Reporting Fake Google Reviews in 2021
A lot has changed since the world's biggest search engine first introduced its review functionality several years ago. As the service has grown, so has the necessity of reporting fake Google reviews.
Today, online reviews are more important than ever. A Trustpilot study conducted recently found that up to 90 percent of people now read reviews before making a buying decision.
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Many dedicated review websites now exist, including Trustpilot, Yelp, and BBB – better known as the Better Business Bureau.
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However, by far the biggest and most widely accessed review website isn't actually a review website at all. That's because it's Google.
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Countless millions of Google reviews now pop up, front and center, when searching for brands and businesses of all sizes. Google also collates reviews from elsewhere around the web and shows these at the same time.
As such, for many businesses, a glowing star rating on Google is crucial. It's quite often the first thing that a potential customer sees when searching for a company or brand.
Unfortunately, this has led to a massive increase in fake reviews. Phony, bogus, false, fake – call them what you like. The fact is that, with reviews on Google now so important to businesses, there's more and more shady behavior happening on the platform.
However, there's some good news: Reporting fake Google reviews, in fact, couldn't be easier. Anyone can report what they believe to be a fake review by simply flagging it as inappropriate.
With that said, successfully seeing fake reviews removed from various parts of Google's websites and apps can be another story.
At NetReputation, we specialize in online reputation management. We have more than a decade of experience in helping clients manage their online reputations and the reputations of their businesses, including dealing with fake reviews, both on Google and elsewhere.
Here, we'll explain exactly how to go about reporting fake Google reviews in 2021. We'll also explain:
- Why fake Google reviews exist
- What counts as a fake Google review
- Why fake Google reviews are a problem
- Where fake Google reviews come from
- What to do if a removal request is denied
- How to reply to fake Google reviews
We'll also touch on what to do if you're concerned about the impact of fake Google reviews on your reputation or the reputation of your business more generally.
This information should see you expertly versed on the topic and best able to approach whatever issues you're currently facing with reporting fake reviews to Google.
Reporting fake Google reviews
Google reviews are most prominent on the search engine giant's results pages and within its Maps functionality. Thankfully, the process for reporting fake Google reviews is incredibly straightforward.
Where you see a fake review, click the three dots or the flag icon next to it. The flag appears alongside reviews on Google's search engine results pages and elsewhere, while the three dots are a feature of Google Maps. From there, it's as simple as entering your email address, selecting a violation type, and hitting the submit button.
Violation types include harmful or violent content plus advertising, spam, off-topic information, and anything considered to contain a conflict of interest. Google will only use your email address to reach out for additional details if they need them. Google won't share it with the reviewer or the business or organization to which the review relates.
Google reportedly aims to address flagged reviews within one week. If, after seven days, a previously flagged review remains visible, business owners can then take further steps. Chief among these is to do so via Google My Business.
Business owners can directly flag inappropriate or fake reviews for any of the companies they own or are responsible for on the Google My Business platform.
Why fake Google reviews exist
Fake Google reviews are most commonly posted by disgruntled customers and unscrupulous competitors.
The latter is becoming increasingly prevalent. Unscrupulous competitors may attempt to discredit your business by leaving bad, fake reviews with the intention of seeing their business rated more highly than your own.
They may do this to multiple competitors. They may also attempt to further bolster their own rating by posting fake positive reviews for their own business.
What counts as a fake Google review
A fake review is any review that's posted that doesn't reflect actual events.
Distinct from violent or generally inappropriate content, fake reviews are most widely posted to discredit a business or to attempt to influence Google's star ratings.
Either way, the means of reporting such reviews to Google is the same. Simply flag them as inappropriate and, if necessary, explain in the process that the basis for doing so is because of the fake or otherwise falsified nature of the review in question.
Why fake Google reviews are a problem
Fake Google reviews are an issue for many of the same reasons that any form of phony review is problematic.
Fake Google reviews are liable to confuse or misinform clients, customers, and other individuals. They're also used to discredit businesses that do not deserve to be discredited.
Meanwhile, increasingly problematic, especially more recently, is the use of fake Google reviews to influence how the search engine giant displays business listings.
The higher a business is rated, the more prominent it'll be on Google. As such, a poor rating can see a business fall by the wayside. This is a particular problem when competitors and other unscrupulous persons attack a business with fake one-star reviews to push them down the rankings.
Where fake Google reviews come from
Fake Google reviews most commonly stem from disgruntled customers and competing businesses.
They may also stem from angry former employees as well as friends and family members of all of the above.
Anyone looking for some form of revenge can attempt to post one or more fake reviews designed to paint you or your business in a negative light.
Sometimes, inexplicable one-star or otherwise poor reviews may appear without any sense of rhyme or reason whatsoever. This may be a case of mistaken identity, where an individual actually intended to review a different business.
While these aren't fake by definition, they can be flagged as inappropriate and reported to Google in the same way as a genuinely fake or fictitious review.
What to do if a removal request is denied
Google is well known for denying removal requests.
Of course, suppose a customer leaves a genuine one-star review after a poor experience. In that case, Google has no reason or requirement to remove this as it's a reflection of the truth, however much this may displease a business owner.
Google must determine between fake and genuine reviews accordingly.
Quite often, they're able to use an array of reporting tools and techniques to correctly and even automatically determine the validity of reviews. Still, occasionally a legitimate removal request may be denied in error.
In this instance, you can report the same review again or highlight it directly via the Google My Business console.
Alternatively, you can take it on the chin to some extent and, instead, reply to the review in question in order to pour doubt on its validity to others who may be seeing it.
Replying to fake Google reviews
Where a removal request is denied, or a business is becoming swamped by fake reviews, it's possible to respond to fabricated feedback.
This can be done to highlight fake reviews to other customers but will do nothing to mitigate the impact of a low star rating on the overall score applied to a business.
If you choose to reply to one or more fake reviews, be polite, be very matter-of-fact about the issue, and don't let emotion get the better of you. An angry or aggressive response to a fake review may only serve to further paint a business in a poor light.
You can respond to and report fake reviews at the same time. However, it's best to report a review and wait for action from Google before opting to reply in most cases.
Concerned about the impact of fake Google reviews on your reputation or the reputation of your business? Internet Reputation can help.
If you're worried about the potential impact of fake Google reviews or your online reputation more generally, we're on hand to support and guide you.
Provided without obligation, a free online reputation consultation from Internet Reputation is a great way to get a handle on how you and your business are being perceived online. Contact our expert Review Management team today to learn more.