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“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get…” -Forest Gump
Gaining Google reviews for your business can feel a lot like the quote stated above, you never know what type of google review you are going to get.
So what happens it’s a bad review or a fraudulent review? Is there anything you can do to help mitigate the damage?
Read below to find out how…
1. Handling fake Google reviews
It’s estimated that 91 percent of consumers read online reviews before they make a purchase.That’s why it’s imperative to stay on top of feedback across all review platforms, including Google, Facebook, Yelp and Ripoff Report. Larger companies should monitor review sites daily, while a weekly check-in will usually suffice for small businesses. Here are a few other posts that will help you find reviews:
If you discover a dreaded 1-star review, don’t light your torches and form a mob. Instead, take a breath, calm down, and determine the authenticity of the review.
A business may get a bad Google review for many reasons. But most of the time it happens because of a bad customer experience with your company. For example, perhaps someone received a faulty product or experienced poor service.
But sometimes complaints are just plain false. Disgruntled former employees, sneaky competitors and spammers may attempt to tarnish your reputation. Read criticism carefully to figure out who may have written it, and why.
Ways to spot a fake Google review
Compare suspicious complaints with your sales records. Can you find any matching transactions? Here’s checklist to help you spot a fake review:
- The buyer isn’t in your point of sale software system
- Purchased items and/or the transaction date doesn’t match their complaint
- No customer service calls on record
- Lack of detail (e.g., they haven’t named any specific employees)
- You noticed a surge of bad reviews in a short period of time
- There’s a connection between the reviewer and a competitor
- The reviewer recommended a competitor in their complaint
The image below is a perfect example of a fake Google review that should be reported.
Here’s another example of fraudulent reviews that were all written on the same day.
How to flag a fake Google review for removal
Ok, so you’ve found the fraudsters and now you need to get rid of them. Google Maps is the easiest way to flag and report a fake review, and here’s how to do it.
First, find your business listing on Google Maps, and click on reviews. Next, identify any false reviews using the tips we shared above. Finally, click the three vertical dots on the right side of the Google business review and select “flag as inappropriate.” That’s all there is to it.
Contact outside organizations if necessary
If you can prove that a competitor left a fake Google review for your business, report them to the Better Business Bureau and your local Chamber of Commerce. Of course, you should also inform the owner of the competing business privately and politely that you’re taking action. Informing them should put a stop to their unscrupulous activities.
In the next section we’ll walk you through the process for handling negative Google reviews.
How to delete bad Google reviews
The short answer is, “yes.” But before you get too excited, there are some important restrictions to know about.
It’s usually possible to have a bad star rating removed if it violates Google’s guidelines, such as fake, inaccurate or inappropriate content. For example, if a customer left a 1-star rating because of a Trump poster in your store window, that’s irrelevant, and it should be taken down.
Here are a few common types of negative Google reviews that you can dispute:
- Spam and fake content:Content must be genuine. Google will remove false information intended to boost rankings.
- Off-topic — Content must reflect an individual’s experience at a location. Irrelevant social, personal or political commentary will be removed.
- Prohibited content:Google will delete illegal, locally restricted, sexually explicit, offensive, dangerous or derogatory content. This includes hate speech.
- Conflict of interest:You may not review your own business, a current or former employer, or a competitor’s business.
If any Google business reviews and complaints fit the above criteria, you have a few options to get rid of them. Below we’ll cover disputing the review, tweeting to Google, and taking legal action.
Steps to dispute a Google business review
Google might not delete a flagged complaint as quickly as you’d like, if ever. To speed things along, you can also personally contact Google and ask them to take it down. However, you can’t just email Google support.
Follow these simple steps to dispute a Google review:
- Visit your Google My Business profile
- Click on the “support” option in the navigation panel
- Select “Need more help”
- Click “Customer reviews and photos”
- Select “Manage customer reviews”
- Then click “Email support”
Ok, you’ve made it this far. But before you fire off an angry email, you should get organized. The more information you can provide to support your case, the better. When you’re ready, submit your phone number or email address along with a screenshot of the suspicious review, and you should receive a response within two days.
In case your removal request was denied or you didn’t hear back, here are a few other options that may work.
