Sadly, receiving a fake review on your Google My Business profile is not a rare occurrence. In fact, it is quite common and something many businesses have experienced. Both Yelp and Amazon have sued fake review posters and in New York the State Attorney General took action against 19 NY based companies involved in fake reviews back in 2013. Legal action hasn’t stopped or prevented fake reviews from continuing to be published, nor has paying huge fines, but that doesn’t mean as a business owner there is no way to fight back.
Trying to have a fake or spammy Google review removed can sometimes feel as frustrating as receiving the review (some call into question if the guidelines or spam algos even work), however; it is still important to make attempts to have the review removed, even though there is no guarantee that Google will take it down.
What to Do When You’ve Received a Fake Review:
Respond to the Review
While you may not be able to have the review removed, you do have the ability to respond. Yes, if the review is indeed fake you will not be able to actually resolve the problem for this person, however; you can make it clear to other customers and prospective customers that you are aware of the review, you take what reviewers say seriously, and that as a business you are dedicated to remedying situations “like this.”
Just as there are guidelines for leaving a review, Google has some tips for responding. Your response should not be defensive, keep it brief, and do your best to respond as you would for a negative review.
“Hi, *insert reviewer’s name,*
We take these matters very seriously, unfortunately , we have no record or recollection of any customer experience fitting this account, nor can we verify anything about your identity from your name in our records. If you were a client of ours , we would like to investigate this issue further, please contact *person’s name* immediately at *company email address* so that we can resolve this issue immediately.”
From a common sense and general best practices view, if you can’t respond in a calm and professional manner, don’t respond at all. Yes it’s very upsetting to receive a fake review, but how you respond is a reflection of the company, and securing business from a potential customer is far more valuable then getting the last word in.
In some cases there will be no point in responding, use your discretion to determine the best course of action.
Flag the Review
You can notify the team at Google regarding a violation of their review policy by flagging the specific review.
1. Hover over the review in question and a flag icon will appear.
2. Click the Flag icon and you will be taken to the Report a policy violation page.
3. Enter your company E-mail address and select the Violation Type
Then you’re done. You will only hear from a team member if they require additional details from you or if they have information to share with you.
When flagging a review:
A) If you can, have several people flag the review in question. There is power in numbers and it’s possible it may help increase awareness and ideally action.
B) Once a review is flagged try to wait a couple of days for a response or ideally for it to be removed, however; if the review is loaded with hate-speech, profanity, and/or has highly sensitive content, I would say escalate it immediately. Flag and report, then immediately contact a Google support team member.
Report the Review to Google Small Business Support
If the fake review has not been removed using the flagging method, get in touch with a support associate. You can do this through:
1. The Google My Business Dashboard
- Log into your GMB page.
- Go to the Reviews section.
- Click on the home menu and select Support.
- Choose a method of Contact – Phone or Email.
- Fill in the necessary contact parameters, Add a screenshot of the review in question, and wait patiently (you should hear back within 24-48 Hours).
2. Tweet the Small Business Support Team via Twitter
The small business team is knowledgeable and also takes around 24 – 48 hours to get in touch with you (no guarantee though).
- Sign in to Twitter.
- Send a Tweet from your company account to the Google Small Biz team.
- Once you hear back from someone, explain the situation and go from there.
3. Ask the Google Community For Help
If you have a specific question with regards to the spam policy or are seeking advice from other community members, you can use the Support Forum to get answers.
- Go to the Spam & Policy Forum in GMB.
- You can Search previous questions of issues that are similar to yours for a solution, or you can ask a question about your spammy/fake review problem.
- There are some really awesome community experts that are extremely helpful and can escalate and report your problems, as well as community managers that can assist.
Make Your Case
Okay, so you have finally got in touch with an associate from the small business support team, now what? Well, you have to make a case and do your best to show
- why the review is false,
- how it violates their policies,
- why it should be removed,
- any images, links, or other details that backup your claim.
After you report it to a support associate and make your case, they will advise you of whether or not they will escalate the review(s) to a “specialist,” this specialist makes the determines the outcome. Once a decision has been made you will receive a phone call or email confirmation from the small business support associate who was helping you.
How We Had a False Review Removed
When the review is clearly false or spam it’s easier to have removed, for instance, we had the following review removed because the “experience” being referenced was absolutely not related to our business and services:
I followed ALL of the steps above:
- We responded to the review. We actually kind of thought it was funny how far off this reviewer was and it didn’t really bother us that the review was there, as it is very obvious to anyone that this review is not for our business.
- I flagged the review and provided my contact information and the reason why the review was being flagged.
