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Written by
Shaina Tennant
15 Apr 2021
5 minutes

How to handle fake Google reviews

This article decodes different types of fake Google reviews, explains how to spot them, and tells small businesses exactly how to handle them.
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Online is where the world is now reviewing products and services. Leading the pack is Google reviews, where you can find customer’s views on everything from movies to spas. Unfortunately, along with all the honest feedback, fake Google reviews are also growing.

If you are a small business owner, you must know the importance of Google reviews for growing your business. Google reviews have a crucial role to play in local search. Star ratings are the new parameter of trust.

For example, when someone searches for veterinary services, Google assumes that they are searching for a business nearby. So, the search results will feature relevant businesses in the vicinity.

A factor Google uses to figure out the relevance and trustworthiness of a business is the kind of reviews it gets. That’s why fake Google reviews are extremely troublesome for local small businesses.

Types of reviews

Before we get to handling fake Google reviews, we have to understand the types of reviews. Broadly, you will find four kinds. They are the good and honest, bad and honest, good and fake, and bad and fake.

Good reviews from real customers can help a local business grow. That will encourage other people to opt for your business. Bad reviews from real customers give you an opportunity to reach out, rectify the problem and ultimately improve your service.

While those are the honest reviews, there is a cottage industry around fake reviews. In the case of a fake but good review, you are unfortunately responsible for dealing with this, as the business owner. If you didn’t ask anyone to put up a fake good review, maybe one of your employees or family members did.

So, why are they bad? After all, even if it’s fake, it’s a good review for your business, right? The problem is that it’s illegal. You cannot publish undisclosed paid endorsements. It will attract costly fines, and if your customers cotton on then your reputation will suffer.

Plus, Google could notice it. That will lead to serious trouble with the search engine and you don’t want that. This search engine giant has the power to make or break a business, so we want to stay in the good books at all costs.

This brings us to the fake, critical reviews. You can easily spot them on Amazon, Google, and other review platforms.

Who are these people? Technically, they could be both people and bots. They could be hired by your competitors or someone whose business targets your entire sector. They could also be a disgruntled former employee. They could even just be liars, bored people, or trolls. Whatever the case, these reviews can be damaging if not handled correctly.

How to spot fake reviews

As a local business owner, you will usually be able to spot a fake review in seconds. If someone comments that your bakery “literally stinks, bad smell everywhere!”, you know that it’s fake.

Exaggerated claims of negative service without details — that’s the hallmark of fake negative reviews. Unfortunately, they can affect people’s perception of your business, as customers might not be as good as you at spotting fake reviews. Plus they will affect your ratings, and if more people do it, the problem will only grow.

Google is acutely aware of this issue. They are trying to stamp down on fake reviews. If their software finds that several reviews are coming from the same I.P. address or that the same person is commenting on several businesses, they know that it could be fake.

Also, fake reviewers tend to repeat their language. That helps algorithms spot them.

Managing fake reviews

If the review is demonstrably false, you can flag it. By demonstrably, we mean that you can give a substantial reason as to why it's a fake review.

Click on the flag icon in the review. That will take you to another page where you can click the “Report a Policy Violation” option.

2. Give your email address (your business one is best) and choose the “Violation Type

At times, the fake review could be nasty, vulgar, or even amount to hate speech. In such cases, you can expedite the process

1. Go to your Google My Business profile and click on “Reviews”.

2. You can select “Support” and give your information.

A Google executive will get back to you within a couple of days.

You could also engage with the fake reviewer. You shouldn’t lose your temper or accuse them of maligning your business. You should politely tell them that you don’t have any record of serving them and therefore cannot address the incident. You should also give them your contact information to get in touch with you.

Handling bad reviews

While poor feedback will negatively affect your star rating, it gives an opportunity for you to learn about loopholes and problems. In the case of a bad review from a real customer, it may draw your attention to an issue you were unaware of.

You should reply by saying that you are apologetic, and offer a solution. You can also invite them to a more private conversation through email or phone. Also, remember to thank them for taking the time to leave a review, as this shows other customers that you remain professional and calm no matter what.

Importantly, you shouldn’t treat a bad-but-honest review as fake. That will negatively affect your online reputation, as other customers will see that you would rather spend your energy discrediting real opinions instead of improving your business. Although a bad review can be upsetting, the best way forward is to take it as constructive criticism.

In short

Nobody can stop negative reviews. All you can do is actively engage with the bad reviews that appear to be honest while reporting the fake ones. If you do this diligently, Google will address the issue and remedy it to the extent possible.

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