5 Steps to Remove Negative Google Reviews And Dispute Fake Ones

It would be impossible for me to count the number of times I have received an email from a potential client with the following as the subject line: HELP removing Google review.

The single most common question I receive in doing Local SEO is “How can I remove a bad google review?.”

The email is typically laden with frustration, tears, and often, a fear of leaving the house.

Negative reviews on Google can make you feel as though you are wearing a Scarlet letter everywhere you go.

While feelings of shame over your first negative review is most certainly understandable, it should not serve as a time for hiding out in your closet eating cake and chips while listening to a portable radio.

boy with 2 thumbs down leading

1-star rating, left by an unhappy customer

Bad reviews happen, to everyone.

Your first 2-star review could be well-deserved, it might be competitor sabotage, but it is never the end of times.

All the same, things are not as easy as just summoning remove negative Google review to the Internet Gods and going about your day.

You are going to have to make considerations, potentially be humble, and always take action.

Reputation Management | Negative Reviews Can Cripple A Small Business

A poor online reputation can spell doom for any business, large or small. I consider it a form of negative SEO.

Online reputation and brand management are critical to business success. These days, every potential client and consumer is only a search away from finding your dirty laundry spilled all over a review site. Read my post on Tools for managing your reputation online,.

When a consumer considers a product or service they are more likely than ever to Google the product or manufacturer’s name.

The potential customer is often looking for specific bad reviews because they want to see how you handle dilemmas.

Here are a few likely consumers to leave bad reviews:

  • Product malfunctions
  • Incomplete or poor services rendered
  • Inaccurate charges
  • Incorrect orders

Potential customers like to know that when they spend their money, on the off-chance that things go wrong, the business owner will make things right.

As a business owner, you cannot expect to avoid negative Google reviews, but you can aspire to make sure they not only don’t hurt you, but they work to your benefit.

Wait, what? Can false reviews be turned into good positive reviews?

Things just got confusing, but don’t worry, we are going to iron all of this out below.

Let us dive in and.

(1)Bad Review – Plan Your Response

Read the official policy on reviews, from Google.

an image that shows how to remove bad reviews from google local

Before we get started on what you SHOULD do as a business owner who is faced with a bad Google review, let’s talk about what you should not do.

You should not immediately react emotionally. Whatever you do or say may have lasting effects on your product and your reputation as a business owner. While you do need to rectify the situation with immediacy, it is best to formulate a professional and mature strategy first.

Unless you know for sure, for example, that you delivered the utterly wrong order to Hilda’s house for her Superbowl Sunday party and ruined her life, you are best to take a few steps back and honestly examine what happened.

Even in cases such as the hypothetical one I have posed with Hilda, whereas you are sure you are wrong, you still need to take a moment and gather your thoughts to ensure you make the most professional response possible.

(2) Determine Authenticity Of The Review

The Internet is a land of fakes and frauds, that much we know, so it should come as no surprise that negative reviews are sometimes the work of mean-spirited competition or, your ex-spouse.

Do your due diligence on the complainer by checking to see if this person was someone who purchased your products or services.

Your business may not lend itself to easily identifying past customers, but that does not mean you cannot contact, say, your restaurant’s host for the afternoon in question and inquire of him or her that day’s to-go orders.

There are savvy ways to figure out if a bad Google review at least has the potential to be authentic.

Here’s the bad news: You are going to have to respond in a professional manner.

I know, that is a tough pill to swallow, however, when we look at how to remove fake reviews on Google a bit down, you will see that the process does not happen incredibly quick.

While I do recommend that you not respond to any reviews in emotional haste, you also can’t allow them to sit there unresolved because unfortunately, potential customers gleaning over your Google business listing will have no idea that Google review is fake.

(3) How To Respond To A Fake  or False Review

how do you reply to a negative review

My cheat sheet on how to reply to a fake review.

Your goal when responding to negative reviews is to show your potential customers and clients who are considering your business that you are on top of customer service.

Because you have determined that the Google review is, in fact, likely a fraud, there is a bit of a different approach you should take.

  • Reply immediately with an apology. Make it obvious that you understand the depth of the complaint and that you feel legitimately bad and want to rectify the problem or issue.
  • Note that you are not able to verify the situation and this is harming your process to further resolve the matter; both in preventing a future incident from occurring and potentially in rectifying the customer’s bad experience in refunds or future discounts. Remember, the review is fake, you are essentially asking them to reveal themselves privately to you under the guise that you are going to help them out.
  • Leave your personal/business email address, phone number, and any relevant contact information and request the reviewer contact you so that you can get the additional details needed to resolve the issue.
  • Now for the fun part: Flag the review.

shut off google reviews isnt an option so you need to report

(4) How To Flag a Fake or Inappropriate Review

Step-by-step…

  1. First, log into your Google My Business account dashboard.
  2. Display all your business reviews. You will see them on the left side of the screen
  3. Find the evil fraudster who’s giving you grief.
  4. Stare at it for a moment and place a hex on the evil person who lied  (hey, it never hurts to try).

