We all know the importance of Google Reviews – a good review can often be the difference between a business being a success or a failure, with up to 92% of customers reading reviews before making a purchase. Unfortunately, even with all of your hard work to keep customers happy, there can be people who will leave fake or negative Google reviews.
This isn’t all bad news, as having a combination of positive and negative reviews indicates that the feedback is genuine and not simply from friends and family. In addition, if a business pays for Google reviews to increase positive feedback and overall rating, this can do more harm than good. Your business could risk getting a fine from the ACCC if reviews are deemed to be intentionally misleading.
However, if the comments are genuinely fake, or you feel they violate the Google Reviews policy, you should use the following steps outlined in this article to delete the feedback from your Google business account.
How do I identify fake reviews?
It is possible to identify whether new reviews are fake by looking out for the following signs:
- A sudden and significant increase in reviews about your business, when you haven’t had a substantial increase in business or run any marketing campaigns;
- Multiple reviews from the same IP address;
- Multiple reviews from similar accounts. For example, the same email address user names or passwords;
- Formal or ‘marketing speak’ writing styles;
Ten types of Review Violations
In addition to fake reviews left on your Google account, certain types of reviews should be automatically deleted from Google or will be deleted when they are flagged up. These types of posts are prohibited and restricted by Google’s review policy. These include:
1) Conflict of interest content, including posting reviews of your own business or getting a former or current employee to post a review;
2) Offensive or obscene content;
3) Harassment, intimidation or derogatory content;
4) Spam or fake content, including posting from multiple accounts;
5) Impersonating others or using fake accounts;
6) Restricted content;
7) Illegal content;
8) Terrorist in nature;
9) sexually explicit reviews;
10) Off-topic posts, for example, personal rants or political commentary.
What should I do next?
Unfortunately, it is not straightforward to delete a Google review, as you cannot simply log onto your Google account and delete the review yourself. However, by following the steps below, you should be able to get rid of your inappropriate, fake, or harmful reviews.
Step 1: Respond to the negative review.
Once determined whether the review is fake or a genuinely negative review, the next step is to respond to the customer. Although it will take a bit more time and energy, responding appropriately to the feedback could hopefully result in the customer deleting or editing their negative review. It is essential that you do not get defensive or make it personal, as a response in this way could end up escalating the issue and result in further negative feedback.
The ideal response is politely, with an apology if needed and an offer to correct the situation. You should keep the reply brief and professional. If further communication or information is required, ask the client if they would prefer to discuss the matter further via private communication channels.
Hopefully the customer will feel that their complaint has been listened to and dealt with appropriately by doing this. This could be the difference between the negative review remaining on your business page or the customer choosing to remove it for you. It can be challenging to receive criticism, but if used in a constructive way to improve the business, it can result in a positive outcome.
An example of a good response to a negative review would be as follows:
Hi XXXX, thank you for your feedback, and we are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience with the item you purchased from us.
We would like to correct the situation, so we will contact you directly for further details and discuss a refund/ return and feedback on how we can improve next time. We appreciate your cooperation.
An example of a bad response might look something like this:
Hi XXXX, we disagree with your negative feedback. Our items are of the highest quality, and none of our other customers have had any issues with the items purchased. We do not offer refunds as per our terms and conditions.
If the customer does not remove the review following an appropriate response, you can still flag it to Google to assess. In this case, even if it is not removed, future customers will be able to see that you addressed and corrected the situation, which will reflect positively on your business.
Step 2: Flag the review on Google
If the review is fake, the next step is to delete a review on Google is to flag it up. Only reviews that violate Google policy will be removed. Unfortunately, you cannot flag up a review simply because you don’t like it or disagree with it. Once the review has been flagged, you will need to be patient, as it may take several days for Google to respond to your flagged up comment.
The following steps outline how to flag up a comment on various devices:
1. Sign in to your Google My Business;
2. Open the listing you want to manage and click Reviews;
3. Click “More”, then click “Flag as inappropriate.”
Phone or Tablet
1. Open the My Business app;
2. Tap “Customers”, then tap “Reviews”;
3. Tap “More”, then tap “Flag review.”
1. Open Google Maps on your computer;
2. Navigate to your business listing;
3. Locate the review you want to remove;
4. Click “More”, then click “Flag as inappropriate”.
Step 3: Legal Remove Request
If you have contacted the customer and flagged up the review and it still has not been taken down or amended, then there are a few final steps you can take to remove the comments. These include contacting Google directly to request a callback and to find out the status of the flagged review or submitting a Legal Removal Request Form if the review can be considered illegal in any way or is in violation of the review policy discussed earlier in this blog.
However, you will need to be patient with this avenue, as it may take Google a few weeks to respond to your request.
Ultimately, ensuring customers have an overall positive experience and being proactive by responding to negative reviews should be the preferred solution to ensure your Google reviews and Google rating remains positive. Unfortunately, if you are a small business or do not have many reviews, even a few fake negative reviews can disproportionately skew your Google reviews to lower than they should be. One way to overcome this is to invest in software which contacts your customers following a purchase or booking to request feedback, and as the reviews build-up, your overall rating should also increase. A happy customer is a happy business!