In this article, we talk about how you can report fake Google reviews before they manage to negatively affect your business.
Your business is going well.
Your on-page and off-page SEO is on point, your blog is slowly gaining backlinks and attracts visitors to your site organically.
After successfully set up your Google My Business profile, you optimized it for SEO and you now rank high in your local community.
Everything is going well, except, one day, you find a negative Google review on your Google My Business (GMB).
You have no recollection of ever doing business with them and yet, the review seems to be negatively talking about your brand.
You soon come to realize that the review in question is fake.
Dealing with fake reviews
Your reviews have a direct effect on your brand and reputation. Not only that but your bottom line as well.
Whether you provide a product or a service, locally or otherwise, negative reviews should be on top of your urgent priorities that you need to take care of as far as SEO is concerned. The longer it’s there, the more harm it’s going to do.
And you have probably noticed that, unfortunately, nowadays, it’s not all too rare to receive a negative review (for your GMB, as well as in general). In fact, it’s quite common and most businesses have experienced it once or twice while working.
All it takes is one grumpy customer who didn’t receive the exact thing they wanted and boom, your reputation is ruined. To make things even worse, these type of reviews can be completely fake.
It’s every business owner’s nightmare – putting in hard work only to receive a negative (or fake!) review that will mess up their reputation and ranking.
Thankfully, on the bright side, there are steps you can take to minimize the negative review’s damage to your company’s credibility, your website’s SEO, and to help ensure customer satisfaction.
As such, if you received a fake negative review, don’t jump into action straight away and fight them about it.
Instead, if there’s one thing that you’re going to take away from this article, keep the following 5 steps in mind on how to deal with a fake Google review:
- Stay calm.
- Look into the situation.
- Respond quickly and try to fix the situation.
- Rectify the whole thing.
- Make sure it doesn’t happen again and stay on top of the situation.
Now, to explain how to deal with this and report fake Google reviews in a more detailed and step-by-step process – be sure to read on.
But first, here’s a quick word on why negative Google reviews matter and why you should take them seriously.
It’s only one negative Google review, right? What harm can it do among all the positive ones? Surely, the positive ones will naturally drown out the negative ones eventually.
Well, not quite.
Here’s what you need to know about negative Google reviews:
- A single negative review can drive away 40% of potential customers
- 85% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews.
- 95% of customers read reviews for local businesses before making a purchase.
- 75% of customers have read a fake review in the last year.
That last number should be the one that’s most concerning for most businesses. Fake reviews can be really hard to spot for a customer that’s never done business with you – an outsider.
You can spot a review and know exactly what they’re talking about, or if they’re just spouting nonsense. But people who’ve never done business with you have no idea if it’s real.
If there’s one thing the above statistics prove it’s people take Google reviews seriously, and in turn, so should the business owners.
And with Google My Business SEO, it’s one of the important factors that affect your sales.
Now, a bad review isn’t the end of the world – every business has gotten at least one before.
However, if it is not a real story of an actual experience there is only one thing you can do – Report fake Google reviews.
And aside from that, you need to remain positive – this is not an actual representation of your business.
As such, here’s a step-by-step process on how to deal with it:
Evaluating the situation
The first problem you need to solve is making sure if the review is real or not.
Sometimes you might get negative reviews from your competitors, random people you’ve never met, or trolls with too much time on their hands.
After receiving the bad news, make sure to look into your records and see whether the person is real or not.
If they are indeed real, look into what they bought, look at the time frame of the service, listen to the customer service calls, and see if anyone else interacted with the person while doing business with them.
The more you know about the situation – the better equipped you are to deal with the situation.
But it’s important to note that a negative review is much simpler to solve than a fake review.
With a negative review, should the worse comes to worst, you can reach out to them and:
- Listen to their situation from their perspective.
- Offer to fix the situation with a free coupon or a return policy.
- Make sure it won’t happen again and learn as an added benefit, you’ll learn more about your customers.
If done well, they can even turn that one-star review into a five star one for your amazing customer support.
Negative reviews aren’t necessarily a sign for bad business. You can use them to your advantage and learn more about your pain points to improve the experience for other customers.
Pay attention to your tone when responding to any Google review – negative or otherwise. Here are some tips on how to respond to reviews, according to Google.
If the review is fake, however, things might be a bit more difficult. So, here’s how to spot if you’re dealing with a fake Google review.
- Look at the language of the review. Fake reviews often have a distinguishable tone they use that’s different from any other negative review.
- Look into their profile and details. If their name doesn’t ring a bell with you (or if it just sounds fake) and anyone in your business, their Google profile is completely blank and they don’t have any other reviews – this should raise a red flag.
