Spotting and reporting fake Google reviews: a step-by-step guide
Table of Contents
Introduction to fake Google reviews
Fake google reviews are those reviews which are usually left by people who have not really engaged with your business these could be competitors with malicious intent OR an honest mistake by someone due to similarity in business names OR a business incentivizing people to write reviews. Regardless of the reason fake google reviews do not reflect the true nature of a business.
62 percent of customers claim to have spotted a fake Google review. The number is alarming in itself as it demonstrates the prevalence of fake Google reviews that possess the ability to tarnish a business’s online reputation.
Every Google review that is posted about a business acts as a vital tool to the company’s online reputation. It is unbiased feedback that helps potential customers make their purchase decisions. While positive Google reviews help build trust in a brand, negative reviews create doubt in the minds of potential customers.
Irrespective of the nature of the reviews, fake google reviews are the ones that do the most harm. Since Google is a third-party site, businesses do not have the authority to take those fake reviews down, they need to appeal the fake reviews by following the reviewal process of Google.
Importance of Google reviews
As soon as we hear about a new product or service that we desire to purchase, we go online and validate the business through google reviews.
72% of customers say they use Google reviews to find businesses.
88% of all reviews come from only the top four review sites. The top of which is Google.
What does this mean for you as a business owner?
Whenever a potential customer does a google search for your product, your google business profile along with your business website should be the first to pop up and one of the most relevant ways of doing this is by building and maintaining a good google rating which is basically dependent on the positive reviews your business generates.
You need to keep an eye on the kind of reviews you are receiving, good and bad so that an accurate depiction of your business is presented to the online audience. Good reviews get you more business and negative reviews give you valuable insights into areas of improvement.
Fake google reviews can be a major deterrent to your business’s online reputation keeping a constant watch and responding to all types of reviews is very important so that potential clients get the right impression of your business.
What exactly are fake Google reviews?
This question can lead to two answers. One from the perspective of receiving fake reviews and other from the perspective of buying fake reviews.
- Receiving fake google reviews is problematic for a business, as discussed above, they do not reflect the true nature of the business and may mislead potential customers. One might ask, why are we receiving fake google reviews in the first place?
This, among other scenarios, could be due to a competitor trying to tarnish your brand’s/business’s reputation.
- Buying fake google reviews on the other hand, is done by businesses to create a false perception about their business. This is highly unethical, and if spotted can lead to serious repercussions. We will be discussing this part of fake google reviews in the latter part of this article.
The question ultimately arises: How can you spot fake Google reviews?
Here are some best practices that you can implement to validate the authenticity of the Google reviews you receive –
- Pay attention to the details: Spotting fake Google reviews is not usually easy as the reviewer would not want to know that the review is fake. If someone posts a fake review, they will usually not have anything specific to write about the product or service. Pay attention to the details that you see in a review. If the reviewer is beating around the bush, not explicitly mentioning what went wrong, and is talking about personal stories; then it is a fake review. Here is an example:
2. Check your database for the reviewer: Creating fictional stories needs more hard work. So, for a reviewer also, writing a fake review would mean more use of simple language. They want to make the story look believable and write as if they’re recalling an experience. So, in that case, check whether you had a customer with that name and if you find nothing in your records, then the review posted is fake.
3. Look for exclamations!: Did you know that exclamation marks are the differentiating factors between deceptive and genuine reviews? A study from MIT justifies this fact. Always look for exclamation marks in your reviews. The more exclamation marks there are, the higher is the likelihood of the review being fake.
4. Check the reviewer’s profile: Another way to check fake reviews is to see if the reviewer has reviewed any other business or any of your competitors. If they have reviewed more than one business, you’ll be able to see it on the map on the side panel as you click on their profile.
In the above image, the reviewer has left only one-star reviews, which are quite generic. These elements indicate that this could be a spam account. If you see only one or five stars in a review and the reviewer leaves comments too frequently; then it is highly likely that the account is fake.
Always check the past review history of the reviewer, the overall score, and the pictures posted by the reviewer. These things will help you differentiate between fake and genuine reviews, and take appropriate action.
5. Check for comments: Make sure to flag reviews that only show star rating and no comments. Since Google allows users to review businesses without having to add any description, people take advantage of the same and post low star ratings.
Why is spotting fake Google reviews important?
As discussed above, spotting fake reviews is important because fake reviews mislead potential customers and paint a dishonest picture of your business in the public domain, They can cause considerable damage to your revenues and overall digital reputation.
Spotting fake reviews will allow you to take necessary steps to mitigate the damage done, which is reporting and removing the reviews. Next we will discuss how to report and remove a fake Google review.
How to remove fake Google reviews?
What can you do if you receive fake Google reviews? Can you save yourself from those? Above all, can you remove those fake reviews? Well, the best you can do is flag those, after which Google will follow up with you and hopefully be able to recognize that a particular review is fake.
As we mentioned before, you cannot remove reviews on your own as they’re being posted on a third-party site. So, to request the removal of fake Google reviews, follow these steps:
Step-1: Check if the review is fake.
Before you get into the whole process of flagging fake reviews, we’d like to warn you that there is no guarantee that the suspected fake review will be removed. Google takes its own time to determine the nature of the review and only takes it down if it is illegitimate. So, it is important to be absolutely sure of fake reviews before you go ahead and flag them. You can go through the aforementioned parameters to determine fake reviews.
