How to deal with fake negative reviews on Google

In just a couple of minutes, someone can create a new account, slap a single star on your business and damage your online ratings. It’s bad enough when the damage is done by a genuine customer, but what can you do when reviews are posted by fake accounts, with no other purpose than to cause harm?

As most customers, whether they’re searching for the nearest coffee shop or browsing gifts on Google shopping results, will consider the number of stars a vendor has, these reviews can cost you sales. 

Spotting a fake

With the increasing popularity of online shopping and e-commerce, reviews have become an integral part of the decision-making process for many consumers. However, it can be difficult to determine whether a review is genuine or fake.

Fake reviews are often posted by businesses or individuals to boost their own products or sabotage their competitors. They may use tactics like creating fake accounts or paying people to write fake reviews. Even genuine reviews can be biased due to the reviewer’s personal preferences or experiences.

It’s important for consumers to approach reviews with a critical eye and look for patterns or inconsistencies in the reviews. Additionally, many platforms have algorithms in place to detect and remove fake reviews, but it’s not a foolproof system.

Ultimately, consumers should use a combination of reviews, research, and their own judgement to make informed purchasing decisions.

Getting reviews removed from Google services 

Like many other websites, Google encourages users to leave leave reviews, and the results are displayed on its Google shopping results page, Google business pages and in other places. While few reviewers will bother to read the rules they’ve agreed to follow, you should check them out if you’re hoping to get a review removed.

Reviews which contravene the terms and conditions of the site are the easiest to have removed. For example, Google business reviews and associated content (such as photos), are in contravention if they: 

  • don’t accurately represent the location in question (not your business, not your service, etc)
  • are posted multiple times
  • are spam or fake (this is hard to prove)
  • contain illegal or restricted content (such as alcohol) or links to the same
  • contain offensive or sexually explicit content 
  • use hate speech, harass, bully or attack people (this could include personal abuse, e.g. name calling)
  • mislead (e.g. claim to be from a company they are not, claim something happened which didn’t, etc)

If you can show a review is breaking these terms, simply log into your account and flag it for review. Include your evidence in your message. 

What if you can’t get a review removed? 

What if the platform owner disagrees with your assessment that the review is fake and refuses to remove it? In this case, you can do several things, all at once if you like, and these should mitigate the problem. 

  1. Appeal – make your argument again, and hope to be more persuasive.
  2. Respond to the review – kill them with kindness and show the response you want your other customers to hear, for example offering the fake review a 100% refund. Only do this if you’re confident you can deliver and/or that they are a fake – you don’t want to set a trend of giving out money every time someone is cranky at you on Twitter.
  3. Flood the review out – encourage your genuine customers and followers to write actual reviews on the platform to give your business a more balanced perspective. After all, a 1-star review is incredibly powerful if its the only review you’ve got, and insignificant if you’ve got 100,000 other ratings.

Deal with genuine negative reviews promptly

As the owner of a business or product, Google encourages you to respond to Google business and Google shopping results reviews. It’s important to monitor reviews and respond promptly to any that have a negative element, even if the overall review is positive as it not only creates good will in a customer who is clearly alert and interested enough in your business to leave a review but also broadcasts your excellent service to anyone reading the review. 

The simplest way to respond to a negative (or partly negative) review is to be truthful, realistic and personal: 

  • address the issue directly, using language the customer used
  • say how sorry you are that they had a bad experience (even if you think it was made up or it’s just how things are)
  • state what your company aim is (e.g. “Our team work hard to make sure every customer feels welcome.”)
  • offer a realistic solution, if there is one (e.g. a replacement for a faulty item)
  • say you will bring the issue up with higher ups or staff (e.g. “I will raise this issue at our next team meeting, to make sure all staff are aware of it.) if there’s no obvious solution. This can be particularly effective if your business is part of a larger chain or the problem was as a result of company policy or poor communication. 

If you get a manageable number of reviews, it’s worth replying to every single one – a single line saying “Thanks for your review! We’re so glad you enjoyed [something they mentioned]” will be sufficient, although try to use a slightly different formulation each time otherwise it looks like you’ve copied and pasted your response, which doesn’t make anyone feel special. 


How to deal with real negative reviews

No matter how hard you work and how great your product is, someone will give you a negative review. As reviews linger online, some influencing SEO and sales for years, it can be tempting to respond harshly or to ask for the review to be taken down. But a poor response can actually do more damage than a negative review, so tread carefully.

Is it Really a Bad Review?

Some negative reviews can actually be a positive, as trivial complaints boost the overall impression of quality. As an example, if the only complaint about a hotel is ‘only had 2 pillows, not 3’ or ‘free shuttle only runs once an hour’, then both as a guest and the owner you might feel pretty good.

When Should you ask for a Review to be Removed?

Asking for a review to be taken down can cause a backlash or accusations of trying to hide something, particularly if it’s on a social site, like Facebook. This can all add up to an anti-campaign which often seems to have better SEO than you do. However, if a review is wildly inaccurate (describes the wrong product, for example) or libellous, contact the website owner and ask for it to be removed.

Should you Respond to Negative Reviews?

It’s tempting to ignore negative reviews, and it’s tempting to explain to the reviewer why their point of view is mistaken, or that there were extenuating circumstances. Don’t!

If a review is posted on your own site or a site which allows or encourages you to respond to reviews (such as TripAdvisor), then responding to a negative review shows that you’re engaged and aware of customers comments. It’s particularly important if reviews are rare or the review is by an influential person in your market.

However, if you expect a high volume of reviews (any product that could be listed on Amazon, for example) then replying to individual reviews can look odd: authors who respond to reviewers on Amazon are not doing their digital marketing team any favours.

Public or Private Response?

Remember that a public response can be read by anyone, and review sites tend to have a strong SEO, so it’s best to keep them short and sweet. It’s completely reasonable to ask customers with a problem that can be resolved (faulty item, etc) to communicate with you in a private channel, e.g. email.

Bear in mind though, that many customers will only turn to Twitter or other public channels if they can’t get hold of you privately or can’t get a satisfactory response from your customer service team.

Be Truthful, Realistic and Personal

People who write a negative review are usually upset and disappointed. If fixing the problem isn’t possible, making sure they feel heard can turn their bad impression of your business into a good one. Simply saying ‘Hello [name]. Thank you for trying our product.

I’m sorry you had a bad experience with us – it’s not at all what we aim to provide. I’ve made a note of the issues you experienced, and I’ll raise them in the next meeting of [relevant people]. Sincerely, [your name]’ shows that you’re engaged, responsive and listening to customers.

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About the Author

Gemma P

Social Media Manager

Introducing Gemma, our Digital Marketing Executive. Gemma has been a member of the boxChilli family for over a year now, having honed her social media skills during three lively years at a London agency before joining us.

Gemma has a knack for creating content that catches the eye and is just as passionate about life beyond work. When Gemma’s not at her desk, you’ll often find her enjoying quality time with her family, drawing from her experience in the beauty industry, and indulging in her love for good food, travel, and hanging out with friends.