Having a stockpile of online customer reviews on your business benefits you in several ways—from revealing the positive interactions customers have had with you, to boosting your digital relevance in the eyes of Google and other search engines. Addressing less-than-ideal reviews can pose its challenges, but so does dealing with fake business reviews, which occur more often than you may think.
In fact, according to a 2017 study by BrightLocal, 79 percent of consumers have read a fake review in the last year, but 84 percent of people admit that they aren’t confident in discerning them from the real thing.
Why do fake business reviews happen?
Unfortunately, fake reviews are often the result of a competitor looking to discredit a business that the competitor considers a threat. Conversely, businesses can also fake their own positive reviews in hopes of making themselves look better among the competition. Either way, the act of falsifying information by people who are not actual customers often goes undetected by Google. Companies purchase fake reviews, make deals to swap fake reviews, or hire SEO groups to rack up the reviews for them.
What do fake business reviews look like?
Determining what is and is not a fake business review can be difficult. Here are a few signs that a review might be fake:
- A user has posted numerous times in different geographical locations. If you got your hair cut in Austin, Texas on a Tuesday, it’s not likely you had a burger in Anchorage, Alaska on a Wednesday and paid for lawn service in London, England on a Thursday.
- The text of the review sounds very generic. Often, fake reviewers use a template. They also typically do not mention price, the specific scenario or other personal details about the experience. Look for the name of the business being used frequently (for SEO purposes) and out-of-place sounding keywords.
- All of a business’ reviews were posted in a short period of time. Reputation management companies sometimes do this to boost a company’s ratings that they work for.
- There is no text. It’s not always the case, but sometimes if there are a slew of reviews with one star and no text to support it, they may be fake.
- They fall into Google’s guidelines of fake reviews. Check this link to determine whether the review in question is considered fake or malicious enough to be taken down.
So if you suspect a review to be fake—one that intends to harm your business, what should you do about it?
- Stay calm. Your first reaction to noticing a fake business review may be to let your anger be known; however, this will ultimately make the situation worse. It’s understandable to be furious about a random person defaming the business you have worked hard to build. But stay calm, and get ready to take the necessary steps to attempt to get it taken down. A bad review does not mean the automatic demise of your business.
- Think about responding to it. Responding shows that, fake or not, you are willing to address the situation calmly and rationally. Avoid getting personal, keep your response brief, thank your reviewer and invite the reviewer to discuss the situation offline.
- Flag the review. If you suspect that a review is fake, you can flag it either in Google Maps or in Google My Business. To do so, simply click the flag next to the review. This is the first step in having Google review your request to have the review removed.
- Prepare your case. Document the URL/URLs that shows the review in question under that person’s username. List your business name, address, phone, website and Google Maps link. Reasonably explain why the review should be removed, why you think it is fake and which of Google’s rules it is violating.
- Reach out to Google for help. If you haven’t heard from Google after the flagging process, contact Google via other means. There are several of ways to contact the company, outlined here. You could even message the company on Twitter or Facebook if you are desperate for a quicker response.
- Seek help from the Google community. You are likely not the only one dealing with the problem of fake business reviews. Post about your issue in forums, or even share it on your social media. Your loyal customers will support you and may even combat the negative by posting positive things about your business. Also, on Google, there are “Top Contributors,” which are Google users who have been rewarded for regularly giving legitimate reviews. A Top Contributor may be able to connect with Google faster on your behalf.
Encountering fake business reviews is never fun for anyone, but unfortunately it is one of the potential downsides of your brand having a digital presence, which is critical in today’s technology-obsessed society. The good news is, there are ways to combat these fake reviews in an effort to maintain your business’ true colors in the eyes of current and potential brand followers.
The McNutt & Partners team is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.