What we in the digital marketing industry are seeing more and more of -unfortunately- is fake and malicious Google reviews. Business owners work hard to earn their customers and markets trust, and when a questionable Google user or fake customer comes along and tarnishes your business with a scathing review that is unwarranted – the hurt can run deep.
So what can you do about it?
Here is a sample of reviews from a business in South Perth that started receiving reviews from people publicly stating they WERE NOT FROM PERTH and HAD NOT BEEN to his business, yet they left a one star review anyway! A clear cut case of a fake review as their admission of not experiencing the goods is basis enough for removal legally in Australia.
How to remove a fake Google Review
Businesses and review platforms (Facebook, Google etc) that do not remove fake reviews risk breaching the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Here is a handy resource to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission ACCC’s website about “managing online reviews“. Note that enticing your family and friends to leave a “5 star review” for your business on Google, Facebook or any other platform when they have not experienced your goods or services is also potentially in breach of the Act.
Google has its own process for a business to flag a review as fake review.
Steps to Remove a Google Review:
First, log in to your Google My Business account.
Navigate to “reviews” on the left hand menu.
Select the review you want to have removed, click the three dots to the right and click “flag as inappropriate”.
As of November 2020, there is a delay in the removal review process. You will see this pop up when you click “flag as inappropriate”:
You will then be asked to provide a reason for the removals team to investigate:
There are currently five options to have a Google review looked at by the removals team:
as shown above in the example of someone leaving a review that has never been to a business let alone experienced their goods or services, this is the option to select.
Conflict of interest
if you have evidence of -or suspect- a competitor has paid for fake and/or malicious reviews you can select this option.
Offensive or sexually explicit
Google does not allow swearing or sexually explicit language/photos being left in reviews for your business. Select if applies.
Personally identifiable information such as your tax file number, bank account details, credit card number warrant this to be investigated.
Using the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 as a legal basis as explained above, and ensuring you have reasonable grounds to suspect or know the review is fake then you can pursue this avenue.
What happens once I flag the review as fake?
Once the review is flagged as “inappropriate” and you select one of the five options and complete the appeal, you can expect a email from email@example.com in anywhere from 14 – 30 days.
If the reviews team can determine beyond reasonable doubt that the review is clearly fake then they will contact you after they have removed it for breaching their policies.
What happens if Googles decides not to remove the review?
You can appeal by commencing proceedings (legal action) to have it removed. Below is a copy of an email All Marketing received denying a review for a client to be removed. They then had the option to pursue it legally to take it down.
Here is an example of an email from Google when they decide to not take it down:
Thanks for reaching out to us.
At this time, Google has decided not to take action on the following reviews:
Example of Reviewer
Google My Business hosts third-party content. It is not a creator or mediator of that content. We encourage you to resolve any disputes directly with the individual who posted the content.
If you cannot reach an agreement and choose to pursue legal action against the individual who posted the content, and that action results in a judicial determination that the material is illegal or should be removed, please send us the court order seeking removal. If you would like to request identifying information about an anonymous poster, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (if you are in the U.S.) or email@example.com (if you are outside of the U.S.) for more information on how to serve us with valid legal process.
If you are a business owner concerned about a review that you feel is unfounded, please visit https://support.google.com/business/answer/3474050 to learn how to respond directly to posted reviews.
If you feel that a review has violated Google’s review content policies, you can report it through one of these methods:
hover your cursor over the review, and click on the small flag icon that appears
click on the three-dot menu located on the top-right of the review
Reporting through these methods will send your concern to Google’s review policy team, which will ensure the quickest and most efficient processing of your report. While you may not receive any further response from them, know that they are investigating the issues you raised and will take action as appropriate.
The Google Team
How do I avoid negative reviews on Google?
Always give your customers or clients extra. Impress them with your care and attention to their needs. Once you are in the habit of giving your customers and clients a positive experience with your business, the reviews will look after themselves.
I need help managing my business reviews on Google.
Contact All Marketing today to help you attract, manage and respond clearly and professionally to Google reviews. Once your business gets a Google review, there is a good chance it is staying up there forever, so it is critical you have good online reputation management which is what All Marketing provides along with its online marketing and digital marketing services.