Dealing with Fake Negative Google Reviews

Online reviews are vital resources for businesses and customers alike. Chances are you have used Google to research a company and see what others who have used their services have experienced. If you are a business owner then you probably have a platform for your online review process encouraging customers to go online and share their experiences – especially if they are positive because these reviews can lead to more business for you. Most of these reviews online have been written by actual customers but unfortunately there are some cases where negative reviews have been left by people who never even used the business.

When you build your online business profile using Google, you agree to terms and conditions that help manage the information about your business as well as the reviews from your customers. Unfortunately there was a recent change in Google’s online review policy that removed the system that would have regularly filtered through reviews to ensure they are a legitimate review completed by an actual paying customer. Now, it is no longer Google’s responsibility to filter through the reviews and the process to remove a fake negative review has gotten more difficult. Google has also implemented Prohibited Content guidelines that restrict that business owner’s contribution to the reviews. The key here it that whether the people leaving a review are engaging in a fair and honest review is no longer Google’s concern or responsibility to decipher.

As a business owner, the changes in Google’s policy and inevitable existence of fake negative reviews should be troubling because your business can’t afford bad reviews – especially when they aren’t even real. We live in a world where competition is everything so you have to protect your business in order to outlast the competition. Unfortunately some people will go to great lengths to try and sabotage a competitor’s business – which is where these fake negative reviews typically come in. However, if you have experienced a fake negative Google review rest assured because there are steps to address this problem.

The Challenge

What is the best way to spread your business? Word of mouth. When we see something we like we immediately want to know where it came from. How do we go about finding this information out? We either ask the person with the item or we head straight to our favorite internet source – Google. As a society we rely very heavily on Google and other search engines to help us research what we are looking for. This is especially true when we are looking for the restaurant we heard about being advertised or the retail store that just opened up down the street – we want to know what others are saying about them and we know Google will most likely have those answers.

Now all of this is great for the consumer but where it gets tricky is when a business is hit with a fake negative review. Seeing a negative review is an immediate turn off for most people because they won’t take the time to go see for themselves if their experience might be different. When a business is hit with a negative review it’s very hard for them to bounce back form that because of immediate access we as consumers have to see these reviews. Once it is out there for the public to see the business automatically is impacted negatively. Feedback is perhaps the most important thing to your business because how you choose to address it, positive or negative, will determine how successful your business is. It is a useful tool and shouldn’t be taken lightly or for granted. That’s why it is important to stay on top of any feedback you receive across all review platforms.

With Google’s new policy, business owners are faced with additional challenges involving fake negative reviews because they have to be very careful how they handle the situation. They also have to stay on top of their game in their own review process so they catch these fake reviews before they have too much exposure to the rest of the public. With the rise in technology, it has become far more accessible for people to go online and create fake accounts. You could technically have as many accounts as you would like and none of them even have to be associated with you. When a person posts a fake review, chances are their account is also fake because they won’t want to be associated with these reviews. If they were real accounts then the business owners would have an easier time addressing the problem, but when it’s a fake account making a fake review – how can you monitor that? The answer is that you can’t but as a business owner you can react in a way that stands up for your business and keeps a good reputation at the same time.

How Should You Respond?

When you first see a negative review you immediate reaction is most likely to respond with the idea that the customer is 100% right and you will do whatever you can to reverse that negative experience they had into a positive one for the next time. However, your reaction to a fake negative review might spark a far more negative emotion and tempt you to be just as nasty back to the customer that was never actually a customer in the first place. That’s where we stop you and remind you that whatever you put out on the internet is more than likely going to stay on the internet, so it’s important you handle this situation as you would any other.

You probably won’t want to bite your tongue after you have been infuriated by a fake negative review because they have the power to destroy something you have taken time to build a good reputation for, but its best that you do. After first seeing the negative review, you should distance yourself from the situation long enough to calm down and think about what you might want to say back to it. Once you are more level headed you can start to formulate a response that is unassuming and neutral to the situation. You will also be able to now accurately determine the authenticity of the review. If you determine that the review is fake, you can reply as normal and go through steps to potentially remove the fake review.

