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.
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
- 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.