How to Remove Google Reviews
As a business owner, the worst thing you can do is put time and effort into cultivating the perfect reputation, day by day only to find that one day that reputation is tarnished by a single customer and a single negative review. Google search algorithm does not just pull positive or negative reviews from Google. It pulls it from Facebook, from Yelp, and from other review platforms so if one person posts a negative review on multiple platforms it could be detrimental to your ranking. Thankfully there are ways that you can minimize the damage done to your credibility.
The first thing you want to do is avoid a panic. Many businesses will see a negative review and it makes them want to give up entirely, but one bad review is not the end of the world. Every company gets at least one bad review. In fact, research indicates that having a bad review could increase your sales. Remember that no press is bad press so having some negative reviews can be helpful if they provide you with the opportunity to maybe address an issue, turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied customer, or prove that your business can handle taking one or two negative remarks with a smile.
Roughly 91% of customers will read online reviews before they use a business so finding negative reviews can hurt you. There’s an odd paradox to reviews though. If you have nothing but a list of completely positive reviews that is considered a sign of falsification. People just don’t believe it. So, if you have a sprinkling of imperfect reviews here or there that creates more trust between your customers and yourself. More than that if people see a bad review with a response from your company that type of constructive feedback reflect well upon your organization because it is indicative of one that keeps surprise to what is going on with an online profile, and works hard to continually improve. Of course, after you have improved you might still want to get rid of those bad reviews.
Evaluate the reviews
If you do not already regularly check your reviews across a variety of platforms, start today. As a larger business you should be monitoring review websites on a daily basis but as a smaller business, you can afford to do it on a weekly basis. Bad reviews can come from customers who had a negative experience, someone who didn’t receive the service they needed or someone who dealt with a rude customer. They can also be posted by disgruntled former employees, your competition, or spammers. Middle of the road remarks might be something you want to simply leave posted and address because they can help you support that risk of falsification but if you see a dreaded one-star review take a deep breath and decide whether it is fake or not.
At this point though you do have to evaluate your situation and determine if that review is correct or not. Fraudulent reviews can be left by nefarious competitors or people who have never even used your services before. Plenty of bad business practices will hire freelance writers to draft negative reviews that they publish on their own. So, when you get a negative review check your records, reach out to that person if necessary but figure out who they are and if they were a customer. If they were a previous customer or they claim to be, check out what it is they bought or what service they use. Review the time frame in question. you want to make sure that this person was legitimate before you raise any flags. You also want to make sure they are legitimate before you respond to them. If you know that they were a customer and you have verified the purchase they have made or the service they use, listen to what they have to say because it could help you to be better equipped to prevent such a situation from happening in the future. After all, they could have had a bad experience because one of your staff members treated them poorly, but that staff member has since been fired.
Ways to spot a fake review include:
- A customer who is not located in your point of sale Software System
- Purchase items or transaction dates that don’t correspond to the complaint
- No record of a customer service called
- Lack of detail, such as no employee name and no ability to name the website or the address where they were
- You have a surge of negative reviews in a very short amount of time
- There’s a connection between your competitors and that reviewer
How to Respond
When you are responding make sure you do it quickly, within 24 hours. Do not ignore a negative review and just assume it will go away. Responding to a negative review is crucial if that review is from a legitimate customer. Even if it’s not from a legitimate customer and it is fake there are things you can do to get it removed but in the interim simply respond by asking about their experience with you, asking for validation or proof that they use your service, and maybe even remark publicly that you would love them to come in and show you their receipt or something so that you can rectify the situation.
