Fake Google Reviews (Don’t Be a Victim!)

Google reviews matter today

Whether it’s the latest Avengers blockbuster by Marvel or a hotel in Dubai, customers read reviews left by others.

Customers today want to know what others are saying about you before they buy from you. And we know that for small business owners, each customer matters.

But while good reviews can do wonders, negative ones can wreak havoc.

Did you know at least 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a buying decision?

And 82% of customers search for negative reviews. Yikes.

Google reviews are integral to create online credibility. They are part of the social proof that convinces online shoppers to trust you. So, it’s important to know how to get Google reviews.

But there is a problem that many businesses are facing – fake reviews.

What makes a Google review “fake?”

Fake Google reviews are untrue reviews written about your business, products or services online.

They’re often written by your competitors to disrupt your online presence.

They can also come from those who never shopped or interacted with you – the trolls.

Also, there is a possibility that one of your employees left a bad review just to vent out their frustrations or when you let them go.

Fake Google reviews can be a headache. And it’s important you know how to handle them.

How to spot fake Google reviews

How do you spot fake Google reviews? Investigate the reviewer. You may find a pattern of fraudulent reviews. Or you may find that the reviewer was never one of your customers.

We know how bad it feels when you see a bad review online about your business. But it’s important to know whether it’s real or fake.

Here are some ways to tell fake reviews from real reviews….

Check the name and avatar of the reviewer

When you see a negative review, check the name and the avatar of the reviewer. Trolls usually make fake reviews from one time accounts, meaning the name is bogus, or the avatar is missing. This is one of the foremost indicators that it’s fake.

Also, you can always check the name with your customer database. If they have bought from you, you will see their name and know that it’s an authentic negative review.

Check the reviewer’s other reviews

The best part about Google reviews is that you can check the history of reviews left by the reviewers. This means, when you are looking up a negative review, you can check the user’s previous reviews.

If they have been posting 1-star reviews consistently, well you have a troll on your hands.

Look for orphan reviews

Some negative reviews don’t have a comment. These usually have 1 or 2 stars with no reason attached. These are often fake reviews. Fake reviewers prefer to write nothing and just want to put a dent in your online reputation.

Verify which business was really reviewed

Sometimes, when customers are angry, they will post a negative review on another company’s Google profile. Yup, it happens all the time.

It’s a classic case of mistaken identity.

See if the review has information about your product or service to make sure they are angry with you and not some other business. If this is the case, let them know.

How to remove fake Google reviews

How do you remove fake Google reviews? Check to see which Google policies the reviewer has violated. Then flag the review as inappropriate.

Check out our complete guide on how to delete a Google review for detailed information about the kinds of reviews Google will remove, and specific steps you can take to get a review removed.

Google has created review policies which help you in reporting fake reviews.

When you log in to your Google My Business account, you can flag or report the reviews you think are fake (meaning they are violating Google’s policies).

Here’s how you do it:

How to report a fake Google review from your desktop or laptop computer:

  1. Sign in your Google My Business account
  2. Look for the location of your business
  3. Click on Reviews from the left bar
  4. Choose the review you want to report and click on the three-button icon
  5. Select “Flag as inappropriate”

How to report a fake Google review from your phone:

  1. Start from your “My Business App
  2. Find the “Customers” tab and then choose reviews
  3. Look for the review you want to flag and then tap on the three-button
  4. Choose “Flag review”

When to respond to fake Google reviews

Should you respond to fake Google reviews? Yes! You need to respond to every negative review you get on Google. Why? You’ll boost your credibility.

Even if you have flagged a review as fake, it may still take some time for Google to assess your complaint and remove the review.

This means that it’s going to be up there, with the rest of your reviews.

Your existing and potential customers will see it and will want to know what your response is.

As a local business owner, you know that it’s all about creating relationships with your customers. This helps in creating repeat customers.

So, we recommend that you respond to reviews even if you think they are fake.

How to respond to fake Google reviews

How should you respond to fake Google reviews? Respond quickly with a professional and respectful tone, even if the reviewer is irate. And take ownership for helping the reviewer, even if they’re wrong.

It’s important to remember that, while you know the review might be fake, your customers will not. To them, it’s one of your customers complaining about a bad product or service. So it’s important to be professional here.

Here’s what we recommend for responding to a fake Google review:

Respond quickly

An unanswered negative review will be up there for your customers to read. Therefore, respond to it as soon as possible.

Answer in a respectful and professional tone

It’s important to present yourself as a company that values criticism and wants to help all customers. The prospects who read your response for years in the future are at least as important as the reviewer who’s complaining today.

Take ownership

Own responsibility for the customer’s satisfaction, even if it’s not your mistake. Remember your response is being read by everyone, so doing so creates credibility online.

Be helpful

Be empathetic with the reviewer and offer any information that might help the reviewer find satisfaction… even if that means referring the customer to a different business.

What to do if you can’t remove a fake Google review

What can you do if you can’t get a fake Google review removed? Drown it out with lots of positive reviews, so it doesn’t impact your overall star rating.

Google, unfortunately, doesn’t remove all fake reviews.