How to Spot and Remove a Negative Review

Spotting a fake review can be tricky especially when considering you may not remember every customer that comes to your business. Hopefully you would remember a bad experience but even then some customers won’t voice their opinion in person so they wait to leave a negative review online. There are some tricks to spotting a fake Google review though that can help you out if you are on the unfortunate side of receiving one.

  • Lack of detail of their experience – such as no specific item they purchased or no date of visit
  • Buyer is not in your point of sales software system
  • There has been a surge of negative reviews recently
  • You notice a connection between the reviewer and a competitor
  • A competitor was recommended in the complaint

If any of these are true for the review you are concerned with or you have in another way determined it is fake then it should be reported. You can flag a fake Google review by clicking on the Flag as inappropriate button next to the comment. The easiest avenue to do this is through Google Maps because you can just find your business and the info including the reviews will pop up on the left-hand side.

Starting from the beginning, step one is to find your business on Google Maps and click on the reviews. Next you will identify the fake reviews using the tips and tricks provided above. After you have identified the fake review you will then click the three vertical dots on the right side and select Flag as inappropriate.

Removing a review is typically possible if it violates Google’s guidelines. You can only dispute and remove a review if it is in violation of one of the following:

  • Spam and fake content
  • Off-topic
  • Prohibited content
  • Conflict of interest

If the review falls within any of these categories then you can dispute to remove the review. You can also click on the Support button to email Google and dispute the fake review. You should receive a response within two days whether your request was accepted or denied. If your request is denied then you can file a legal removal request if you have evidence that the review qualifies as slander against your company.

If all else fails don’t be discouraged because you can still respond to a fake comment and maintain your good standing with other customers. The important thing is that you present your company in an ethical and fair way, so even if there is a fake negative review associated in your feedback, you can turn the situation around to actually benefit you by providing excellent customer service.

The Buy Local Experience in Jacksonville Local SEO

The Buy Local phenomenon has increased over recent years, bringing importance to giving back to your community by utilizing the resources of local businesses and taking away from big-box retailers. These big-box stores are starting to have to compete just like the old style mom-and-pop shops did whenever they were being pushed out of the market. There is a higher sense of community and togetherness than there has been for a long time. People want to see their communities succeed, they want them to be different and unique. The Buy Local movement has especially been driven by younger generations – it is “cool” to get something handcrafted from a local business, rather than ordering something online that has been manufactured in a different country.  With the influx of the millennial generation moving back into the cities versus the traditional suburb neighborhoods older generations preferred, this organic growth and widespread Buy Local movement is only taking off.

In Jacksonville, the city has recently became more increasingly interested in buying local. Yes, some people have been doing it for years but it hasn’t been as quite readily available to the mass population as it is now. There are a lot of millennials and younger generations wanting to move back into the heart of the city in neighborhoods like Riverside, San Marco, and Springfield, which are being revamped with lots of residential space to support this. These younger generations are also aware that in order to support as sustainable lifestyle in these communities you have to also support the local businesses. With these residential areas popping up like crazy the local shops have experienced increased business. The people living in these communities want to go to independent business that have character, history and offer something unique to their experience. Examples of this are local coffee shops, breweries, historic movie theaters, restaurants, and so on.

Why should you buy local?

Preserve local character

What entices people most about local communities is the character that they offer. People love being part of a community that is unique and recognizable. Buy local preserves local character because you are encouraging business to come from the actual community. You have people from the community working here and providing business to their neighbors. This takes away opportunity for retail and restaurant chains to come in and make the area like every other neighborhood in America.

Encourage entrepreneurship

It is difficult to start a business and even more challenging to keep it thriving, but by committing to the Buy Local campaign you are actually encouraging entrepreneurship. By encouraging the community to spend local you are reinvesting the money back into the community. People who may not otherwise have had a chance to start their coffee shop or retail store now have the opportunity because you are encouraging them to reinvest back into this community.

