Business owners can’t afford to ignore negative and fake reviews. Customers are now able to critique companies online without coming face-to-face with employees. While this is great for encouraging honest feedback, it bodes poorly for businesses that makes mistakes — which is every business.
Another downside of online review platforms is that not every review is authentic. To make matters worse, most people can’t distinguish between a real customer and a fake reviewer. Continue reading to learn how to remove Google reviews, or flag, report and delete fake reviews.
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Why it’s Important to Remove Fake Negative Reviews
It’s imperative to stay on top of your reviews across multiple platforms. A poor online reputation could do lasting damage to a large business and could even potentially destroy small businesses. It’s estimated that 91 percent of consumers read online business and product reviews, and they’re usually hunting for negative reviews in particular. They want to see any possible cons of your product or service and how you’ve responded to criticism.
This isn’t to say that all negative reviews are a bad thing. On the contrary, they have a paradoxical way of creating trust. An infinite list of positive reviews is often a sign of falsification. A sprinkling of imperfect star ratings creates trust between the brand and the consumer. Bad reviews also provide you with an opportunity to improve your business. Think of them as free and honest feedback that show you what is and isn’t working within your business. Constructive feedback can help you correct mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
Once you’ve improved customer satisfaction, you’ll need to address the bad reviews that were written online. Here are a few pointers handling less-than-optimal feedback about your business.
1. Evaluate Your Reviews
If you aren’t regularly checking your reviews across a variety of platforms and search engines (Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.), add that to your to-do list. Larger businesses should be monitoring review sites daily, while a weekly check-in will suffice for smaller businesses in most cases.
If you see a dreaded 1-star review, take a minute to formulate your response. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Take a breath, calm down, and come up with a management strategy to get a lid on the situation.
Remember that bad reviews come from a variety of sources. Most come from customers who’ve had a negative experience with your company, such as a faulty product, rude employees, or inadequate assistance. However, they can also be posted by disgruntled former employees, sneaky competitors, and spammers. Scrutinize the criticism to establish who may have written it.
How to spot fake reviews
If you see a suspicious review, check your records to ascertain whether the reviewer is a real customer. If you can’t find them, the review may be fake. Here are several ways to spot a fake review:
- The customer 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
Learn how online reputation management services can improve your search results.
2. Respond to Negative Reviews Quickly and Politely
The best action you can take to immediately gain the upper hand is to respond quickly, preferably within 24 hours. (The exception here is Yelp, which uses its own algorithm to filter popular reviews. Instead, wait at least 10 days to reply to fake Yelp reviews.)
Never, EVER ignore a review, true or false, no matter how scathing it may be. Addressing complaints quickly shows third-party readers that you’re serious about providing quality customer service. This is your chance to increase customer trust and assure others that they won’t have the same bad experience.
Tips for responding to negative reviews
Consider contacting the reviewer directly: There are cases when correspondence is best kept between you and the customer. If you’re positive the review is authentic and you need to hammer out the specifics of the situation such as which employees were involved, it might be best to send the customer a private message before doing anything else. But don’t forget to revisit the original review to add a response detailing the way in which the dilemma was resolved.
Take the proper tone: The tone of your response is crucial and will set the stage for the rest of your interaction with this individual. Don’t make excuses, don’t get defensive, and don’t deny any wrongdoing on your company’s behalf. Remember to keep things short and sweet. Maintain professionalism and own up to any mistakes you may have made. Swallow your pride and apologize, even if you’re not the one at fault. Thank the consumer and let them know that their feedback is valued.
Never threaten a lawsuit: Just don’t do it. Technically, you can sue someone for online defamation in a case like this, but even if you win, you’ll likely lose in the long run. This kind of lawsuit tends to draw lots of negative attention, and the media backlash you receive from suing a customer will scare off other clientele.
Offer to fix the problem: If the reviewer has presented a valid criticism that can be remedied, work with them to solve it. Take an objective view of the complaint. Speak with any employees who mishandled the situation, replace the faulty product, or do anything else it takes to make things right. Don’t make empty promises, either; follow through with everything you promise to do.
Responding to Fake Reviews (Yes, it’s Necessary)
It’s especially important to respond to fake reviews. Although you might be able to discern that the review isn’t true, the rest of your customers likely can’t. So before you do anything else, address their issue and apologize for their discontent. Then tell them that you are unable to find a record of their transaction. This sends a message to fraudulent reviewers that you’re onto them while appearing to potential customers as an offer of assistance. Finally, offer to remedy their issue and give them your contact information (email and/or phone number). We’ll discuss the next steps you should take in the following section.
3. Remove Negative Reviews, If Possible
It’s usually possible to have a bad star rating taken down if you can jump through the hoops of proving that it’s fake, inaccurate, or inappropriate. If the criticism is in earnest, however, it’s not possible for anyone other than the original author to delete the review. It would also be disastrous for your business if people were to find out that you’ve been deleting honest reviews from your company pages. In the case of false reviews, though, you should take action as soon as possible to erase any trace of them. Contact us for help with negative reviews.
How to Report and Delete Fake Reviews
You can flag inappropriate reviews that should be deleted if they violate any of the following Google review policies:
- Spam and fake content — Content must be genuine. False information intended to boost rankings will be removed.
- Off-topic — Content must reflect an individual’s experience at a location. Irrelevant social, personal or political commentary will be removed.
- Prohibited content — Any content that is illegal, locally restricted, sexually explicit, offensive, dangerous or derogatory will be removed. This includes hate speech.
- Conflict of interest — You may not review your own business, a current or former employer, or a competitor’s business.