Why? Because some reviews genuinely look real, meaning Google won’t know it’s fake.

So, the real question now is what you should do if Google chooses not to remove the fake review.

The best way to move forward is to get more positive reviews. Drown out bad reviews with lots of good reviews until your average Google star rating doesn’t change when you get the occasional fake bad review.

Keep in mind that bad reviews are sometimes good for business.

Why? Because customers are also wary of fake reviews. If the company has all good reviews no bad ones, it sounds fishy.

How to drown out fake Google reviews with positive reviews

How do you drown out fake Google reviews with lots of authentic, positive reviews? Pre-screen as many of your customers as you can so that you only ask happy customers for reviews. Use follow-ups to get better conversion rates, and use automation to save time and effort.

As a business owner, you create relationships with your customers by offering quality products and services.

These customers are your best bet to get authentic positive reviews online.

We recommend the following ways to get the appreciation you deserve for making your customers happy….

Pre-screen your customers

Pre-screening helps you ask for reviews without the risk of getting the negative reviews you don’t want on Google.

To pre-screen, simply ask your customers privately about how they would rate your business. This will help you find out which customers will give you a good Google review, and avoid asking for a review from those who would give a bad review.

Since you have already asked privately, you can engage with those customers who are not completely happy yet. This gives you a chance to still help them and turn them into happy customers. Or at a minimum, you have a chance to learn how you can improve your business in the future.

Send review requests frequently

Ask for reviews every day or every week. Don’t wait too long. Why? Because the best reviews come from customers who have recently done business with you. The emotional impact of your service and the memory of the transaction is still fresh in their minds. So, make sure you get their reviews as soon as you can.

Send follow-ups

Some customers won’t respond to your initial pre-screening request for private feedback. It happens all the time. But this doesn’t mean you should give up.

Send follow-ups if you don’t get a response from your initial pre-screening request. We recommend you send at least 2 more follow-ups. We have seen conversion rates double for many businesses that send 3 messages to their customers (one initial request and two follow-ups).

Automate the process

Like everything else in digital marketing, you can also automate the process of getting reviews.

As a business owner, you have 1,001 things to do every day and getting your customers to write a review shouldn’t be one of these tasks.

Getting reviews can be a real hassle – manually pre-screening customers, tracking follow-ups, trying to systemize your manual processes. It all takes a lot of time and energy. This same amount of time and energy can be spent on other crucial parts of your business instead.

That’s why we built the Rising Star Reviews web app.

The google review management tool makes it quick and easy to get more positive reviews by automating everything. You just give the system the name and contact info for your customers and the web app does the rest. It pre-screens for positive reviews, sends follow-ups to non-responsive customers, handles opt-out requests, and reports on results.

Here’s a quick video to show you exactly how the app makes it super-easy to get positive reviews and avoid getting more negative reviews: (If you think this might help you, consider a free trial now.)

Can I buy Google reviews?

Yes, you can buy Google reviews, but it’s not recommended and can easily backfire on you. Instead, try using pre-screening to get lots of authentic positive reviews from your sincerely happy customers.

Buying fake Google reviews is all too easy these days. You can go to companies online that can do it for you for a small fee. You can also get in touch with freelancers on Fiverr where you can get fake reviews for less than $10.

But as tempting as it may be to buy fake Google reviews, consider the consequences before you act on that temptation.

Getting fake Google reviews to bolster your business can get you into a lot of trouble with both Google and the law.

Let’s talk about it further.

Are fake Google reviews illegal?

Yes, they are illegal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) forbids “undisclosed paid endorsements” and may fine you a considerable amount of money for buying fake Google reviews.

There have been instances where businesses had to cough up heavy fines to the FTC and were also penalized by Google.

Back in 2013, 19 companies were fined by the authorities for doctoring online reviews.  In another instance, car dealerships were fined $3.6 million for adding fake reviews.

It’s simply not worth the risk to buy fake Google reviews when it’s so easy to get lots of perfectly authentic 5-star reviews from your legitimately happy customers.

What will Google do if I buy fake Google reviews?

Google routinely removes reviews it suspects are fake. And you risk suddenly losing a lot of your fake Google reviews all at once if Google releases an algorithm update that does a better job of detecting fake Google reviews.

It is quite understandable that Google cannot crack down rigorously on each fake review. But that still doesn’t mean you should try it.

Just like you can flag negative fake reviews, your customers can also flag your positive fake reviews.

And even if customers don’t flag your fake reviews, Google has an army of PhDs from Carnegie Melon working on algorithms to detect and remove suspected fake reviews systematically.

There is an easy way to get good, solid reviews from your customers. Don’t waste your money only to risk your credibility and online reputation.

What will the FTC do if I buy fake Google reviews?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has in the past cracked down on fake reviews. Businesses that have been found using false reviews have faced severe legal penalties including hefty fines.

The FTC has the authority to impose heavy fines and even shut down a company if they find any sign of fake reviews.

It’s about customer trust. If you are tricking customers by lying to them through fake reviews, you are committing fraud.

Why put your business at risk when it’s so easy to get lots of authentically positive reviews from your happy customers?