Encourage environmental preservation

By putting community growth and character at the highest importance you are actually reducing your environmental footprint, too. You create a sense of pride for the well-being of your community and establish the desire for others to keep things green as well. An example of this is a restaurant that only sources local produce cuts down on its carbon footprint by having less miles on your plate. Less transportation is needed to get the produce to the restaurant and the local farmer is rewarded for their business as well.

Create jobs

This is huge when thinking about the unemployment rates within the last 10 years. If you are like most Americans, you know how difficult it is to find a job when the economy is not working in your favor. The Buy Local campaign encourages job growth and availability because people who live here are able to also work here. More jobs are available because more businesses are able to set up shop.

Compete with larger businesses

There is only one way to stop large corporations from coming into a neighborhood and that’s by making it impossible for them to succeed in it. If you are buying from your local stores, these large retail chains won’t have a market for their businesses. You control what goes on in your community and you control what stays there.

Encourage diversity

Buying local also allows your community to encourage diversity because you won’t have five different places that sell the same products. You will have individualized and specialized stores that offer a unique product you can’t get anywhere else. The concept of the big-box stores is that all of these communities they go into want the same products. Buying local allows you to change the narrative of your community and encourage diversity to the people who live in it and services it provides.

Where can you buy local in Jax?

Coffee Shops

  • Bold Bean Coffee Roasters has cafes in Riverside, Jax Beach, and San Marco. The company is committed to source, roast, brew, and serve outstanding coffee. Each of their locations has architecture specific to their respective communities.
  • Others – BREW Five Points, Social Ground Coffee Company, The Coffee Grinder, Urban Grind Coffee

Grocery

  • Grassroots Natural Market is located in historic Riverside in 5 Points. Here you will find healthy food alternatives that provide natural, healthy and organic foods.
  • Sweet Theory Baking Co. is a located on King Street in Riverside. At Sweet Theory they craft organic vegan donuts, cakes, cookies, and other deserts.
  • The French Pantry is located on Powers Avenue near Wolfson High School. This bakery doubles as a café that always has a line out the door so make sure you get there early to enjoy fresh bread and baked goods.
  • Local Fare Jax – This company specializes in packing local produce from the surrounding area and delivering it to your door.

Craft Breweries

  • Downtown – Bold City, Engine 15 Downtown, Hyperion Brewing Company, Intuition Ale Works, Main and Sixth Brewing Company
  • Riverside – Bearded Buffalo Brewing Co., Fishweir Brewing Company, Tabula Rasa Brewing
  • San Marco – Aardwolf Brewing Company, River City Brewing Company
  • Beaches – Atlantic Beach Brewing Company, Engine 15 Beaches, Green Room Brewing, Ruby Beach Brewing, Southern Swells Brewing Co.
  • Southside – Bottlenose Brewing Company, Wicked Barley Brewing Company, Veterans United Craft Brewery

The Buy Local experience in Jacksonville is any easy campaign to get behind because of the positive impacts it has on some of Jacksonville’s most historic communities. The movement from the big-box stores and chain restaurants is increasingly familiar and will continue as long as these areas desire to preserve their local character and reinvest back into their own communities. If you desire to contribute to the Buy Local experience you can do your part by participating in local business.

Why Local Jacksonville SEO is Crucial to Small Business

These days, most customers search for businesses through the internet based on their needs. A new local business may have an extremely lacking online presence, simply due to search engine algorithms. SEO techniques, especially those done on a local scale, help businesses to not be at the mercy of these algorithms by allowing them to appear higher on search results. On a local scale, some of the tactics used to propel through search results will be different than on a global or national scale. That’s why Jacksonville Local SEO is crucial in boosting the online presence of local Jacksonville businesses.

