How To Deal With Fake Or Malicious Reviews On Google?
Deal with Fake or Malicious Reviews

Protect your IT business from fake reviews that can harm your online reputation and affect your rankings in local search results.

Running your IT business and looking after your customers is no small feat, you take pride in what you do and how you do it. So, when someone leaves you a review that you know is either fake or malicious, it can get really frustrating.

It can also put your online reputation and your ability to get new clients at risk.

Fake and malicious reviews plague the web, mislead users and harm legitimate businesses like yours.

This is why you need to learn how to mitigate the fallout of bad reviews and know what resources are available to you to take them down.

Who Is Allowed To Leave A Review?

According to Google’s guidelines for posting reviews, reviews should be left by clients who have had a genuine experience with your business. But we all know that it’s far from reality and that a lot of reviews come from people that have never had a direct experience with the business they post a review for. 

Google automatically processes reviews to detect spam but it doesn’t always catch all fake reviews. Some of the factors Google looks at in that initial scan are:

  • Whether the number of reviews that the business receives is consistent with the average amount that similar businesses in the same industry receive. If Google flags that a business has received a remarkably high number of reviews in a relatively small window of time, it will apply enhanced scrutiny. 
  • If a great number of reviews are coming from IP addresses in common locations. This often indicates that the business has most likely paid an unscrupulous SEO agency to post fake reviews. 
  • Whether the people making reviews work for the company that owns the Google My Business account. Employees and owners of a business are not allowed to post reviews for their own listing. 

Despite these initial scans, a lot of fake or malicious reviews bypass Google’s checks and end up being posted. Which makes it that much harder to take them down as Google considers them to be valid. 

What Impact Can A Bad Review Have On Your Business?

Bad reviews can be of great detriment to your IT business because as you very well know, higher trust levels are needed for the type of services you provide and for the type of access you get to other businesses.

So the very last thing you want to do when faced with a bad review is to ignore it and move on with your life.

You have to know that bad reviews will affect you in a variety of ways:

Drop In Google Rankings

Reviews are a major ranking factor for local search results, see which factors influence your ranking in local search results in my previous article on “How to fight spam listings on Google?”

Negative Perception from Potential Clients

“97% of people read reviews for local businesses and 78% of people trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend or a family member” according to this 2020 study

We know that a lot of businesses part ways with their IT provider because of a bad customer experience, so having bad reviews poses a real threat to your business’ growth. 

Redirecting Business to your Competitors 

The aim of some fake or malicious reviews is to give exposure to your competitors. You will often find that paid fake reviewers either vaguely or specifically mention another business while giving yours negative reviews.

Fortunately, Google doesn’t allow reviewers to leave urls in their reviews, but oftentimes mentioning the name of competitors is enough to bring attention to those businesses which is what they were after in the first place. 

What Are The Consequences Of Leaving A Fake Review?

Leaving a fake or malicious review is not without consequences for the perpetrator. 

What people don’t know is that in a lot of countries, leaving fake or malicious reviews can actually open the door for libel and defamation lawsuits. There are numerous examples of people leaving fake reviews being brought to justice and ending up paying hefty sums to their victims. In certain cases, people even faced jail time for leaving malicious reviews like this man who used his SEO skills to ruin his former employer’s online reputation.  

In all fairness, in this case, he was mostly trialed for his extortion attempts but defamation rulings can also become very costly.

It’s also naive to assume that leaving an anonymous review will protect you from a lawsuit as many courts have ordered internet providers to hand over IP addresses of anonymous online reviewers. 

How To Spot If A Review Is Fake Or Malicious?

False, Generic Information

One of the ways that you can tell whether someone has left a fake review is to see whether the reviewer has provided false or illogical information. As you can see below.

Malicious review

Impersonal Avatar Or Username

Another way to spot whether a review is fake is to take note of whether the reviewer has an impersonal avatar or username. In the same example, you’ll see that there is no avatar for the reviewer; they’re not identified with an actual personal name but rather a generic name. 

Fake review

Mentions Competing Businesses

As mentioned fake reviews can be aimed at redirecting business to a competitor and that is something to look out for. Some reviewers will directly mention a specific company while others will give a description of a competing business in order to seem like an authentic review. 

How To Flag  A Google Review For Removal

Google Support provides the option to flag reviews for removal. Be mindful that you should only flag reviews that are misleading, fake, and/or malicious. Reviews that you simply don’t like or disagree with are not considered malicious. You need to provide some evidence and pointers about why the review is malicious or fake like seen previously to build up a case for your review removal claim. 

Option 1

Sign into your Google My Business Account. Then, select the review that you would like to flag. 

If your business has multiple locations and you find that these reviews appear across different locations, you can select “Manage reviews” in the left menu, then choose the location group that these reviews appear on. Open the location then select “Reviews”. Click on the review that you want to flag then select “Flag as inappropriate.”

Option 2

You can also flag reviews using Google Maps. Search for your business profile on Google Maps, then select the review that you would like to flag. Select “More” then select the option to “Flag as inappropriate”. 

Keyword stuffing

What To Do If Google Doesn’t Remove The Review?

If Google hasn’t removed the review after a week or so, you still have one other recourse and that is to escalate your request to their support team by lodging a support request which they should address in the next 24 hours. 

The key here is to tell their support team exactly how the review violates Google guidelines by referring to the “Prohibited and Restricted Content” section of their guidelines.

A fake review from a competitor will most likely fall under one of these 3 sections:

  • Spam and fake content
  • Impersonation.
  • Conflict of Interest.

Explain how the review falls under these categories and provide adequate evidence to support your claim.

You also need to make sure that you are using the right keywords when making your complaint by reusing some of the words included in those sections so that the form can generate the right category for your request in the next step. 

Recommandations
Then, click next to get to “Contact options”. 
Contact options
Next, you will need to provide detailed information for the fake review that you’re reporting. 
suggest an edit
After filling out all the details, select “Submit” and wait for a Google Support Team Member to reach out to you.

How To Monitor Reviews

Whether or not Google removes the review, you need to take immediate action when a fake or malicious review is made on your account. Your first step is to respond to the review. This helps potential clients understand that you take feedback seriously and that you plan on offering resolution. According to the same 2020 study, “Among customers who read reviews, 97% read responses to negative reviews”

This is your chance to mitigate negative fallouts and offer more context for the negative review. 

It’s always best to not be defensive or to argue with the person that left you the review. 

If the person had a legitimate experience with your business, offer some context to why their experience was negative and propose to find a resolution offline. Don’t negate their experience or you risk starting a longer conversation thread under that negative review which will bring even more attention to it.

If the person never legitimately interacted with your business and is leaving you a fake or malicious review, you still need to respond by providing context. You need to establish that that person never interacted with your business and that the review is not based on any facts. Do so without being incendiary and without attacking them, just state those facts.

Informed readers will make their own opinions and hopefully, Google will accept your request to have the review removed from your listing.

It’s always good practice to respond to all reviews, good or bad, it helps with your rankings by signaling that your listing is active and it also increases the amount of user-generated content which is a contributing factor to higher rankings.

Conclusion

Bad reviews happen, it’s like getting your computer infected with a virus, the last thing you want to do is forget about it and go about your day. 

You need to stay on top of your business’s online reputation. It takes some effort but the outcome is really worth the effort.

Not sure what people are saying about your brand online? Book a meeting with our team and we’ll give you a full review of your online presence. 

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you found value in it. Don’t hesitate to drop me a line, ask any further question or share your experience ayan@cxatelier.com. I would love to hear from you!
Ayan Adam

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