Bad reviews are hard for business owners to read. When you do your best to run a quality business each day, a bad review can feel like a personal attack. This is especially true for Google reviews, which are often the first thing customers see about your business online. If you’re wondering about how to remove Google reviews, you do have some options.
5 Tips to Remove Real and False Google Reviews
First Thing’s First—Don’t Panic
A bad review, especially one that is particularly cruel, can be hard to read. When you get a bad review, try these steps first. We’ll go through each one in more detail later in the post.
- Don’t panic, and don’t react immediately. Read the review, take a breath, and leave it alone for a bit. Maybe go into another room, or do something else for a while.
- Once you’re clear-headed, determine if the review is real or fake. Do you recognize the poster? If you don’t, it might be a fake review.
- Respond. If the review is fake, flag it, and state why you think it is fake. If it is real, try to solve the problem, or provide another calm, reasonable response.
- Change the customer’s mind. If the review was real and the reviewer reasonable, try to fix the problem and change their mind. Then, ask them to edit their review. With a bit of luck, you’ve removed your bad Google review.
How to Remove Google Reviews—The Details
It’s important to understand what Google reviews are and why they exist. The reviews submitted to Google, which appear in a search along with your location, hours, and other information, are attached your Google Business profile. You can claim your profile and make a Google Business account for free at any time, but this profile and the attached reviews will exist either way.
Google Business reviews are primarily for customers using the Google search engine. Just like the search engine itself, the goal of the reviews is to provide information and help customers make decisions.
Google reviews are supposed to be honest accounts of an experience by a real customer. However, this is not always the case. Competitors, spammers, former employees or other disgruntled people may write a bad review when they never even used your products or services. Since these reviews are false, you have options you wouldn’t have for true reviews. For this reason, we’ll divide this post into tips to remove true and false Google reviews.
Tips to Remove a Real Google Review
What is a real Google review? It’s pretty simple; a real Google review is a truthful review of your business from a real customer.
First thing’s first; you can’t remove a review simply because it’s bad. If that were the case, every review would be positive and reading Google reviews would be pretty pointless. However, there’s still hope for removing bad Google reviews, even if they’re true.
1. Ask the Customer to Edit Their Review
Google reviews are not permanent. The original reviewer can delete or change their review, but you’ll have to change their mind first.
First, determine whether or not this is a reasonable person who actually could change their mind. If the reviewer left a long list of emotionally-charged complaints, or it’s clear that the product or service simply isn’t for them (for example, a quiet person at a noisy bar or a meat-lover at a vegan restaurant), they probably won’t change their mind. Respond to their review respectfully, but remember that there are a few positive effects of negative reviews.
Perhaps the customer left a bad review because something just went wrong—the service was slow, the chef was having an off day, or a defective product somehow fell into the customer’s hands. These are reviews that are most likely to be fixed. Try the following strategy:
- Respond to the review. Thank them for taking the time to write, and apologize for the mistake. Inform them the situation has been rectified, and you’d like a chance to make it up to them. Give them your contact information or ask them to visit again for a special offer.
- If they contact you or visit, make sure you deliver what you promised. Be friendly, and thank them for visiting or using your service again.
- Finally, follow up and ask them if they would change their review. Emphasize the importance of reviews, and give them instructions on how they can change it.
A customer can edit their review pretty easily. Follow these steps.
- Go to Google Maps. You can search any location to get there.
- In the upper left-hand corner, click the menu icon (three horizontal lines).
- Click “Your contributions.” Click “Reviews”
- Find the review in question, and click the three vertical dots near the business name.
- Click “Edit review” and rewrite or change the review.
2. Push the Review Down
Most people read less than 6 reviews of a business. This means, though you may not be able to actually remove the review from your listing, you can essentially remove the Google review from sight by adding other positive reviews. If you get six more positive reviews, most people won’t see the bad one. If you get 10, you’ve effectively removed the Google review for 90% of customers.
How do you get more Google reviews? It won’t happen overnight, but you can make a focused effort to add more reviews over a short time frame. Start a testimonial collection promotion to rally your customers and get more reviews. Use Boast to get more Google Business Reviews and save time by automating this process. Try some of the following methods to gather reviews fast;
- Set up a review collection kiosk in the store.
