A significant concern you may have with online reputation management is managing reviews as a business owner. And not just any review management – dealing with bad reviews or even fake ones can be incredibly taxing on business owners.
Online reviews hold a great deal of significance in the minds of consumers. 82% of customers do their research on review sites before trusting a business. Search engine results drive impact here. So, if you’re a small business with glowing star reviews and feedback citing positive experiences on your Google listing, you have nothing to worry about! Or so you would think…
What happens when a fake negative review pops up? Is there a way to take it down? Yes, there is! You can flag the review and bring it to the Google business support team’s attention. Google review guidelines take fake reviews very seriously.
Don’t worry about your online reputation taking a hit following a fake negative Google review – take action. Follow the tips highlighted in this article to turn the situation around and claim your business credibility.
How do I flag a Google review to be removed?
Your team has been keeping an eye out on all the ratings and reviews your business has been getting. They’ve brought one to your attention with a customer name that you don’t have on record or remember providing services to. Their review is not only scathing – it’s also 100% false!
What do you do next? Time to get flagging.
If you believe that you’ve received an unwarranted and fraudulent review on your Google My Business listing. As an aggrieved business owner,you have every right to report it. The last thing you want is to lose out on potential customers and new business because of one fake Google review.
So, how do you do this?
The steps to flag a review with Google to request removal are pretty straightforward, especially if you already have a Google account:
Log into your Google My Business (GMB) profile.
Click on the “Reviews” tab. This is the business account area where you can manage and monitor all the Google reviews you receive.
Navigate over to the button with 3 vertical dots. A menu will drop down.
Choose the option “Flag as inappropriate.”
An alternative way to do this is by flagging reviews directly by searching through Google Maps.
Open Google Maps.
Search for your business listing.
Select your business from the search results that pop up.
Navigate to the review summary section. A new window will pop up with the average of all your ratings and show your business reviews.
Identify the review you want to flag and hover over it.
Click on the tiny gray flag icon that appears.
This will redirect you to the form shown below. Fill it out and hit “Report.”
And you’re done! You’ve officially flagged the review, and now the ball is in Google’s court.
How many flags does it take to remove a Google review?
You’ve flagged that negative review – great! Now, what?
Of course, Google is more likely to take action if a review or post amasses many complaints. You could always share the fake review with trustworthy customers and points of contact, asking them to flag and report it with Google too.
But do the number of flags make an impact on Google’s final decision to take down the review?
The answer is no.
Google reviews are removed even when just one person flags them and brings it to their attention. It’s all about the evidence you provide and the case you make for the review violating Google’s policies and guidelines.
For example, Google removes reviews if they contain hate speech, if they are from a bot, or even a random person on the Internet who has a personal problem with the owner but has never been a customer him or herself. These are all scenarios where there is a clear violation of Google’s policies.
As long as this can be clearly ascertained from the complaint you lodge during the flagging process, it is irrelevant to Google whether the review has been flagged one or even a hundred times.
How long does it take to Google to remove a review after it is flagged?
You might have heard more than once that you have to remain patient after you’ve flagged a review. Eventually, the review will be taken down, and your business will be crisis-free once again. But what if a week has passed and that fake review remains?
It’s natural to be a little fidgety when it comes to the fake bad Google reviews. The longer they stay up, the greater the reputational risk they carry. After you’ve flagged a Google review, the onus is on Google’s small business support team to take it down.
However, if a reasonable amount of time has passed by, it’s good to get in touch with the Google My Business support team. Escalating the fake review to the Google support team by directly getting in touch with them will guarantee you a response.
Make sure that you’re as specific as possible in your request for help. Highlight the parts of the review that violate Google’s review policy, which policy it violates, and how it’s impacting your business online. The clearer you are, the higher the chances of Google taking down that review.
Of course, this won’t happen at the snap of a finger, so exercise calm and patience. The support team may take up to 24 hours to get back to you.
If they do get back with a negative response, refusing to take down the review as they disagree with you and don’t see it to be in violation, don’t be disheartened! There are alternate routes you can consider.
If you feel that the review in concern is causing a great deal of damage to your business reputation or has broken the law in some manner, consider hiring a lawyer to request a legal removal. The Google support team will only go so far as to support you from a customer-service angle, but it is always helpful to have your own legal representation should the issue require it.
The only downside here is the expense. Hiring legal help can be pretty costly.
If you decide to take a legal route of action, make sure the review in concern truly warrants that kind of time and money. For example, if it’s a fake negative review that’s gone viral on social media and you’ve seen a recognizable and significant dip in your sales – it would be worth consulting with an attorney.
Respond to the review in a smart way
Not all bad or fake reviews deserve the time and effort legal recourse would take. So, what then?
There’s one other thing you can do to mitigate the negative repercussions of a bad Google review. You can respond to it.
You should respond to all the reviews that your business receives. New customers will gauge your communication levels with your customers online, and it acts as an indicator of the quality of your customer service.
Respond to the positive reviews, the bad reviews and, yes, even the ones with fake content. It’s important to voice your side of the story on the platform, especially in case of the review being an unwarranted negative one, so that potential customers reading your reviews will sympathize and understand that the error was not on your side.
Depending on the kind of review you receive, alter your response. For example, if the review was written by an angry customer who claims they’ve had a bad experience because your service was terrible, it’s a good idea to extend the olive branch and solve it. Doing so might lead to a change in the original review (they might even bump up your rating!)
On the other hand, if this review is from a fake customer, respond to the review and mention that there is no record of their customer experience, and that you believe their review is a mistake or an error.
These are all excellent ways to show your customers online that you value their feedback. Showcasing your business transparency by replying to reviews is a great way to build trust and strengthen customer relationships.
Pro-tip: if appropriate, offer to move the conversation offline or to another platform besides the review area, like your customer chat service, for example. This will allow you to address customer grievances privately.
Check out our article on review response templates and how to craft that perfect reply before you respond to reviews.
How to earn more Google reviews
How best to negate the impact of a negative review? Attract even more ratings and reviews!
Read through our resource blog posts on attracting more business and good reviews on Google, improving your local SEO and growing a sustainable and profitable business in the long run through these efforts:
Claim your business on Google and make that listing official
Attract reviews by inviting customers through a direct Google review link
Educate your customers on how to write a Google review
Remove negative reviews from Google search results
Review management can seem complicated and daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Our review management service will help you monitor and track your customer reviews and even take care of the negative ones in a hassle-free way.