Step-2: Login to your GMB account
To initiate the review removal process, log in to your Google My Business account and through that, you’ll be able to access all the reviews that people have posted about your business.
Step-3: Go to the review tabs from the list of options
Once you log in, you will be presented with a couple of options in the menu, from which, you need to select the review tab. Clicking on the same will direct you to all the reviews that people have left for your business.
Step-4: Select the review that you want to flag
Scroll through the list of reviews and select the review that you feel is fake. On the right-hand side of each review, there will be three dots. Click on those dots and you’ll see ‘flag as inappropriate’ as the option. Click on it and your selected review will be flagged.
Step-5: Complete the follow-up survey post flagging
What you need to do next is tell Google why you have flagged the review. The survey that follows will offer you a list of options. Click the one that is the most relevant to your request for review removal. This is what the list will look like:
Step-6: Hit submit
Once you’ve selected the most appropriate reason for flagging the review, just sit back and relax. If Google wants any justification with respect to flagging the reviews, they will contact you through email.
Step-7: Make sure you respond to the review
Whether the review is positive or negative, fake or genuine; make sure to respond to each review that you receive. Apologize to the customer for any inconvenience that your business might have caused, and ask how you can resolve the issue. If the review is fake, the chances are that you won’t receive a response.
How to report fake Google reviews and follow up on flagged reviews?
Apart from the process of review removal requests through GMB, there is also an alternate way to report fake Google reviews: the Google review workflow page.
From there, you can not just check the status of the reviews that you have already reported but can also report a new review that you feel is fake. Reviews that fail to comply with the Google Review Policies will be removed by Google.
Follow these steps:
1. You need to simply head to the Google review workflow page and log in.
2. Select your business from the listings.
3. Select the location and then hit continue.
4. You will be then prompted to select one option from the two shown in the image below:
6. If you wish to check the status of your previously flagged reviews, you can opt for the first option. Once you click on it, the status of those reviews will be displayed.
7. If you select the second option, you will be directed to a new page that will have a list of all the reviews. On the right side of each review, there will be an option to report it.
8. You can simply select that option and you will be presented with the same reasons to report the review that we mentioned earlier.
9. Select the option that seems the most relevant to you and hit confirm.
10. Then just return to the initial workflow tab and click continue. Voila! Your review removal request is submitted.
The processing of this report could take some time from Google’s end, so what should you do meanwhile? Not do anything? No.
How to respond to a fake google review?
While Google takes it time to assess the fake review, you need not sit idle and let the fake review tarnish your online reputation. Instead, take proactive steps.
Calling a fake review for what it is should be something you do without fail.
1. The first thing you can do is check if the reviewer is one of your customers, if not you can state this in your response that: “the review is fake’ as you do not have any record of serving such a customer.
2. It can surely be aggravating when you receive a fake review, however always remember to stay polite.
3. Give a timely response so that other customers also know that is a review that they should discard.
4. With fraudulent reviews, you’ll want to politely draw attention to the false accusations made in the review with specific facts and details. Here’s an example
Some Fake Google Review FAQ's
- Can I buy fake google reviews?
We just did a google search for ‘buy fake google reviews’ and got an article that presented best places to buy google reviews. Suffice to say, this is a practice many business’s follow to get quick positive google reviews. So, yes, you can buy fake google reviews. The question however you should be asking is that should you buy fake reviews?
- Is buying fake google reviews legal?
No, they are not. Buying fake google reviews can result in legal action. The federal trade commission forbids the use of fake reviews.
Under 15 US Code § 45, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the power to stop and penalize parties “using unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”
- What will Google do if I buy fake reviews?
According to Google,
“Misleading information can impact the quality of information on Google Maps. For this reason, we don’t allow individuals to use Google Maps to mislead or deceive others, or make misrepresentations. This includes:
- False or misleading accounts of the description or quality of a good or service.
- Distorting or omitting facts to scam other users.
- Distorting or omitting information that could have an undue impact on user decision making.
- Content that is based on a conflict of interest.
- Posting content that tricks users into revealing confidential information, downloading unwanted or malicious software, or subjects them to phishing or baiting”.
4. What will FTC do if I buy fake reviews?
Businesses that have been found using false reviews have faced severe legal penalties including hefty fines.
The FTC has the authority to impose heavy fines and even shut down a company if they find any sign of fake reviews.
Fake google reviews are an unfortunate reality almost every business has to deal with, however, with the right tools and some proactive steps you can safeguard your google ratings.
Removing fake Google reviews is not as easy as it seems. Even if you flag a review, Google will take time to analyse it, see if it complies with its policies, and will only remove it if it finds any discrepancies.
After you’ve done your part reporting the review, all you need to do is just sit back and wait for Google to follow up with you. While flagging reviews always remember to flag only those reviews that you think are fake. Just don’t randomly flag a review that highlights the weak points of your service.
You can benefit from negative reviews big time. By improving on those areas, you can deliver excellent customer service and change the perception of those people. Whatever the case may be, always remember to respond to google reviews, irrespective of their nature. Responding to reviews will potray your brand in a positive light and will enhance your online presence. So, the next time you get a demeaning review, make sure to assess it and flag it without any hesitation.