How to deal with fake Google reviews

Cheryl Luzet - 1 September 2017

Getting a great review is brilliant for your business. Nowadays, more and more people are looking for word of mouth recommendations for businesses, and potential customers will often spend a great deal of time researching reviews online before they make a purchasing decision.

Of course, as a small business owner, it’s heart-warming to get fantastic reviews and they can also help your search engine ranking too. At Wagada HQ we recommend that our clients ask their happy customers to give them a good review on Google My Business, as this is a powerful way to show the search engines how relevant and valuable your business is.

However, sometimes your business could be unlucky enough to receive some fake negative reviews online. This can be extremely worrying and frustrating for small business owners, especially if they have worked hard to get positive recommendations. But the good news is that that there is a solution to fake reviews and you can get them taken down.  So we thought we’d take a look at how you can tell if you have a fake review and how you can go about removing it from Google My Business.

What is a fake review?

A fake review is usually a negative review posted by spammers, competitors or just people with malicious intent. The first clue is that they will usually give you a very low rating compared to other customers and obviously this will make them stand out from your other reviews. They may also include content which is clearly inaccurate about your business or that doesn’t seem to make sense.

They might even talk about a service that you don’t actually offer or make false claims against you. It can be very unpleasant to see these fake reviews on your Google My Business page and obviously you do not want future customers to be put off by reading them. Therefore you will need to get them removed. This should be a fairly simple process and Google My Business will be on hand to help if you do have any issues.

A guide to Google review policies

The first thing you will need to do is to reference the fake review content against the Google review policies. In summary Google state that they expect reviews to be ‘honest representations of the customer experience’ and review writers are warned that if they do not fulfil the policy requirements then their comments may be removed.

There are a number of issues that violate Google policies. These include spamming with links to other websites, including email addresses or phone numbers and going ‘off topic’ and talking about someone else’s experiences rather than your own. Reviews need to be honest and unbiased so any content from people who have been paid to write a review or negative reviews from competitors will breach guidelines too. Obviously any offensive content or reviews which include personal attacks on others will also be removed.

If you have a fake review it will usually meet one of the above criteria which means that you can then follow the process to flag and fix these reviews.

How to flag a fake review for removal

There is a fairly straightforward way to flag a review for removal. Once you have done this the information will be sent to the Google My Business team who will assess your review and then hopefully remove the listing for you.

Firstly check that the review violates Google criteria. If a review is factually accurate, you will not be able to flag it and Google won’t get involved in any customer disputes, as it is very hard for them to prove who is in the right!

You then need to navigate to Google Maps and search for your business there using either the business name or the address. Then when the search results come up select your business.

Once you have selected your business then in the panel on the left, scroll down to the review summary section. Under the average rating click on the ‘number of reviews’ button. Then scroll down to the review that is fake and click the flag icon. A form will then appear in the window in which you can fill in the details required by Google. After that all you need to do is simply click submit.

It is worth noting that once you have completed the form you will need to be patient. As you can imagine, the Google team are pretty busy and it can take several days for them to assess the fake review so don’t worry if you don’t hear back from them or see the review removed instantly.

If after a few days the review has not been removed, or if Google don’t wish to remove the review, you can always get in contact with a Google My Business specialist. They will be able to talk you through the process and deal with any issues you may have. To request a call, simply go to their help page.

Coping with fake reviews

We know that fake reviews can be stressful and upsetting but, reassuringly, they are rare and to try and crack down on them, Google makes use of automated spam detection measures which are designed to remove any reviews that have a high likelihood of being spam.

Most fake reviews do look quite obviously fake and often potential clients will see through them quickly – particularly if the majority of your reviews are really positive. So don’t let a fake review get you down. Keep calm and follow the above process and you should be able to get them removed from your page. And, if you have trouble understanding the process or are concerned about the effects of a fake negative review on your SEO, then get in touch with us at Wagada HQ. We’ll be happy to offer you our help and advice.