- Periodically ask customers in the store to leave a review.
- Put a review request at the bottom of receipts
- Start a review collection campaign or contest
- Ask customers for a review at the end of a meeting, or when your business together has concluded.
- Include review requests with packages.
- Start a review request email campaign.
- Contact previous customers where possible to ask reviews.
- Include a review request at a check-out line or waiting room
- Include a review request with a follow-up email
Big companies that have had serious PR debacles know the value in rebranding. WorldCom, the biggest accounting fraudster in U.S. history, became MCI Inc (later Verizon Communications). Marlboro maker Phillip Morris rebranded to Altria to distance themselves from deathly cigarettes. Hundreds of other major and minor companies have rebranded in similar ways. If you have a lot of bad reviews and you don’t see a way to repair your reputation, this is an option to consider. However, it will take your existing business literally off the map, so this should only be a last resort.
A rebrand means physically and digitally changing your business. This means changing your business name, logo and website, at the very least. With this complete, you’ll need to close your Google Business account and inform Google that the previous business has closed. You’ll see this option in your Google Business account, if you have one, and you can also use the “Feedback” option at the bottom of your search results card. This will bring up a message box to “mark as closed, non-existent, or duplicate.” It will take some time for Google to verify this, but the listing will eventually disappear from search results.
Then you’ll need to register a new Google Business account, inputting your new business name, phone number, website, address (where possible) and other information. This means starting from a clean slate, so gathering good reviews right from the start will be important.
Remember that this is a strategy to completely change your business and start with a clean reputation. This is not a way to simply trick Google, trick customers and keep the rest of your business the same. “Closing” your business in order to get rid of bad reviews and then reopening it again under the same won’t work, and you may be banned from Google completely for violating their terms of service.
A full-scale rebrand is a big undertaking. Consider this option carefully and consider repairing your business reputation first.
Tips to Remove a Fake Google Review
What is a fake Google Business review? Also pretty simple. It’s a review that is not truthful and/or not written by a real customer.
It is possible to remove these Google reviews, though proving they are fake can be difficult. All of the previous strategies may work with a fake review as well, though getting a fraudulent poster to change their review is unlikely.
4. Flag and Respond
If the reviewer doesn’t look or sound familiar, they may be fake. Check your records if you can, and see if you have done business with this person. Also, check the reviewer’s other reviews. Fake reviews tend to be non-specific, while real reviews will include details about that person’s experience.
If you’re fairly certain the review is fake, first flag it as spam and report it. This signals Google staff to look it over and remove it if it is obviously fake. It will also show the message, “This review has been flagged and reported to Google.” This signals to other prospective customers not to take the review seriously.
Respond to the review and state that you do not recognize the reviewer as a customer. If they made false statements, refute them calmly. Though it is frustrating to be defamed this way, try to avoid emotional statements. Stick to the facts.
When you report the fraudulent review, Google will check it and may remove it. However, there are millions of Google Business listings all over the world. Unless the review is clearly abusive or inappropriate, it’s unlikely to be removed. Try flagging the post multiple times, appealing to customer service reps on Twitter @GoogleSmallBiz, or taking your case to the Google Community. You’ll need proof that the reviewer wasn’t a customer, could not have made the review, or is being paid to review, which could be tough.
5. Legal Action
In some cases, you may know the reviewer making false statements. They may be an angry ex-employee, a competitor, or someone who personally dislikes you. In this case, you may want to take legal action.
First, respond and flag the review. Then, if you are certain you know the reviewer and can send them a message, do so. Ask them, politely but firmly, to remove the false review.
If you believe the review is significantly hurting your business, you may want to take legal action. Writing false statements about a person or business can qualify as libel or injurious falsehood (AKA trade libel), and may be grounds for a civil suit. To do this, you’ll need to be able to prove the statements are false and prove who wrote them. However, a cease and desist notice from a reputable attorney may be enough to persuade the reviewer to delete the review, and a full legal case won’t be necessary.
Your business reputation is a valuable thing. Though it may seem obvious, the best way to protect it is to run a reputable business. It’s also a good idea to regularly ask customers with positive experiences to write reviews. This way, if you have to displace or remove a Google review, customers will still know who to trust.
Posted in: Online Reviews