviewers can bring down a business.
But bad reviews can be flagged as inappropriate, reported to Google, and promptly taken down ONLY IF they’re fake Google reviews.
But how to take down these false reviews that can hurt one’s business?
What differentiates a fake reviewer from an actual customer is how they respond to rectification. A usual response to a negative review is to reach out and find an alternative — a solution.
Most customers will try to work with you or tell you immediately that they don’t want to try anything else for whatever reason.
You may try to lay down any pride, reach out to this reviewer and ask them, very nicely and professionally, to take down the negative review. In cases of negative reviews, whatever you do, don’t threaten a lawsuit as it’s not a good idea in the long run.
Lawsuits are never a guaranteed win. Even with a win, the bad press from a lawsuit can chase away potential customers afraid of getting hit litigiously should they express their dissatisfaction.
Now, a bogus or fake review is different. A fake reviewer lurking in your business listings can be identified in several ways:
- The customer isn’t in the system/isn’t recognized by picture or name
- No indication the customer has tried to contact the business via call, email, or walk-in
- Transaction dates/dates of purchase/goods or services paid for don’t match the complaint
- Too vague/lack of details (no names of certain employees, time of day, etc.)
- Too many reviews in too short of a period
- The reviewer indicates bias, such as being tied to a competitor or recommending a competitor
Then put out a bluff; mention in the response a name, an email address, or some other form of contact that can be used to reach customer service to remedy the issue.
This not only places control over the situation in your hands, but it shows other customers that the business takes them seriously. It shows that the business is committed to making things right and that you and your business are responsible, keeping an eye out for trouble.
A general rule for replying to a fake reviewer is the Nietzsche proverb of ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all’.
Be calm and professional, not using inflammatory, offensive, or petty language. The reputation of your business, as well as getting patronage from a possible customer, is more essential than one-upping a digital heckler.
If there is no valid response after a certain time (typically a few days), it is safe to assume that the review(s) violates Google guidelines. The next step is to flag the review down.
Flag As Inappropriate
One of the many benefits of enlisting your business with Google Business Profile is that you can easily bring to attention a fake review by clicking the flag icon near the username, identifying the type of violation, and sending it through.
Try to have people flag the review. With more flagging numbers, it becomes more likely to be taken down swiftly. In the meantime, others looking in will be aware and may even have an idea of how a fake review looks for future reference.
However, if the review itself violates common decency, whether with swearing, hate speech, or NSFW content, double down and report it to Google Small Business Support.
With Google, there are a few ways to remove fake reviews through reporting. The Small Business Support Team on Twitter has been noted as having a better response time, between 1-2 days.
The Google Community can also be a great help, through the Spam & Policy Forum through your GBP dashboard, searching for any answers from past experiences similar to your own, or finding some community experts that may be able to escalate the issue for you.
The Google Business dashboard has a Support tab where you can submit information about the review and a screenshot of the review.
Come to think of it, a screenshot is the most helpful thing when dealing with fake reviews. Screenshots are your best pieces of evidence when making a case for removing fake reviews, as a picture speaks a thousand words.
When forming a case against a review, don’t forget to have down some kind of writing or visible text:
- The reason the review is fake
- How it violates Google’s policies
- Why remove it
- Other important details like links, pictures, etc.
This should help expedite your request, get you in touch with a specialist to review your case, and help you get the review(s) taken down quickly.
Some Other Things
While this particular situation is very rare, sometimes a fake review will not get taken down. Flagged, yes, but not completely removed. When this happens, let go of any frustration and get to work obtaining good, legitimate reviews to drown out the fake ones.
If you’re fortunate enough to get a fake review taken down, be aware that it may still be up on other review platforms (i.e. Yelp, FaceBook, Ripoff Report, etc.), so send a ‘remove outdated content’ request to Google and follow their instructions.