If you respond to keep it brief. Writing any type of monologue that is full of excuses is not going to work out favorably for your company. Whatever the complaint is about, except it doesn’t deny that your company did anything wrong. Remember that the complaints in these cases are typically in the eye of the beholder. Something that may have been said or done by an employee could have been taken the wrong way. If it is a matter of interpretation, in particular, simply saying that the customer was wrong or that your business would never do something bad is not going to work out for you. If what they say is severe, severe enough that it could be grounds for a lawsuit, that’s something to handle separately not something that you threatened in your response. Instead in almost all cases you should simply offer to fix the problem. Most of the time customers who are dissatisfied just want an apology or they want you to fix the issue. To that end, if you promise something, follow through. Your job here is to pacify the reviewer and a show potential customer that you respond well to dissatisfaction. Prompt responses are indicative of someone committed to their customer service.
When to Delete Reviews
There are certain situations where Google will allow you to delete bad reviews. If the reviews violate any of the policies mentioned below they can be deleted:
- Content has to be genuine. False information designed to boost rankings will be removed so any content that is fake or spam will be removed.
- Content has to reflect an individual’s experience at a particular location. Anything that is off topic with personal commentary, political commentary, or irrelevant social commentary will be removed.
- Content cannot be sexually explicit, defensive, derogatory, illegal, locally restricted, offensive, or dangerous. Anything that contains any type of hate speech and is prohibited will be removed.
- Content cannot be produced wherein you review your own business, you review a competitor’s business, or you review a current or former employee. This creates a conflict of interest and is grounds to have the review removed.
What to do About Fraud
Now then if you noticed that the review left was a fraudulent one, it was left by someone who has never been to your restaurant, someone was never used your service or someone who’s never purchased a product from you, then you should address the complaint and apologize, state that you can’t find them in your records, offer to fix the situation if they contact you, and then flag them or report them as fraudulent.
The reason that you respond first and flag second is because flagging something as fraudulent could eventually lead to it being removed but in the interim prospective clients will still see that negative review.
In order to flag a fraudulent review on Google, you have to open Google Maps and look at your business. Out of the reviews find the one that you want to flag. In the upper right-hand corner of every review, there are three vertical dots. When you click on those dots a drop-down menu will appear and one of the options is to flag as inappropriate. Once you have done this you have two more options for escalating the issue.
You can contact Google and follow up on the status of this flags review. Under the “my business” homepage at the bottom of your menu on the left-hand side of your screen, you will find the option for the support button. If you click on that it will give you a phone number you can contact. Beyond this, if the review is considered not only false but slanderous you can fill out Google’s form for a legal removal request. These are very high requirements if you live in the United States so just be ready to use this legal option as a last resort.
Google might not remove the content quickly, or at all. Make sure that you submit your phone number and a screenshot of the review when you report it to Google. You can also tweet at Google directly and explain how the negative review is a violation of the review policy.
Removing bad reviews on Facebook
Google will search for any reviews anywhere, but you can take steps to remove negative reviews on Facebook if they violate Facebook standards as well. Go to the review on your business page and click on the three dots that are vertical and located in the upper right-hand corner next to the review. Follow the instructions on the screen to report the post.
Removing bad reviews on Yelp
If Yelp has not already filtered out an inappropriate review you can follow the same guidelines yourself. Go to the review and click on the three vertical dots that are located next to that review. Follow the on-screen instructions for reporting the review. If the review is a breach of the content guidelines for Yelp it will be taken down by their moderators. You can hover your cursor over the flag icon next to the review after you have submitted the request in order to verify whether the process is still being analyzed or whether the moderators have rejected the request entirely.
If you are able to prove that your competitor is trying to bring your business down by posting fake reviews on different pages you can contact your local Chamber of Commerce and notify the Better Business Bureau. It might be in your best interest to privately speak to that person and let them know that you know what they are doing and that you were going to take action to protect your reputation. Legal help can be enlisted if the situation escalates.
Overall remember that not all bad reviews are terrible. Businesses thrive on having reviews of all shapes and sizes especially if they addressed those middle of the road reviews. Not every business can be perfect and not every business wants to be. Take advantage of those situations where negative feedback is posted as an opportunity to learn, to perhaps improve your company, and to show that your company is polite enough to address all of its customers regardless of satisfaction levels.