Fake Google reviews are one of the most frustrating challenges a small business can face. People tend to believe what they read online and negative reviews—real or fake—can be a deal breaker for potential customers.
If someone leaves a one-star review online, it can become a top result when your business appears on Google. It is important for you to respond in a way that will make third parties view you favorably.
For example, if a bad review turns out to be legitimate, it’s possible to turn that negative review into a positive example of how your business treats customers.
If it is obviously a fake Google review, it’s difficult to get it removed, but you do have some recourse. This guide is going to go through those steps, as well as help you to proactively mitigate the impact of future bad or fake Google reviews.
Act quickly and follow these five steps to fix the bad or fake Google reviews and clear your business’s name.
The best way to mitigate the effect of a negative Google review is to have a proactive review acquisition program. One bad review won’t have much of an impact if you have hundreds of positive reviews. Contact us to discuss how we can help your business to start collecting positive Google reviews.
Stay calm and don’t respond to the review while you’re upset
When a fake Google review comes in, it’s easy to get emotional. Your business is like a part of you, and it’s easy to take a bad review as a personal attack, and if you know it’s fake, it can be infuriating.
Don’t answer until you’re thinking with a clear head.
Is is a fake Google review, an unhappy customer, or a mistake?
Once you’ve calmed down, start thinking about the best way to paint the review in the eyes of other potential customers. It is likely to fall into one of three categories:
- An unhappy customer – This customer had a bad experience and wanted their voice to be heard
- A fake Google review – Internet trolls or competing businesses might be trying to sabotage you with fake reviews
- Intended for another business – It’s pretty common for customers to review the wrong product or even the wrong business.
So how can you decide what kind of review it is? Time to check your records!
How to Handle a Bad Review from a Real Customer
Arguing with a real customer will never end in your favor.
If the reviewer’s name or situation matches a customer you’ve had, treat them like they’ve been wronged and you need to make it right.
Do not come across as defensive.
Try to express that you did everything you could to right the situation and the customer will appear unreasonable to anyone that reads it. At that point, the reader may even empathize with your situation and view you even more positively.
Do not ignore the review
Ignoring the bad review makes it look like you don’t care and waiting too long says you don’t take customer’s experience seriously. Neither is a reputation you want for your company. However, acting aggressively or with a poorly planned response can create a public record that’s worse than the review itself.
A strong response will follow three important guidelines:
- Express that you are sorry for their bad experience
- Offer the customer a solution to their problem
- Explain how your business will prevent this problem from happening again.
Following these guidelines will show that your business is serious about customer satisfaction and has an active strategy to resolve customer’s issues. There should be a careful balance between not challenging the customer and not admitting fault as a business.
What If Another Business Leaves a Fake Review?
A rival business will often leave fake Google reviews in an attempt to damage a competitor’s reputation.
More times than not, they have hired an outfit in another country to leave the fake reviews. If this is the case, Google very well may remove without you having to do anything. Give it a few days to see if the review “sticks.”
Answer it and note any details that prove the review is a phony. If Google doesn’t remove it within a few weeks, you may be able to ask Google to remove it.
Dealing with a fake review is a little more complicated than addressing a customer’s bad experience. Above all, your response can never be aggressive, confrontational, or threatening.
This handy cheat sheet has the pitfalls to avoid when dealing with fake reviews:
Your well-crafted and timely response will show that you care about your customers, and what started as a customer’s frustration at their bad experiences can be turned into a promotion for your company. A satisfied customer will often volunteer to update their review once you’ve satisfied them. And even if they let it stand, your genuine response will signal to customers that they can trust you to make things right if they have any problems.
The official twitter account @GoogleMyBiz is a resource to reach out to if you are having trouble navigating the system.
Setting up Google My Business and using it to craft your manage presence is one of your strongest tools available when dealing with negative reviews.
Flag and Dispute any fake Google Reviews.
Google has some pretty specific guidelines for what’s appropriate in customer reviews. You can read the rules in full if you want, but here’s the restricted content you should know about:
- Spam, like the same comment dozens of times or the same review posted to multiple businesses.
- Threats, harassment, or hate speech
- Deceptive reviews from rival businesses
- Off-topic reviews not related to your business.
If a Google review violates any of these policies, there is an easy system to report it.
Dispute a bad review with two easy steps:
- Log into your Google My Business account
- Highlight the fraudulent review and click the flag icon to report
It’s really as simple as that! After you’ve flagged an inappropriate review and left a professional response, Google will decide if it breaks their terms of service and should be removed.
What If the Review Was a Mistake?
This happens all the time.
If someone is reviewing the wrong business, it’s as easy as noting that in your response, but you should also reach out to Google My Business and ask them to review the post.
Future customers won’t hold it against you if they see a review for your business talk about the cold cuts at Victor’s Delicatessen and a response that says “Sorry about that order ma’am – but this is Victor’s Repair Shop. We don’t sell meat, but we’d be happy to help if you need new tires!”
Make a change so you don’t end up going through all this trouble again.
A single bad review might be a fluke or a malcontent customer. But if multiple customers are having the same problem and bad reviews are piling up, there is probably a genuine issue that needs to be resolved.
After you’ve resolved the customer complaint, it’s easy to sit back and call it a day. The bad review has been addressed, and your business is tacking for smoother waters. But be warned -complacency is a trap! You need to follow through and address what caused the bad review in the first place. This can be the hardest part. It’s tough enough to admit you made a mistake, but it’s even harder to admit you might have a systematic problem.
They say the best defense is a good offense, and the best way to address bad reviews is to operate in a way that doesn’t aggravate customers in the first place. Don’t wait for bad reviews to pile up. Treat the bad review as a warning, and use it to improve your business. Once customers are satisfied, they good reviews will start piling up, and the few bad eggs will be buried in a sea of praise. A wall of positive reviews is the best way to counter your detractors.