A fake Google review for your business can drive down your rating average, drive away customers, and drive you crazy! Don't let it, and learn how to get fake Google reviews removed with this easy guide.
Everyone has that one relative who believes everything they read online.
Maybe your 90-year-old Grandma has fallen for the old "Nigerian prince" scam half a dozen times, or your cousin Billy suspects his boss is an alien because of something he saw shared on Facebook. (Everyone has a cousin like Billy.)
If you're savvy enough to own or manage a business, though, you're probably a little more... suspicious. When it comes to the internet, being suspicious is a good thing. It keeps you from clicking on the spam emails that infect laptops with malware and stops you from making those too-good-to-be-true Amazon purchases.
Sometimes, a healthy sense of skepticism can even improve your online reputation, especially when it helps you spot and remove fake Google reviews.
Fake Virtual Reviews: A Very Real Problem
Anyone can review a business on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google. That's both a benefit and a problem for businesses. After all, almost all American consumers read online reviews at least occasionally, and research shows that people really believe what they read in these reviews.
This is why a 5-star reputation is important for your business, and you can only get this from positive feedback from customers.
When your reviews are genuine and positive, they can help you build your business by attracting even more customers. When the rare unhappy customer wants to write a ranting review and share it far and wide, that one person's words can put a dent in your reputation and overall ratings.
That's a bummer. It's also a natural consequence of doing business during the internet age. But when a disgruntled ex-employee or a manager of a competing business decides to write a fake review of your business, that's not something you should have to accept.
Identifying Fake Google Reviews
As a business owner, you know that getting customer reviews is important for growing your business and increasing sales.
Fake reviews can hurt your reputation, both with actual potential customers and with Google itself. But how do you spot fake Google reviews?
Here are some telltale signs:
- Check if any of the reviewer’s other reviews mention your business and paint it in a negative light. Of course this can happen and still be a legitimate review, but it can also be an indicator that the review isn’t real.
- Look out for fraudulent reviews with "keyword stuffing." The words used in reviews should be genuine and not written to include keywords in every other sentence, so any reviews that appear overly polished and don't sound natural may be fake.
- Keep an eye out for reviews that use the exact same phrasing as the business uses in their marketing materials. This is another sign that the review isn't from actual consumers. After all, real customers that post a legitimate review usually don’t describe a business in exactly the same way the business does.
- Look out for multiple reviews containing similar ratings and text, all posted on the same business profile at almost exactly the same time (or within a few minutes of each other). This is probably not coincidental if more than one reviewer leaves this type of review simultaneously.
- Watch out for negative reviews that get verifiable facts entirely wrong (example, a review says they entered the business at 10pm, but you close at 7pm) or are overly vague. A legitimate user will typically leave a detailed review because they have specific insights about the business.
How To Remove Fake Google Reviews
Some review sites make it easier to remove fake reviews than others, and Google is a little more hands-off about removing reviews than, say, Yelp. The company tends to take the "figure it out between yourselves" approach of an exhausted parent whose kids are squabbling in another room.
Still, it's never a good idea to let a fake negative post sit on your Google review page where other prospective customers might see it and believe it. Acting quickly is critical here.
1. Flag the Review
Whenever a business owner or manager wants a fake post removed, the first step is to flag it so that Google's team can review it. Start by logging into your Google My Business page. (Don't yet have a GMB account? Start by creating one so you can claim your business's review page, which gives you the authority to modify the business information and respond to customer reviews.)
Find the review in question and hold the cursor over the star rating. A small gray flag icon should appear to the right of the rating. Click on it.
That should open a page that asks for your email address and gives a short list of violation types to choose from. If you believe the review was written by a competitor, the "conflict of interest" violation is appropriate. Otherwise, the "contains hateful, violent, or inappropriate content" option is your best bet.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to write in any specifics about why you believe the review is inappropriate, and Google's review team may take a few days to get to checking it out.
Even when they do, there's no guarantee that the review will be removed. That's why it may make sense to publicly respond to the review in question, so that real potential customers who read it will have your side of the story.
2. Consider Responding to the Review
If you choose to respond publicly to the review, in your Google My Business account find the fake review and click on the "Respond" button. Depending on the situation, you might opt for one of a few response strategies.
- Kill them with kindness. "We have never had a complaint about [X] before, but please give us a call so we can make things right for you!"
- Give a counterpoint. "This review states that our cashier was rude to the customer on Sunday, but we're closed on Sundays. We think this reviewer may have confused us with another business."
- Be transparent. Write something that tells other readers exactly what the situation is. "We believe this review was written by an employee who was angry about being terminated. [X] is not our policy and [Y] did not happen."
3. Minimize Future Damage
Any successful business will attract some negative reviews. Some may be fake, and being notified whenever new reviews come in is the best way to make sure you can take immediate action.
Some negative reviews will come from your real customers, and - hold onto something - they might even have legitimate gripes. No one's perfect, and even great businesses have bad days.
Getting those real negative reviews removed is very difficult (and usually impossible), but you can limit their power by making sure they're surrounded by tons of real, positive reviews from satisfied customers. That way, the rare negative post won't drag down your overall rating or scare off other customers.
Stay on top of your reviews, and encourage happy customers to write those positive posts, using ReputationStacker. It's an automated system that includes tools for tracking and monitoring reviews, and the system makes it easy for your real customers to write the positive reviews you've earned. With ReputationStacker, getting a steady stream of positive reviews takes just minutes. It's easier than convincing Grandma to stop forwarding chain letters.
Click and Submit
Fake Google reviews can do permanent damage to your reputation, so nipping them in the bud is important. Unfortunately, Google won't necessarily agree to remove those negative reviews.
Minimize the damage by following the steps above, and by using an automated system like ReputationStacker to drown out fake reviews with real, positive ones.
Ian Kirby has been working in digital marketing for over 15 years. Having worked both with and for digital marketing agencies and in-house with multiple companies, he has a specific interest and expertise in online reputation management, online reviews, and the implementation of business systems. Ian’s writing, videos, and interviews have garnered millions of reads, views, and listens.