How Can A Local Business Owner Remove A Fake Google Review?

 

By having a review generation & monitoring system in place, by responding to every review, and by taking the appropriate steps to remove the fake review while also cultivating positive reviews from existing customers, with consistency.

We’ll examine that review system and the steps involved in more detail below, but first I want to point out how having your blinders on about reviews won’t protect you from becoming a victim of a fake – or many fake – reviews.

Are local business owners really victims of fake reviews on Google? Is the problem really that bad?

Yes, it’s not #fakenews – it’s #fakereviews – and sadly it’s just a fact of doing business in the social, mobile, digital world.

As for it being a systemic issue that is really that bad or not, ask yourself how you would feel if you saw some fake 1-star bullshit review pop up on your Google My Business listing.

 
How To Get Fake Google Reviews Removed
 

It would probably anger you, at least a little bit, even if you knew it was completely fake. And it would really anger you if another local business owner bought those reviews for a price.

You’d think, “what’s going to happen when prospective customers go searching for us?”

“How can I remove that fake review?”

 

Local Businesses Get Fake Reviews Too

 

Fake reviews are actually a lot bigger problem than most local business owners know. But let’s not miscategorize a negative review with a fake review.

This dentist made a major PR blunder when he threatened to sue people who left him a negative review on Yelp, and he’s not the only one to explore litigious action in response to a negative review, however misguided that is.

In all likelihood, any business who receives a negative review will not be very successful in having it removed.

But you can be successful in having a fake review removed, and a lot of times Google is easier to deal with than Yelp, or Facebook’s non-existent support.

With both Facebook and Yelp, you “report” the review in question, answer some questions, then stand by to stand by…which most of the time either gets you flooded with sales calls to buy Yelp Ads, and very little action from Facebook.

A study by the Harvard Business School found that 20% of Yelp reviews are fake, that number should be of major concern to any small business owner.

That’s a huge reason why you should be actively monitoring your reviews by having the Google My Business App, the Yelp for Business Owners App, and the Facebook Pages Manager App on your phone.

Having fake reviews removed, ones that do not accurately reflect a real customer reviewing your business is essential to maintaining a positive reputation – whether you like it or not.

This is one reason why as a local business owner you can no longer afford to leave your online reputation up to chance.

When it comes to preventing & guarding against fake reviews, AND consistently generating positive reviews, the best defense is a good offense.

Receiving a fake review on your Google My Business listing is something that can be both infuriating to see, and annoying to have removed, especially since there is no guarantee Google will remove it at all.

The fake reviews industry has exploded over the past several years. If you haven’t seen the recent TV news stories here’s an example of the booming fake reviews industry.

Most local business owners have many more important things to worry about on a day to day basis than fake reviews, and attempting to have a fake Google review removed can feel as frustrating as receiving the fake review in the first place, even more so.

 

What Does Google Consider A Violation Of Their Review Policy?

 

Reviews that specifically violate their review guidelines have the best chance of being removed. But, that’s if the bad guys really cared about playing by Google’s rules in the first place.

You’re best served to review & site the specific guideline that was violated on the fake review you received, the Google review guidelines prohibit the following in reviews:

  • Spam & Fake Content
  • Off Topic
  • Restricted Content
  • Illegal Content
  • Sexually Explicit Content
  • Offensive Content
  • Hate Speech
  • Harassment & Bullying
  • Impersonation
  • Conflict of Interest

If you’ve found yourself a victim of a fake review, or reviews, the guidelines you will most likely have to prove the review is in violation of are:

  1. Spam & Fake Content – ex: a local competitor hired an “online reputation management” service, and they’ve taken to fake review bombing a bunch of other local dentists, including you.
  2. Off Topic – ex: you’re a dentist, but you received a review from someone who appears to be reviewing an auto parts store, or restaurant, or laundromat, or any other business that isn’t a dentist.
  3. Conflict of Interest – ex: a disgruntled former employee leaving a review about you & your practice.

Since those who are in the business of posting fake reviews don’t give a hoot about Google’s policies & guidelines, it’s important to make the attempt to have the fake review removed, here’s how to do it…

 

What Does A Business Owner Do When You Get A Fake Review?