Reporting fake Google reviews: Google maps is the easiest way to flag fake reviews. Find your business listing on Google Maps, and click on reviews. Next, identify any false reviews. The example below looks suspicious.
Now, click the three vertical dots on the right side of the review and select “flag as inappropriate.”
Further action for bad Google reviews: Google might not remove the fake complaint as quickly as you’d like, if ever. To speed things along, you can also personally contact Google. Visit your Google My Business profile again, but this time click on the “support” option at the bottom of the left side of the screen, and follow these three steps.
- Submit your phone number or email address along with a screenshot of the suspicious review, and you should receive a response in one to two days.
- 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 review policy along with any images you have.
- Finally, if you have evidence that the complaint is slanderous against your company, you can fill out a Google form for a legal removal request.
How to flag fake Facebook reviews
Here are the steps to flag reviews that don’t follow the Facebook community standards or are irrelevant to the products and services you offer. Go to the review and click the three dots in the upper righthand corner. Next, click “report post” and follow the onscreen instructions. While you can’t remove one-star reviews yourself, you can disable the feature on your page. Visit your business page, click “about” on the left side, then click “page info.” Change the page’s category to anything other than “local business,” which is the category that enables the review feature. Keep in mind that reviews are extremely important to people who are deciding which businesses to patronize. It’s an instant turn-off to see that your page has no reviews at all, so re-enable the review feature after you have a grip on the situation.
How to flag reviews on Yelp
If an inappropriate review hasn’t already been filtered out by Yelp’s algorithm, click on the three dots beside the review and click “report review.” If moderators find that the review breaches Yelp’s content guidelines, it will be taken down. Use your cursor to hover over the flag icon next to the review to see if it’s is still in the process of being analyzed or if the moderators have rejected your request.
Contact outside organizations if necessary
If you can prove that a competitor is attempting to steal your business by leaving fake reviews on your pages, you have the option to notify 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 know what they’re doing and that you’re taking action to protect your reputation. If the matter continues to escalate, it may be worth enlisting legal help.
Can you remove Ripoff report complaints?
Reporting and removing Ripoff Report reviews is much trickier than other more commonly-used sites. 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 [the] site is most effective when all complaints are maintained and preserved so that over time patterns of truly bad people and/or business practices are exposed.” Click here to learn more about Ripoff Report removal.
Can You Delete Google Reviews That You Wrote?
You can edit or delete reviews that you’ve personally written on Google, Yelp, and Facebook by navigating to the review and clicking the relevant option. In the case of Ripoff Report and similar third-party sites, you can’t delete an original post or submit any edits beyond misspellings and grammar corrections. Your only option is to file an update “to correct erroneous information, submit additional information, or explain how the circumstances have changed and/or otherwise been resolved.”
4. Follow up and Continue Monitoring
Check up on negative reviews: Did you make up for a negative customer experience? Did you offer a refund or other compensation? If you believe you’ve resolved the issue, reach out to the customer and ask for their current feelings about your business. They may be willing to revisit or delete their negative review.
Sadly, edits are often pushed to the bottom of the original complaint. So while the content isn’t necessarily replaced, the change can show off your excellent customer service to others. If the platform doesn’t allow for any changes, consider asking the customer to leave you another review. If he or she agrees to edit or delete their review or write a new one, be sure to leave a comment thanking them.
Keep tabs on reviews you’ve reported: Keep revisiting the ratings you’ve flagged to make sure they’ve been altered or removed. If not, try pursuing other courses of action as we outlined above. If you find more fake reviews, you may have a bigger problem, such as a competitor trying to interfere with your business. Continue to engage with and report them, but this is where you might start considering taking legal action.
5. Build a Positive Reputation
If your search results are still flooded with negative reviews, the problem most likely lies in your business. Reevaluate how you can fix your malfunctioning products and improve the services you provide. This might mean improving your customer service training or taking difficult steps like firing an employee, but you need to do what’s necessary to achieve happy customers.
The best defense is great customer service
Of course, the best method of online reputation management is to not get negative reviews. If that’s a lost cause, the next best thing is to rack up enough authentic positive ratings to drown out the negativity. Always do everything in your power to make each customer’s experience a good one. Don’t charge them more than necessary, deliver the correct order the first time, and do whatever you can to make your business a place where customers feel welcome.
Actively solicit reviews
Ask your customers what you’re doing right and what you could improve. If they seem to have positive sentiments about your company, encourage them to leave a review and show your gratitude to the ones who do. Here are some helpful tips to get Google reviews:
- Ask immediately after a transaction, but you can also include calls to actions on receipts and email newsletters.
- Post a list on your front door or cash register that details which review sites your business is on.
Include a suggestion box in your store or a feedback form on your company website; this gives consumers the option to air their grievances privately before posting them publicly.
- Never to buy or submit fake reviews, bribe your customers, or obtain too many good reviews in a short period of time — this looks just as suspicious as a sudden onslaught of bad reviews.
Bolster your online presence
Decide which social media platforms are most applicable to your organization and keep those profiles regularly updated with fresh content. Flesh out your Yelp, Facebook, and Google My Business profiles as much as possible. Add plenty of photos in addition to information about your website and social media accounts. Don’t forget to include your phone number, email, physical address, and hours of operation.
Stay aware: Set up Google Alerts for any term that specifically pertains to your company, including your brand, CEO, and website.
Amplify positive news: When you or others write flattering content about your business, promote it! Mention charity work, sponsorships and positive reviews whenever you have the opportunity. Also, be sure to link to these articles and reviews to help boost their visibility in search results.
Let Us Help: If you’ve tried everything else and your search landscape is still a mess, connect with our team for help today.