How to flag a google review?

  1. Now, you will see three dots stacked on top of one another, click those.

flag as inappropriate

  1. You will now have the option to “flag as inappropriate.”
report a policy violation in google my business

Simple form to report a policy violation in Google My Business

Now, you have completed the necessary steps in divorcing yourself from this outlandish review, but you can do more to hopefully help expedite the process a bit more.

Pick up the phone. Google has a support contact number that allows businesses who have grievances call them. Visit your Google My Business account and look down on the left side for “support.” Click that.

Google also allows you to report reviews through legal means here

This is more relevant for reviews that slander your business.

Here’s the bad news: There is no guarantee that Google will remove the review in a timely manner, or ever, no matter how many of these hoops you jump through.

However, you have hedged your bet in the matter by leaving a professional response to the negative review so it should never appear you do not attempt to rectify dissatisfied customers.

(5) How To Respond To A Negative Review | The Real, Deserved Ones

A negative review could be both real and underserved, so forgive my headline that header which seems to assume all real reviews are legit.

Situations happen, and we are all human, which leads us to our own unique conclusions over situations. Part of being a business owner is attending to reputation management beyond everything, and this happens by sucking up your pride and apologizing in most cases (deserved or not deserved).

Remember when we did not freak out.

That was the start of how to respond. At this juncture, we need to react and make sure that we preserve the goodness of our brand and product.

Let Us Talk About Online Reputation Management

Your reputation is built faster when you respond to criticism then it is when you gloat in all your glories.

Consumers always want to know what will happen if they purchase your services or products and aren’t satisfied.

A negative Google review might be more of a blessing than a curse because it gives you the immediate opportunity to show your willingness to resolve issues that are related to your business.

women with one thumb down with a reputation management tshirt on

You may need professional review management company.

The time to not freak out is over; now it is time to reply.

Here are those steps:

  • Be calm, collected, patient and reassuring. Don’t act completely shocked or appalled in the intro of your response; you immediately want to set the tone that you are “apologizing.”
  • Be action oriented. The apology is done, now its time to offer to rectify the matter. This may come in the way of an immediate refund, a free product or service for the future, or even a gift card. Keep it short and sweet.
  • You can now be a little overdramatic, appalled, or what have you. Tread lightly or not at all. Telling disgruntled customers that something has “never happened” can sometimes sound condescending. Whatever you say needs to make sure it keeps the blame on you, not the customer. The last thing you want is a hostile exchange between your business and an already upset customer breaking out.
  • Tell them how much you appreciate their business and conclude with a second formal apology.

Let’s put these steps to work in an example response:

Hi Hilda,

I want to first and foremost apologize for the mistake we made on Superbowl Sunday. I can’t imagine how upset I personally would have been over such a mistake and to think that my business caused such a thing causes me sadness.

I know I can’t make up for ruining such an important event, however, I would like to offer to make it up to you by not only refunding Sunday’s catering bill (that goes without saying) but also by comping you the same amount for a future day of your choosing.

I’m truly upset this happened to you and that my business was the cause. While mistaken orders are a rare occurrence with us, I can never not feel terrible when it does effect a great customer like yourself.

Your business is appreciated and we hope to earn it back. Again, apologies, please contact me at EMAIL or PHONE so I can work out the details expressed above.

Google Policy Update in 2018

Google is not entirely unaware of the power that business reviews can yield.

Last December, Google disallowed employees from leaving negative reviews about their past jobs.

Over the years, Google has increased its policies regarding consumer reviews as a way to fight back against the growing trend of leaving fake reviews for the purposes of disparaging a business without merit or spamming.

Google’s algorithm does work to snuff these cases out before they ever see the light of day. Unfortunately, there is no longer a way to turn off reviews in your Google Local GMB account.

Conclusion: Now you know how to dispute a Google review

Learning how to handle poor online reviews is essential knowledge for a business owner.

However, nothing trumps having a business reputations management strategy, not only with rogue negative reviews but also all over the web. Focus on building good reviews; they will overshadow the random bad ones.

Fortunately, you do not have to go it alone if you do not want to. At SEOExpertbrad.com, I not only help clients gain increased positions in Google search, but I also support businesses and companies with critical brand management.

I can provide a free consultation.

Also, if your business is plagued with legitimate bad reviews online, I am not that kind of a fixer.

Clients are taken on a case by case basis and only if I am sure I can help you grow.

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