Every business is potentially at a risk of receiving fake reviews. Whether it’s an angry rant from a competitor or former employee or a blatant spammer, false information about your business or irrelevant content on your review site profiles can be very harmful to your online reputation.
We’ve put together a list of steps that you can take to identify and fight fake reviews that can potentially hurt your business.
Identifying fake reviews
More often than not, fake reviews share common characteristics that give them away. Learn to identify these and you’ll be able to spot a phony from miles away.
Authentic reviews provide specific information about the customer’s experience with a product or service. Be wary of reviews with marketing jargon. Fake reviews tend to include vague phrases like “worst time”, “awful place”, or “bad experience”, without citing any actual details. A genuine review is more moderate in its criticism or praise, and usually mentions specific people, places, and things.
Many sites these days try to link reviewers to actual purchases or provide a badge like “verified buyer.” In general, those badges and titles confirm the reviewer is legit. When those aren’t available and you suspect a fake review, check if the reviewer has profile information, social connections, or previous reviews. An absence of these sometimes indicates the account was created just to defame a reputation. The same goes for a reviewer who has only ever written reviews containing irrelevant, spammy, or self-promotional content.
One of the most efficient ways to spot fake reviews is by looking at their timestamps. A batch of reviews posted roughly around the same time often signals fraudulent activity.
Short, incomplete sentences riddled with poor grammar and punctuation are a red flag. Since companies providing fake review services only charge a few dollars, their writers either dash them off carelessly or often they’re being outsourced from a foreign country.
Managing fake reviews
Review sites usually have algorithms in place to detect fake reviews, but there are also several preventative measures you can take to minimize the damage of fake reviews.
Continuously monitor all your reviews
The sooner you spot a fake review, the less it hurts your online reputation. On a basic level, you can set up Google alerts and routinely check your review site profiles so you’re aware of every incoming review. This can be a tedious process, so another option is to enlist the help of an automated online reputation management software that lets you monitor all your reviews from all sites in one place, and sends you new review alerts instantly or daily so you don’t miss a word.
Try to get fake reviews removed
The most surefire way to defeat a fake review is by getting it removed. Though this isn’t always possible, almost all review sites are willing to remove reviews that explicitly violate their policies. Later in this article, we will cover how to go about requesting review removal on top review sites like Facebook, Google, HealthGrades, and TripAdvisor.
Tactfully respond to fake reviews
While responding to fake reviews, it’s important to hold your horses and not act right away. It natural to feel agitated when someone posts fraudulent reviews about your business but responding with anger can backfire. Also, make sure that you are not responding to only the fake review and leaving all other negative reviews. Potential customers might assume that they are accurate and that’s the reason you are not making an effort to respond. Therefore, it is important to weigh your options before you respond.
If you choose to respond to a fake review after flagging it, then respond in a way that helps potential customers decide if they would be willing to engage with you in future. Avoid profanity, offensive words, threats, and name-calling as they have no place on public third-party review sites.
Here are some quick tips for responding to fake reviews:
Consider that the review may have been posted for another company
Sometimes a seemingly fake review is an innocent mistake, but you should still get it cleared up so other customers aren’t misinformed by it.
Hi [Reviewer Name], Our customers’ happiness is our top priority, but we don’t appear to have any record of your visit. Please get in touch with our support team at (phone number) if you have an issue with our facility.
Politely question the false claims
Rather than get defensive, point out inaccuracies calmly and professionally. This will give your business more authority and credibility.
Hi [Reviewer Name], it looks like there’s been some confusion here. You mentioned that we closed early on Sunday so you couldn’t visit us, but we aren’t open on Sundays. If you contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or XXXXXXXXXX, we’ll try to understand your issue better and figure out what happened.
Get more positive reviews
The best defense against any type of bad review, fake or not, is a consistent flow of positive reviews. If customers can see proof that you have many happy customers, they are more likely to shrug off negative reviews as isolated incidents and choose your business in spite of them.
Using automated online reputation management solutions like BirdEye, you can generate a fresh stream of positive reviews for your business. Happy customers are directed to review sites of your choice so that they can post glowing reviews about your business.
How to remove fake reviews
As mentioned earlier in this article, most review sites will remove a review if certain criteria are met. Here’s how you can flag a fake review or get it removed from some of the top review sites:
Facebook will only remove fraudulent content if it is not in sync with Facebook’s Community Standards – a set of guidelines that protect individuals and businesses from the risk of physical harm or public threats.
Follow these steps to report a fake review on Facebook:
- Click the three dots in the top right corner of the post.
- Click on “Report Post” and follow the instructions to request removal.
Google will remove any flagged posts that do violate Google’s Contributed Content Policy. Once you flag the review, a moderator will decide whether there’s enough evidence that the review is fake.
You can flag a Google review in a few easy steps:
- Hover the mouse on the review you want to flag.
- Click on the flag icon that appears below the name of the reviewer.
- Once the “Report a policy violation” box opens, fill in the necessary details and write a brief explanation of why the review should be taken down.
If you are concerned about a fake review on HealthGrades, you can flag it right away. If the content violates HealthGrade’s Editorial Policy, it will be removed.
Here’s how you can flag a patient survey on HealthGrades:
- Go to the Healthgrades Physician Portal log-in page and sign in to your Healthgrades account.
- In the sidebar, select the star icon and navigate to Patient Experience > Patient Reviews. The Patient Experience Reviews page will display all reviews submitted for you.
- For the review you want to be assessed, choose Flag.
- When prompted, choose the reasons for flagging the review.
- Other. Enter up to 250 characters of free-text explaining your reason for flagging the review and submit.
- Once you submit, a filled-in Flagged icon will get displayed below the specific review.
TripAdvisor’s team of moderators are on the continuous scout for shady reviews. The company has a policy on fake reviews and considers any bogus reviews for removal that are brought to their attention.
To report a fraudulent review on TripAdvisor, here’s what you can do:
- Sign into your TripAdvisor Account and click on the “Your Business” tab in the top right corner.
- Click on “Manage Reviews.
- Below the “Concerned about a review?” headline, click on “See our guidelines and submit your comments.”
You may also want to read Handling negative reviews for business
By knowing how to manage fake reviews, you can stop them from hurting your online reputation. If you can’t get the review removed, you can exhibit your professionalism to potential customers by responding to it.
You can also overpower the fake reviews by generating a constant stream of new authentic reviews using an automated software like BirdEye.