 

First, breath & assess the situation. Make sure it’s actually fake, not just an unhappy customer. Then…

 

Step 1. Respond to the Review

 

I’ve always recommended that you should reply to each & every review you get. This has become even more important since Google announced:
 

“We’re launching notifications to inform your customers when you respond to their reviews, with plans to release mobile push notifications at a later date.”
 
“When businesses respond to or update responses to customer reviews, the customer now receives an email notification. The business’s response is published immediately and 5 minutes later, the notification is sent. This 5-minute delay allows time for the merchant to make any corrections to their response after submitting.”
 
“The notification email informs the customer of a reply to their review, and contains a link to a page with the full owner response.”
 
“Note: The review response is published immediately on Search and Maps.”

 
While it may feel like beating a dead horse trying to get a fake review removed from Google, you still have the ability to respond to it, and thereby further marginalize its impact if it doesn’t get removed.

What’s that you say?

“If the review is fake, then my response is useless.”

Yes, since it’s a fake review your reply really won’t do anything toward actually resolving the problem for that person, which is the strategy behind replying in the first place, but it goes deeper than that.

By replying to even a fake review, you, as a trusted local business make it clear to other prospective & existing customers that:

  1. You are aware of the review.
  2. You take what reviewers say seriously.
  3. You are dedicated to remedying situations that are communicated to you in the form of a public review.

Follow the cardinal rules of replying to a fake review much like you would to a negative review:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Research the patient & the situation – identify that it’s truly a fake review.
  3. Reply professional, devoid of emotion, & keep it brief.

Here are some guidelines Google suggests about responding to reviews.
 

Here is an example of how to respond to a negative or fake review:

 

“Hi there, [insert reviewer’s name here]”
 
“We welcome the feedback of our patients, and we take these matters very seriously. However, unfortunately, we have no record of your identity, your name, or your Google Account in our records.”
 
“If you were a customer of ours, we would like to investigate this issue further, please contact [insert customer service name here] immediately at [business email address] so that we can resolve this issue immediately.”

 

Any business owner is obviously going to feel upset and cheated if you receive a fake review, but by responding to it in a calm efficient manner you are providing a positive reflection of your business for a perceived negative situation.

When prospective customers go searching for your goods & services in your local area read that review and response, you can quickly realize that acquiring a prospective new customer is far more valuable than sneaking in the last word via a keyboard argument.

Respond quickly, with professionalism, clarity, and devoid of emotion. Then move on to step two in removing a fake review of your local business on Google.

And even though there are guidelines for leaving a review, the people responsible for proliferating the fake reviews don’t really care about them.

 

Step 2. Flag The Fake Review

 

This step can be of more importance than actually responding because you’re notifying Google about this review guidelines violation by “flagging” the specific review in question.

If you find a review that you believe violates Google review policies, you can flag it for removal. The review will be assessed and possibly removed from your listing.

Here is how to flag a fake review, directly from Google:

 

Desktop

 

  1. Sign in to Google My Business.
  2. If you have multiple listings, open the location you’d like to manage.
  3. Click Reviews from the menu.
  4. Find the review you’d like to flag, click the three-dot menu, then click Flag as inappropriate.

 

How Local Businesses Flag a Review for Removal on Google

How Local Businesses Flag a Review as Inappropriate on Google

 

Flag a review in Google Maps

 

  1. Open Google Maps.
  2. Find your business listing.
  3. Find the review you’d like to flag.
  4. Click the three-dot menu, then click Report review.

 

How Local Businesses Flag a Fake Review on Google Maps App

 

Mobile

 

  1. Open the Google My Business app.
  2. Tap the menu, Three dash menu then tap Reviews.
  3. Find the review you’d like to flag, tap the three-dot menu, then tap Flag review.

 
How Local Businesses Flag a Fake Review on Google My Business App
 
Once you click the Flag as inappropriate, Report review, or Flag review popup you will be brought to the Report a Policy Violation page, that looks like this:

 

How Local Businesses Submit a Flag Review Violation on Google

 

Enter your business E-mail address (that actually gets checked), choose the Violation Type, click Submit.

You’re done. You will only hear from Google if they require additional details or if they have information to share with you, which is why it may require some additional follow up on your behalf – see step 3.