Tweet to Google
If your situation is especially pressing or you still haven’t received an adequate response, try tweeting directly to @GoogleSmallBiz. Explain your predicament and how the negative Google review violates their policy along with any images you have.
File a legal removal request
Finally, if you have evidence that the complaint qualifies as slander against your company, you can fill out a Google form for a legal removal request.
So far we’ve addressed irrelevant and fake reviews. But if you’ve got legitimate one on your hands, you may need to go to the source to fix it.
3. Ask customers to delete Google reviews
When you’re dealing with a truthful complaint, kindness may be the most effective (and only) method to get it removed. Google won’t delete a bad review simply because you don’t like it. After you resolve the customer’s issue, they may be willing to take down the complaint if you ask nicely.
Most people leave scathing feedback because they feel trapped and powerless. They’re angry that they’ve lost money or dealt with a hassle. If you make them feel like they’re in charge from the start, they won’t feel the need to lash out online. Follow this advice to respond to negative reviews and win customers over:
Contact the reviewer directly
Sometimes it’s best to talk offline. If you can get people on the phone, they’ll see you as a human and not a faceless business. This could give you an even better shot at calming them down and resolving the issue.
Take the proper tone
The right tone can turn a complaint into a positive review. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get defensive. Keep things short and sweet. Be professional and own up to any mistakes you may have made. Swallow your pride and apologize, even if you’re not the one at fault. Most importantly, thank the consumer for their valued feedback.
Offer to fix the problem
If the reviewer has a valid complaint, work with them to solve it. Address the employees involved, replace the faulty product, and make things right for the dissatisfied customer. But don’t make empty promises. Instead, follow through with everything you guarantee. Most negative reviews can be flipped around if the customer sees that you are willing to make things right.
Never threaten a lawsuit
Just don’t do it. Technically, you can sue someone for online defamation in some cases, but even if you win, you’ll likely lose in the long run. Lawsuits draw negative attention, and the media backlash from suing a consumer will scare off other clientele.
If you’ve made it this far then fixing or removing the complaint may be a lost cause. So we’ll give you a few pointers on how to bury it in Google search.
4. Delete reviews from Google
Even if you successfully get a Google review taken down, it might remain your search results for a while. Therefor, we recommend you submit a request to remove outdated content. However, this only works if the review has indeed been deleted or modified. You can read more about how to remove search results here.
5. Bury negative reviews in Google search results
Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t get a Google review removed. But, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. You can still bury negative search results so potential customers don’t find them. Here are a few online reputation management strategies you can use.
Ask happy customers for reviews
The best way to overshadow a nasty comment is to drown it out with praise. Ask your customers what you’re doing right and what you could improve. Then, let them know how to find your Google My Business page to leave a review. Here are some helpful tips to get more Google reviews.
NOTE: Never buy or fabricate feedback, and don’t bribe your customers for positive reviews. Those actions will only increase your reputational risk.
Optimize your social media profiles
Establish and optimize your social media profiles and keep them regularly updated with fresh content. Add descriptions of your business, contact information, and your address. Don’t worry about posting every day, but you should make an effort to keep the lights on.
Earn and amplify positive news
Are you helping your community or giving to charities? Connect with local media outlets and convince them to write about your good deeds. You can also pitch stories and provide expert quotes to online publications. These positive mentions will help push any bad reviews off page one of your search results.
Let us help
Burying negative content in your search results is no small task. If you’d rather ReputationManagement.com do the work for you, contact our team. Or, check out our article about the best (and worst) reputation management companies.
Check other online review platforms
Bad reviews aren’t limited to Google. If you’ve got issues on one review platform, you may have problems elsewhere too. Fortunately, we’ve written extensively about removing negative reviews on all the most popular platforms.
Whether you’ve created an official Facebook page or not, your customers could be talking about you there. What’s worse, you may have started a page years ago and never gone back to address reviews that could be piling up. Check out this post to learn how to remove reviews from Facebook.
If an inappropriate review hasn’t already been filtered out by Yelp’s algorithm, you can report it. Moderators will determine whether the review breaches their content guidelines act accordingly. However, fake reviews often slip through the filters. Read our full article about how to remove yelp reviews to learn more.
