Fake Google reviews are practically an epidemic on Google. Even though the company is working on fixing its anti-spam algorithm, online studies suggest that half of Google reviews are either bogus or not written by genuine customers. This percentage may be even higher for service-based businesses like healthcare providers.
As Google reviews are considered helpful for the massive consumer base using Google to skim businesses, fake reviews can be a major problem for doctors, whose reputation is often first based on what potential patients read online.
In addition, former employees and business rivals can cause real difficulties by buying Google reviews or posting negative fake reviews. The situation is even worse for doctors who do not have many reviews to start with. It can be difficult for a prospective customer to recognize which feedback if fraudulent and which is real.
Understanding different types of reviews on Google
Many people think that any review on a web page if it shows up in Google search results, is something which is under Google’s control. The fact is that there are three main types of reviews on Google:
- Reviews on Google, through Google Maps.
- Business’ Google+ page reviews, which reflects in their Google listing.
- Reviews on third-party websites that simply display on Google’s search results.
In this blog, we will be addressing No. 1 and focusing on how to handle fake reviews on Google.
How to handle fake google reviews?
If a review is defamatory or disparaging, if it is insulting or makes a racist remark against you or your staff, you can contact Google and ask that it be removed.
You can also get genuine-sounding fake google reviews removed if you can convince Google that the user has not been your patient, though this can be very challenging.
You may also want to investigate to see if the review infringes upon Google’s content policies.
Here are 5 tips for handling fake reviews on Google:
Respond to the review tactfully
Before you hyperventilate or shoot off an angry reply, take a deep breath. Depending on how wary you want to be as a business, you can respond in two different ways to your fake google reviews.
The “Contact Us” approach
All you need to do is respond with your contact details and assure the patient that you will address their concern. If you get a response, you can try to sort out the patient’s issue and if satisfying results can be achieved, you can ask them to edit their review.
The “Not a Patient” approach
The idea here is to make it clear to other customers that the review is false as far as you can tell. In this case, the review is most likely to be fake.
However, you can still add a line at the end saying “Regardless, if you could still contact us…” If you can prove that their story is inaccurate, you can be bolder while calling them out on it and reporting the review. Sometimes the call-and-response can go viral — so be sure you’re ready for that publicity.
Report fake google reviews
When you find a fraudulent review that you want to report, you can simply locate the small flag icon in the review itself and click it.
You will be prompted with the message asking whether you want to flag that review, and there may be a brief form to fill out about why you are reporting it.
Also Read: Can I remove a Google Review?
Wait for the review to be removed
The catch here is that it usually takes Google a few days or even a week to examine your report and conclude if the review is genuine. If it decides it’s genuine, it’ll leave it posted. In case it’s a fake review, it may withdraw it, or put it on hold.
If Google puts a hold on a fake review, the review is hidden from everyone except the person who has posted it. The reviewer will be notified that their review was reported as false, and the reason provided.
While you’re waiting, you can try to sink the negative reviews by gathering more reviews. The ratio of positive versus negatives reviews is essential.
Get in touch with Google directly
If after waiting a week, no action is taken to change the review, call Google. Search for your listing on business.google.com. Find the icon with three lines on the top left side of the page and click it to find the support option. You’ll be able to chat or call someone at Google. Ensure that you have your evidence ready before you start this conversation.
The last resort
If none of the above options work, calling an attorney may be your last resort. Google seriously considers legal requests and processes them quickly. However, you must have a legitimate case. The review must meet legal definitions and this route should not be overused or Google may start to see you as the problem.
Ultimately, you may get better results by not fighting the fake google reviews. Instead, respond to them and focus your energy on building more reviews that overwhelm the negative. If managed consistently, Google reviews can become one your most compelling and powerful marketing tools.
Originally published Oct 17, 2017 1:11 AM, updated Nov 08, 2022