- A few days later I contacted GMB support, and I also contacted the Twitter team – just to see if there was a difference in the approach or information. Surprisingly this time, I found the small business support team more efficient. In the middle of the Twitter team’s assistance, they stopped responding. Perhaps it was because they are very busy, I am not certain. I wouldn’t rule them out though, I have had positive experiences with them in the past.
- The review I reported violates their content policy as an Off-topic Review. The review is for a furniture company called Masseys. We do not sell furniture here at. Clearly a confused reviewer.
- I made the case to the support associate and showed how it violated their content policy, at which point he advised me that he agreed and will send this to one of their specialists. He informed me that he cannot guarantee the removal as it is up to the discretion of the review specialist. Either way he would be in contact with me. Within 24 hours of our conversation I was notified that the review would be removed. Success!!!
The Best Defence is a Good Offence
The best way to ensure that a fake review won’t be detrimental to your business is having a solid reputation management strategy in place. Building up your positive reviews by encouraging loyal and happy customers to leave you an online review is an easy way to mitigate the risks of receiving a fake review, and showcase how awesome your business is.
Simple and Effective Ways You Can Grow Your Online Reviews:
1. Customer Feedback
Sometimes we are blinded by the allure of those shiny review stars, but before you start asking all your customers for a review, have you checked in with them to see how they are feeling about your service or product? Reviews are the outcome of great customer service, so how is yours stacking up?
There are so many opportunities for you to obtain customer feedback, here are eight easy ways to help get you started.
2. Monitor Your Brand Mentions
Stay on top of what people are saying about your company. Any solid reputation management plan includes monitoring what people are saying and engaging with your audience.
Start by setting up Google Alerts, it takes no more than 10 minutes. Add alerts for your brand name, website, CEO, and keywords. There are also a bunch of applications in the market that can help you with monitoring social mentions, building brand awareness, and reviews. Examples would be Mention, Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer, Brandwatch, Sprout Social, and TalkWalker.
You don’t have to review your alerts every day, but schedule a small block of time once a week to review the alerts and stay on top of what people are saying about your business.
3. Start Asking For Reviews
Having a solid review strategy in place is a great way to combat a fake review. Receiving consistent reviews builds up your review numbers, and provides a more complete picture of how your company truly operates.
The best way to build up your online reviews is to make asking a part of your daily operating practices, and knowing that you will have to ask a lot of customers before one will leave a review. It’s nothing personal, life is busy and just because a customer doesn’t leave a review immediately, doesn’t mean they never will.
Potential customers are not just reading reviews on your Google listing, they are on sites like Angie’s List, Facebook, Trip Advisor, etc, so it’s up to you to ensure you are listed on these sites, and actively trying to get reviews here as well.
You can manually encourage reviews on these sites by directing customers to these sites, or consider utilizing a review platform that helps you organize your feedback requests, earn testimonials, grow your online reviews, and streamline the process.
Most review platforms are easy to use, it’s a matter of entering your company information, adding a client, sending a customized email asking if they would recommend your business and triggering a request to review your company online if they rated their experience high. This approach encourages positive reviews by directing satisfied and happy customers directly to the review sites that you are trying to build up, and asking for feedback from customers who did not have a great experience.
This is exactly how our Reputation Builder works. The bonus of using a review tool like this, is that you also have many additional features at your disposal, you can incorporate customer survey’s to get specific customer feedback, you can expand client testimonials and then showcase them on your website, and you can monitor your reviews so that you can respond in a timely manner.
Having a solid review strategy in place that helps you grow your reviews on your Google listing and multiple third-party sites is not only a deterrent for fake review spammers it’s good for your business, your local rankings and building your reputation.
Get More Online Reviews & Customer Feedback
A Negative Review Does Not Equal a Fake Review
Negative reviews happen. No business is perfect and not every single customer will be satisfied, mistakes will be made. But also, negative reviews are not all bad news. While hearing someone had a negative customer experience sucks, it’s an opportunity to make things better.
- Provide honest feedback that you can turn around and use to improve your business or make changes.
- Create trust. Seeing only positive reviews of a company can result in people questioning the authenticity of the reviews. Seeing a few sprinkles of negative reviews creates a level of trust.
- Create opportunities for turning something bad into something good. You won’t be able to please everyone, but if you can make things right for someone, why not try? If you can take that negative review and turn it into a positive one, that will be noticed. How you respond and how you react will be what other’s are judging.
You Got This!
Don’t let spammers get the best of you with a fake review. Stay on top of your reviews, always flag and report fake reviews (even if they are a challenge to remove), and have a solid review strategy in place.