The single biggest reason that businesses are losing faith in Google My Business is the rise in fake business reviews, Google My Businesses seemingly incompatible review policies and the near impossibility of having a fake review being removed.
It has gotten so bad in the Google My Business forums with fake reviews reporting, that unless I feel there is a slight possibility of getting the review removed, I don’t answer the thread. I apologize for this, but when I inform the user of the realities, the messenger invariably gets shot.
Which is what prompted this article, because this messenger just got shot with a Fake Review.
Google Review Policy vs Reality
Almost all fake review threads in the forums report reviews because the reviewer was never a customer. In the review policies Google states,
“Advertising: Don’t use reviews for advertising, such as adding links to other websites, or phone numbers. Reviews should be a genuine reflection of your experience with a place – don’t post reviews just to manipulate a place’s ratings.”
“Spam: Don’t spam. Write a genuine report of your experience with the place. Don’t include promotional/commercial content, don’t post the same content several times and don’t write reviews for the same place from different accounts.”
Both of these section lead businesses to believe that a reviewer should be an actual customer.
Reality sinks in when the businesses tries to flag and fix inappropriate reviews. In this policy doc, Google states,
“Google doesn’t get involved when merchants and customers disagree about facts, since there’s no reliable way to discern who’s right about a particular customer experience.”
Yes, Google does not want to get involved with reviews between customers (this includes fake) and businesses.
This comes with the territory of being a Google TC, some people just do not like what you are saying and its very easy to take aim at you with a fake review.
Thankfully touch wood I have only had two wombles that were vindictive enough to leave negative reviews, and yes I have had two “non” customers that left positive reviews that were never customers.
The standard response back from Google My Business regarding these types of reviews is, “this review isn’t eligible for removal because it isn’t violating guidelines.”
Fake Reviews Spammer Heaven
Yes this does create a free for all on fake reviews by spammers, whether they be negative reviews on competitors or positive reviews for their own business.
Create a new Google account at different IP addresses, not really necessary but it’s what I would do if I was a spammer, this could be at the library, post office, internet cafe. Then leave your fake review.
Rinse and repeat to your hearts content.
Reviews that Do Get Removed
Its not all doom and gloom. Reviews do get removed, these typically include:
- racism or hate speech
- personal details
- other review activity that does not add up
- multiple reviews for same type of businesses
I have some pretty big wins when spammers get careless and you can join the dots and prove that reviews are fake.
It’s Not Just Negative Fake Reviews
This problem I reported still boggles the mind. The owner of a business hired an SEO agency who added a load of poorly written reviews on her business listing.
When the owner noticed the reviews she posted in the help forum and reported that these were fake positive reviews and they should be removed. She had asked the “SEO” agency to remove them before they were fired but because they had outsourced this, they did not have login details.
You know whats coming next, YUUP, they were not removed because they did not violate guidelines, even though the owner was telling them she had bought them. See Them Here
You Could Be Breaking the Law
Before you go rushing off to create some fake reviews for the business, you should be aware of the Law in the UK.
In March 2016 a marketing firm agreed to cease writing falsely inaccurate online businesses reviews and to remove those already posted. The CMA investigation of Total SEO & Marketing Ltd (Total SEO), a search engine optimisation (SEO) and online marketing company, found over 800 falsely favorable reviews published across 26 different websites.
Writing or commissioning untrue reviews could expose the writer or commissioner civil or criminal penalties, damage the public perception of the brand, and undermine consumer confidence in the integrity of reviews and review sites.
To Respond or Not
Even though you know the review is fake, other potential customers don’t and responding in a calm and professional manner allows other potential customers to see how you handle the situation. Surveys show that online users expect to see a variety of positive and negative reviews for a business, what they want to see is how a business deals with a customer problem.
Never respond to a review when angry, even if it takes a week to calm down.
Keep on Going
It sucks, but don’t let it get you down. Keep on asking for real customers to leave a review, provide a direct link to review page and keep up the good fight.
You can also report your reviews in the Google My Business forums, on Twitter and Facebook, it may not be removed, but it makes it harder for Google to ignore and at some point Google will need to address this issue.