Local SEO vs Global SEO for Small Businesses

What is the difference between local and large-scale SEO anyways? Well, a small business definitely wants to show up at the top of a search engine, but if the small business is in Florida, they don’t really care about the search results in California. So, local businesses will need to cater their SEO to the area near them. For example, a business using Jacksonville SEO would probably seek to show up in top results in northeast Florida. It is recommended that one uses a local SEO service for local SEO. For businesses in northeast Florida, Jacksonville SEO knows Jacksonville trends, and can take a targeted, local approach to your SEO.

Speaking in a broad SEO sense, there are really three main components of search ranking. The content in a site places its ranking based on relevancy, backlinks rank based on interconnectedness, and everything else comes down to that search engine’s specific algorithm.

When creating content, a local business will want to write content with links to more of the business’s content, or relevant content elsewhere. These links increase ranking on both a global and local setting. More specific than this, for local SEO, a local business will want to fill out a My Business Location form on Google. You will want to be exceedingly thorough when filling out this information, to make sure all necessary information is present and no inaccuracies exist.

Another thing that local businesses need to ensure is that the name, address, and phone number (commonly referred to in the local SEO world as NAP) of their business is posted on multiple platforms and is consistently correct. It is extremely important for a local business to remain consistent across platforms. Sometimes, the search ranking algorithm will see a business with minor inconsistencies as illegitimate and place it farther down on ranking results.

This is a major problem for local businesses who don’t realize they have inconsistencies but see very low web traffic. Luckily, it’s a very easy problem to fix and easy information to maintain. Below are some general practices that businesses can take up online, specific to local SEO (especially Jacksonville SEO).

Social Media

Creating fleshed out social media accounts will help to give Jacksonville local businesses more ranking power in search engines. Simply creating the accounts isn’t enough though, it’s necessary to keep active on social media, as accounts with more followers fare better on search engine ranking. Make sure that your business is taking an intensely cross-platform approach. The more active social media profiles, the better that the business will show up on search results.

Mobile-friendliness

In 2018, Google announced that it would now be ranking results based on the mobile friendliness of websites as well, as the majority of people now browse the internet and search for goods and services on their mobile device. This is called “Mobile-First Indexing” and it’s a response to the ever-growing use of mobile devices in business. This mobile friendliness not only includes a design conducive to mobile viewing, but a quick load time, which is seen as more mobile-friendly. Something a business can do to increase their load times on mobile devices is to participate in Google AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. This project optimizes pages for mobile devices and routes the visit through AMP. The user can then proceed to the real website if they wish, or continue browsing through AMP.

Location Services

If a customer opts to turn on location services, the search engine will also highly prioritize searches in the area nearest to them. This is another reason that a business needs to establish their physical presence online. Businesses with a fully informed search engine profile are more likely to be visited than a company lacking tons of necessary information, like business hours or a phone number. Businesses can also be penalized on search results rankings for information that doesn’t match on all platforms, such as an out-of-date phone number or email.

Voice Command

The drastic increase of people using voice command has changed the structure of most people’s search queries. When in the past, people might search for “pizza in Jacksonville”, they might now say “pizza places near me”. Be sure to account for the different structure in queries brought about by voice command, due to the natural variation between how we might vocally say something, and how we might type something out. It’s important for local businesses to not only think about how people in the area might structure their searches, but also the method in which they search that could lead to a difference in the structure of their searches.

Geo Modifiers

Using a Geo Modifier means that you add a specific location to a set of keywords, such as saying “Jacksonville local SEO”, rather than just “local SEO”. It is pretty much useless for broad SEO, which may reduce the national search engine rankings for your business, but for a locally focused business, Geo Modifiers are an extremely vital SEO practice to take. If on the hunt for a local business, people will be likely to do a search for pretty much the exact phrase that you entered, plus the Geo Modifier.

Jax SEO is Local SEO

There are so many more things to consider for SEO today, especially locally. By its very nature SEO is an extremely dynamic field, constantly in flux. Sourcing to Jacksonville SEO ensures that you receive professional services, from a company that deeply understands SEO, and more importantly, deeply understands Jacksonville.