- If they have no contact details and you can’t get a hold of them – you might be dealing with a fake review.
So, to recap, if it’s a negative review and the customer is simply dissatisfied with your services – it happens. Look into how you can fix the situation and make it up to them.
If you’re positive it’s a fake one, however, here are some steps you can take to improve your GMB standings and report it.
Deal With and Report Fake Google Reviews
So, once you realize the review is fake, at the end of the day, there are two steps you can take:
- Flag the review.
- Respond politely.
While you might want to refute their claims and make it clear to everyone that the review in question is fake – it’s essential you stay calm and look into it first.
1. Flagging the Review
According to the Google review policies, it can take several days for a review to be assessed.
You should see if you can contact them directly first (if possible) and if not, flag it as inappropriate.
When flagging a review, if possible, have several people flag the review in question (e.g. your employees). There is power in numbers and it’s possible to get Google to look into it faster.
Once a review is flagged, try to wait for a couple of days for a response, or ideally, for it to be removed.
If the review is extreme and is going to hurt your brand immediately, consider escalating it immediately.
Flag and report the review, then immediately contact a Google support team member to see if you can speed up the process.
Now, once you report the review, the only thing you can do is wait if Google resolves it.
In the meanwhile, however, be sure to respond to the review at hand.
2. Responding Politely
While you may not always be able to have the review removed, you can always respond.
Yes, even when you report fake Google reviews, you should still respond to them.
You won’t be able to resolve the problem for this person (especially if they’re not real); however, you’ll be making it clear to other customers that you’re aware of the situation and on top of it. It’s a good idea to take your reviews seriously and actively try to solve them.
Ideally, you should respond within 24 hours, keep your reply brief and professional, and offer to fix their situation by giving them your contact information.
No matter what, don’t write a lengthy list of excuses, and don’t attack them directly.
Depending on the review, there are a number of ways you can respond.
As a general template, you can start with the following and modify it to your unique situation.
“Hi (first name),
We take our reviews very seriously, however, we have no records or recollection of any customer experience with your account. Nor can we identify anything about your identity from your name in our records. If you were a client of ours, we would like to investigate your issue further and make it up to you. Please contact (person’s name), at (company contact information), so that we can resolve this immediately.
The way you respond reflects your brand, so be professional and don’t call them out directly.
Your other customers will also be reading this and it will affect your reputation directly.
While it’s upsetting to receive a fake review, how you respond can help you secure additional customers reading your reviews.
It’s important to note that sometimes it can be best not to respond to a fake review in the first place. Use your discretion to determine the best course of action, depending on your business and industry, and remember that you don’t always have to get the last word in.
Finally, you should keep in mind that your GMB reviews are one part of your otherwise online reputation. You should also apply the same logic and approach to your negative (and fake) Yelp, Facebook, and other reviews.
3. Fighting Back
Finally, once you flag, report, and reply to a fake review, you should also be actively taking steps to improve your GMB and overall online reputation.
70% of consumers are more likely to leave a review for a business when asked (Source).
There isn’t much you can do to fight back against fake reviews in the future – you might get them randomly, it happens.
However, on the other hand, you can always improve the number of positive reviews by simply asking.
The most genuine reviews are the ones customers leave without any prompting on your side (e.g. by having exceptional customer support).
Though, there are always steps you can take to nudge them in the right direction.
When asking for reviews:
- Get your timing right – too early and they might not have received all of your benefits. Too late and that initial sense of being impressed might be gone.
- Make it easy to leave reviews – make sure your GMB is optimized and easy to find.
- Integrate with your email marketing – ask people who have done business with you to leave a review if they’re satisfied. Consider using incentives as well (e.g. 5% discount for a quick 5 minute review).
To sum up, if you rely on search traffic to your website chances are that you are also relying on reviews to draw in more customers. This is even more the case if you’re active locally.
Stay on top of what people are saying about your business as your reputation matters when engaging with your audience.
Start by setting up Google Alerts for your brand, be on the constant lookout for keywords related to your business, and of course – your Google reviews.
Regardless of your negative reviews being real or not, you should always respond politely and take active steps to remedy the situation.
Negative reviews can sometimes be drowned out by the positive ones. But the best strategy is not to get one in the first place.
Meanwhile, if it’s clearly a made-up story – you want to take active steps and report fake Google reviews.
This post was created by Uwe Dreissigacker, who is the founder of online invoicing software InvoiceBerry and also offers free invoice templates to businesses. Small businesses and sole traders can create, send and manage their invoices, quotes and credit notes with the tool. In his free time, Uwe travels the world and enjoys experiencing different cultures.