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June 21, 2021

Five Steps To Identifying And Removing Google Reviews

Whether you’re searching online for a new restaurant to try, buying a washing machine, choosing a hotel or deciding on a tradie, if you don’t take Google reviews into consideration, you’re in the minority.

According to Qualtrics, 93% of consumers are influenced by online reviews when they’re making purchasing decisions.    That’s all well and good if the reviews are genuine, but what if there are some fake ones in the mix which put people off?

Reviews are clearly a crucial element in managing your online reputation and they’re crucial for business success, which is why savvy website owners and managers invest a lot of effort in encouraging customers to leave reviews.   They do this in many different ways including embedding Google reviews into their websites and social media accounts, sending review links to customers via email or SMS, promoting reviews on their mobile apps and of course, using their Google My Business listings to attract feedback.

Savvy operators also understand that negative reviews are a reality.  They look for the opportunities presented by a negative review to placate a dissatisfied customer, set the record straight, right any wrongs and reinforce a positive brand message.

But just as responding to reviews is particularly important for small and local businesses, so too is being vigilant with spotting and removing fake reviews.

If you suspect that a review on your Google My Business listing isn’t genuine, don’t rush in with an angry or defensive response.  By all means act quickly, but tread cautiously and let good sense prevail.

Steps To Identifying And Removing Google Reviews

Here are the five steps you should take if you think a customer review is false:

Step 1: Monitor the reviews on your Google My Business account regularly

Even though this article is primarily about fake customer reviews, it’s really worth emphasising the importance of proactively managing your reviews on a regular basis.

You should confirm that your Google My Business listing (GMB) is verified and if you are responsible for multiple listings, check that you’re signed in to the right one.  Then you can click on the ‘Reviews’ tab and get started with your authenticity audit.

Step 2: Respond to all reviews

A customer writing a review has taken the time to post feedback online, they want their voice to be heard and you need to demonstrate that you value their opinion.  And that applies to both positive and negative reviews.

When you respond, you have the opportunity to engage with that customer, reinforce your brand message and actually strengthen your reputation.  Your response is tangible evidence of your commitment to customer service, and if you stay silent, people are likely to think that your business simply doesn’t care.

Look out for the following signs that may indicate that a review is fake:

  • Bad grammar and incorrect punctuation
  • You have no record of the customer on your books
  • Your staff have no recollection of the alleged incident

You need to respond to all your reviews – including those you suspect are fake!   It’s actually really worthwhile having a strategy for dealing with reviews so that your team members all follow the same protocols.  This will ensure that the style, tone and message of the responses are consistent.

You may find the following sample templates helpful as a reference for creating your company’s response.  Remember, this is an opportunity for you to engage with that particular customer and present your brand personality, so you can put a unique spin on your company’s template.

Template for a fake review

Hi/Hello/Good Day [Name of Reviewer]

Thank you for taking the time to leave a review of [name of business].  All our customers are important to us and we regret that you had an unsatisfactory experience.  Unfortunately, despite a thorough search of our records, we have been unable to find details of your interaction with us, so we are not able to verify you as a customer.  We would welcome an opportunity to discuss the matter with you at your earliest convenience, so we ask you to please get in touch with our customer service representative either on [phone number], through our website [address] or email  [email address].  We look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you.

Template for a positive review

Hi/Hello/Good Day [Name of Reviewer]

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a lovely review!  We are so pleased to hear that you had a great experience with us. We really appreciate you supporting [name of business] and we hope to help you again soon.  Best regards

Template for a negative review (one that is authentic, not suspected to be fake)

Hi/hello/Good Day [Name of Reviewer]

Thank you for taking the time to leave a review.  We regret to hear that you had a bad experience as customer satisfaction is a priority at [Name of Business].  Your opinion matters to us and we would welcome an opportunity to make amends.   Please could you email our customer service representative at [email] with more details of your interaction and we will respond as quickly as possible so that we can work out a satisfactory solution.  Thank you very much.

Step 3: Flag any fake reviews

It’s worth knowing that Google has a set of guidelines for responding to fake negative reviews (here) and if they deem that any are in breach of their rules, they will take them down.  The longer you leave a fake negative review up on your dashboard, the more damage it can do, so you need to be consistently vigilant and flag any suspicious ones.

If you’ve responded to a fake negative review and haven’t heard anything back from the ‘unhappy customer’, it’s probably fraudulent and needs to come down as soon as possible.

You can flag the false review using the drop down menu on the ‘Review Actions’ portal.  Simply click on the three vertical dots and then click on ‘Flag as inappropriate’.  This will take you to Google where you can flag the violation by filling out the relevant details and submitting the report.

If you’re reluctant to wait for Google’s response because you feel the fake review contains concerning material (such as abuse, slander or hate speech), there are ways of getting in touch with Google support directly.

You can either contact them though the support function in Google My Business, you can go the social media route and post a tweet to @GoogleMyBiz or you can seek legal advice.  The legal route is an extreme step however and you should accumulate as much relevant information as possible (eg emails, screenshots, customer records, CCTV footage, witness statements etc) when you meet with your lawyer.

To conclude:

Fake reviews are an unfortunate reality of the world of ‘keyboard communication’, but they won’t be any real concern if you are vigilant about looking for them and follow a step-by-step process for dealing with them.   As I mentioned earlier, it’s actually really important for businesses to put time and effort into managing their customer reviews, responding to each one and encouraging positive reviews wherever possible.

If these tips have been helpful or you would like more insights into Google My Business, you’ll be interested in my new course, The SEO School. It takes you through all the key tools and techniques of a successful SEO strategy.  The course is great for business owners, website managers and anyone who wants hands-on learning about all the essentials of SEO from an industry expert.  Find out more about The SEO School here.

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