How to report a fake review to Google

How to report a fake review to Google

At some time or another, especially if you’re making strides in your industry in your city or county (and possibly taking business away from other companies), an embittered competitor may try to create some trouble for you by posting a 1-star review on Google about your company.  In the process they destroy what may have been a 5 star rating – it was in our case – and get it dropped into the 4’s or maybe even lower, depending on how many reviews you have. When this happens you are going to need to figure out how to report a fake review to Google.

Such a situation happened to us today. We think we know who the perpetrator might be: A competitor who lost a site to us recently.

So how do they do it, how do you know if its a fake profile and how do you report a fake review to Google?

Well, since we’ve only had this happen to us once, let me tell you our experience:

I got an email from Google (to our registered Google My Business email address), telling us that someone had left a review for us. My initial excitement turned to alarm as I scrolled down through the email and noticed firstly, that it was a 1-star review, and secondly that it was from someone called ‘Sandra Smith’ who had left us a whole 2 word review: “very disappointed”.

Since we do not, nor have we ever had a client called Sandra Smith, my alarm quickly turned to anger as I realised that clearly someone was trying to smear our good name & reputation by messing with our Google review star status.

I quickly clicked through to the review to see what was happening. After seeing my hard-earned 5-star status reduced to 4.4, I went into detective mode to find out who this Sandra Smith was. I clicked on ‘her’ profile to unsurprisingly discover that the only contribution she had ever made to Google was this one brief but nasty review. And of course, again, surprise, surprise, there was also no photo or history of any other kind for ‘her’.

I’m using the term ‘her’ because I very much doubt it was a woman who posted this as my industry is male dominated and women would generally use more than 2 words!

Step 1: Respond to the reviewer

Rather pleased with my online sleuthing abilities and having established that this was indeed a nasty imposter bent on smearing my good company name, I immediately responded as follows:

“Hi Sandra, we do not currently have, nor have we ever had, a client (or prospective client) by your name. Please can you shed some light as to what work we have done for you that has left you disappointed? If I do not get a response from you I will be left with no alternative but to assume that this post is a piece of unethical name smearing by a competitor and will ask Google to remove it. Regards, Chantal Elgie-Peters (Owner)”

As you can see, I kept it (relatively) polite and clean, even though I wanted to tell the person what I really thought of them and exactly where they could go!

I did this to ensure that if I wasn’t able to get Google to remove the review (as I had no clue what to do at that point as this had never happened to me before), that at least I would have called the reviewer on it. More importantly, I would have made it clear to any prospective client who was looking at my reviews, that this was a fraudulent review from a resentful competitor.

I then quickly Googled how to get the review removed and discovered the 4-step process (which I cover further down in this article – so feel free to scroll down now if you need help with that to the section entitled: How to report a fake review to Google.

So why is it so important to deal with negative/fake reviews?

Firstly, if you’ve done some good SEO on your website (which will have taken time, money or probably both), it will affect your Google ranking because your review status is one of Google’s ranking factors.

Secondly, and if we’re honest we all do this: Prospective clients who are looking at your reviews will go and look at the bad ones, usually first. It’s human nature people! So, if you do have a bad review (whether it’s fake or real), deal with it immediately and reply to the reviewer, doing your best to clarify the situation. Heck, I don’t even mind if you copy and paste my response (see the purple paragraph above) and adapt it to suit your situation. But whatever you do: Respond!

That’s the first step in the process. Below I deal with the other three steps which I strongly suggest you take if you want to report a fake review to Google and hopefully get them to remove it.

So, how do you report a fake negative review to Google? After all, you have to defend your hard-earned good reputation.

Step 2: Flag the false review to Google

Having responded professionally to the review, you now need to set about getting it removed (if possible) from Google. Flagging the false review is the first step in the process of notifying Google that their review policy has been violated. You do this as follows

a) Click the flag icon (see image below). If you don’t see it initially or automatically, hover your mouse near the reviewers name (or anywhere in that general area) and the flag will appear. Click on it and the violation page will open.

b) Enter the e-mail address associated with your company’s Google My Business page, select the violation type (we chose conflict of interest) and then submit.

You’re Not Done Yet – There is power in numbers!

Step 3: Ask your friends/colleagues/whomever you can, to flag the review to Google too.

This shouldn’t be done all at once and ideally not from the same wifi /IP address as this itself can raise red flags with Google. Use a dribble approach with a few people over a couple of days.

Once these actions have been taken wait a few days, anything from 3 – 10 days. Unfortunately, just because you do this doesn’t guarantee you that you’re going to have the review removed, however you should still give it your best shot. You’ll be doing that by following the 4 steps in this article.

If nothing happens after about 10 days, then its time for the final step.

Step 4: Contact Google Small Business Support

This is your last resort and will hopefully be the clincher:
a) Login to your Google My Business page. Here’s a shortcut to it.

b) Select the main menu (the 3 striped burger-looking thing in the left hand top corner) and click ’Support’

c) Scroll down to the bottom till you see “Need more help” and click on it.

d) Scroll down to “Customer Reviews and Photos” and click on it. Then click on “Manage customer reviews”

e) Select a method of Contact – either a phone callback, chat or e-mail (some options may not be available in your country).

f) Complete all the fields and submit the request.

You should hear back within 48 hours.