 

Notes About Flagging A Fake Review

 

  • Have several people (in different Google Accounts) flag the review also. There is no guarantee here – or anything with reviews – but it may help bring more attention to it – and action to remove it – if multiple people flag the review.
  • Don’t flag the same review more than once. And don’t bother flagging a review that doesn’t explicitly violate one of Google’s guidelines, you’ll just be chasing your tail for months.

 

How Local Businesses Flag a Fake Review on Google

 

  • After you’ve flagged the fake review, wait at least a week for a response or ideally for it to be removed. Google support is inundated with these requests daily, but if the fake review in question violates the specific Google reviews guidelines on hate-speech, profanity, and/or highly sensitive content, you can escalate it by contacting Google support immediately. The best ways to do that are Twitter or Facebook.

 

Step 3. Report the Review to Google Small Business Support

 

If it’s been over a week or more since you flagged the review, or if the fake review in question violates the hate speech, profanity and/or highly sensitive content guideline you should reach out to Google support on Twitter OR Facebook, NOT both. I prefer Twitter.

Here’s how to do that.

 

Contact Google My Business Support via Facebook

 

Keep in mind that it will take them some time to respond to your message since review spam (fake reviews) is such a big problem these days, Google support probably gets thousands of these requests each day, or more. Don’t keep sending a message every day, wait for a response and take it from there.

  • Sign in to your Facebook account.
  • Send a message on the Google My Business Facebook Page.
  • When you get a reply, explain your situation – that you received a fake review which specifically violates one of their guidelines, point out which one – and be sure to include a link to your Google My Business listing and a screenshot of the fake review.
  • Standby, they will get back in touch with you whether they are removing the fake review or not. But, it could take up to 2-3 weeks in my recent experience.

 

Contact Google My Business Support via Twitter

 

The small business team is knowledgeable and also takes around 24 – 48 hours to get in touch with you (no guarantee though).

  • Sign in to your Twitter account.
  • Send a Direct Message (DM) from your practice account to Google My Business – if you send a Tweet they’ll just respond via DM asking you for more info, so start with a DM.
  • When you get a reply, explain your situation – that you received a fake review which specifically violates one of their guidelines, point out which one – and be sure to include a link to your Google My Business listing and a screenshot of the fake review.
  • Standby, they will get back in touch with you whether they are removing the fake review or not. But, it could take up to 2-3 weeks in my recent experience.

Through both Facebook & Twitter support, following successful submission of your report, a support associate will contact you and advise you whether or not they will be escalating the review(s) to a “specialist.”

This specialist will be ultimately responsible for determining the outcome of your fake review – whether it’s removed or not.

When that specialist makes the decision you will get a Twitter DM or Facebook Message confirming the proposed action.

 
How Local Business Owners Get Fake Reviews Removed via Twitter DM
 
If all else fails, or it’s been weeks since you last heard back from support on Facebook or Twitter – and you’ve attempted to contact on the same message thread as before – you can try to enlist the power of the people in your fight against fake reviews.

Another important note here, don’t try to skip steps and reach out to the Google My Business community forum before formally flagging your fake review, and contacting Google My Business support directly via Facebook OR Twitter.

You’ll just wind up wasting your own time having to do that prerequisite steps anyway, and you’ll potentially piss off a community member who could help you by wasting their time.

 

Reach Out the Google My Business Forum For Help

 

If you have a specific question with regards to the spam policy or are seeking advice from other community members, you can use the Support Forum to get answers.

  • Go to the Google My Business Spam & Policy Forum.
  • Before you go spouting off, someone else in the past has most likely asked about fake reviews and received an answer. So, search for questions or issues related to yours and read the answers. Then, you can ask a question about your specific fake review issue.
  • There are a bunch of very helpful experts, community moderators & top contributors who can help you, and possibly escalate your fake review problem to Google on your behalf.

As I’ve stated repeatedly, in order for any dentist to remove a fake review from Google you will need to go through the steps mentioned above in order, with vigor, and patience.

And not that you’ve learned that, take the necessary steps to put a review acquisition & management offense in place so you can have the best defense against any fake reviews.

Our Google Reviews Toolkit will set you back $39.00.

Is that worth protecting your reputation & boosting your digital word of mouth, let alone local ranking factors?

You bet your ass it is!

Get Consistent 5-Star Reviews with Our Google Reviews Toolkit

 
1LocalBusiness.com Google Reviews Toolkit

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