It’s much trickier to get rid of Ripoff Report reviews. The only way to remove a Ripoff Report is to pay them an exorbitant amount of money. Otherwise, the platform refuses to take down complaints because they believe comments should be preserved to expose patterns of bad business practices. That means you’ll have to resort to reputation management services to push these results down. Learn more about Ripoff Report removal here.
How to Remove Google Reviews as a Customer
Your experiences may change and so might your perceptions. Maybe you had a terrible experience at a restaurant but after you submitted a complaint, they made it up to you with a fantastic free dinner. In cases like these, you might want to edit your initial review so that it fits with your new impression of the business.
If you have posted a Google review yourself and are looking to remove it, here’s how:
- Open Google Maps in your browser
- Click the Menu (hamburger menu in the top left)
- Next, click on “Your contributions”
- After that, click on“Reviews.
- Next to the review you want to edit or delete, click the three vertical dots on the right side, then Delete.
A 3-Step Guide to Managing Negative or Bad Reviews
Review platforms like Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and others aim to deliver honest and unbiased online reviews. Some sites have strict penalties for businesses that try to game the system either by writing fake reviews, offering incentives, or some other backhanded maneuver. Only reviews that explicitly violate the review site’s Terms & Conditions have a chance at being removed, but only by a site administrator.
In other words, an authentic Google business profile displays ALL opinions from ALL customers, not just the ones the business prefers. Businesses cannot delete Google reviews simply because they disagree.
Though a negative review may at first seem detrimental, it’s important to note that a few negative reviews can help you more than they hurt you. A study by the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University found that customers are most likely to purchase from companies with 4.0-4.7 review ratings. That’s because customers are usually somewhat suspicious about businesses that have only positive reviews.
Every business has unhappy customers. Though you can’t control customer opinion, you can control how you choose to deal with negative feedback.
Here’s how you can respond to negative reviews.
- Take a deep breath and relaxIt’s easy to have an emotionally-charged reaction to a negative review from a customer. But try your best not to do that. While it might feel good in the moment, speaking to a reviewer aggressively only makes you look worse in the eyes of potential customers.
Don’t take bad reviews personally. Take it as a blessing. Sometimes, a bad review can highlight issues in your actual business operations and can show you where you might have room for improvement. At the very least, it can give you the opportunity to highlight your customer service.
- Prepare Your ResponseReviews piling up with no response tell customers your business doesn’t care about their experience. Be proactive to control customer perception.
Apologize sincerely for the problem that the customer encountered. You want to show everyone that sees your response to know that your business is serious about providing superior service to every single customer.
If it’s unclear what exactly they had a problem with, provide direct contact information so you can make sure you can combat the problem directly. For an example, check out this apology response template.
Thank you for providing your feedback and letting us know about this issue. We set a high standard for our service and are truly sorry to hear that standard was not met in your interaction with us. Please get in touch with us on (company phone number) and we’d be happy to help you out.
Once you feel certain that you understand the customer’s complaint, offer options to ease their concerns and show you care. Consider the following:
Refund their money. Use your best judgment to determine if the issue was exceptionally awful enough to merit a full refund.
Offer a discount for the next time they return. This increases the likelihood of the customer giving you a second chance.
Promise to fix the problem internally. List specifics on how you will address the issue and when you expect the issue to be resolved.
- Ask the Customer to Remove or Edit Their ReviewAfter providing a thoughtful response, you can politely ask your customer to delete or revise the review.
Here is an example of a message that can be used to ask a customer to remove or edit their review of your business.
Thank you for helping us to improve our customer experience. We regret that your initial experience with us turned out to be a negative one. Based on your feedback, we have taken steps to make sure that this issue will not happen again for you or any other customer. If there are any additional issues you would like to see resolved, let us know and we will work to quickly resolve them.
We do understand that your review of (Company) on Google was based on your initial experience. We hope that your opinion on our brand has since changed in a more positive direction. If that is the case, we would appreciate if you edited your review to more closely reflect your current opinion. We take all of our customer reviews seriously and we want to make sure that every review is as accurate as possible.