How To Deal with a Negative Review Attack

Jason Brown

Aug 21, 20193 min read
How To Deal with a Negative Review Attack

One Sunday, as our church was holding our outdoor patio service, a hummingbird got stuck in the skylight in the roof. We all watched as the hummingbird kept flying back and forth across the skylight, struggling for open space. The poor hummingbird kept looking up and was unable to see his escape path a few inches below him.

Sadly most business owners are this hummingbird; they are completely unaware of a review attack, and they are unaware of how to deal with it when it happens. In this post, you will learn what to do if your business endures the same.

GMB with negative reviews

The Joint Chiropractic negative review attack

I worked on a case where a business had its Google My Business (GMB) rating drop from a 4.5 rating to a 2.8 rating in less than two weeks.

A user or series of users posted seventeen 1-star reviews or ratings for a Google My Business listing. This review attack was extremely upsetting for the business owner who felt completely helpless with what to do. Fortunately, I was asked to investigate.

Analysis: What I Found

I quickly discovered a very distinct pattern as I clicked on the reviews. It turns out that those same profiles were used to post 1-star reviews for the GameStop in White House, Tenn. The GameStop listing received eighteen 1-star reviews and /or ratings all on the same day.

I called the Gamestop store and spoke with a manager. She, just like the hummingbird, was completely unaware of the review attack. She kept staying, "Oh wow," as she read review after review. I could hear her panic and despair. I advised her there was good news, and I would report the reviews and help get them removed. Sadly, that is easier said than done.

What I Did

I documented all of the profiles and links to each review and rating and contacted GMB Support with a link to the to Google Sheet. 

Three days later, a friend of mine contacted me because a company that she knew was being slammed online with random negative reviews. The review attack had been ongoing for months but had escalated in recent days and she wanted to know how to delete a Google review. I searched on Twitter for references to the business name and was quickly able to find the source behind the negative review attack. I  provided my friend with step-by-step instructions on how to report the negative reviews to get them removed.

It took a week for the Google My Business team to respond to my request for assistance. Four days later, Google removed all but one review.

GMB after negative reviews were removed

The Joint Chiropractic GMB after negative review were removed

How to Handle a Negative Review Attack

Step 1. Remain Calm

Although it can be disheartening and anger you, you don't want to reply in anger. You need to know when and how to respond to these Google reviews.

With the above attacks, I did not recommend responding to the reviews. In cases like these, replying to the reviews can only add more fuel to the fire. These attacks are personal.

All three businesses were the subject of a personal vendetta. Ignoring the reviews will help to de-escalate the situation.  

Step 2. Flag the Reviews

Google requires that the reviews are flagged in the dashboard and that the user waits three days before contacting support. Sadly flagging these reviews won't do anything to remove them. There is no option to leave notes and feedback or links to the documentation to support the removal of the reviews.

Google Support will only look at the verbiage of the review and determine if the text in review violates its Terms of Service (TOS).
Step 3. Contact Google

I recommend creating a Google document with the following information:

  1. Profile name(s) of the offending reviewers
  2. Link to profiles
  3. Notes as to why the review is being reported

You can contact GMB Support directly:

GMB Support Tweet

Google My Business can't message you tweet

For Twitter, you must follow their Twitter account so that they can communicate with you via DM.

You may also create a thread at the new Google My Business community forum

You will need to supply the following information:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Link to Google document/sheet and links to resources. 

What Happens Next

A Google My Business Product Expert (PE) will review the thread and escalate it directly to Google only if it is warranted. If a PE does send your thread to Google, they typically hear back in one to two weeks. A Google employee will email them once they have reviewed the file and reviews with their findings. They will update the thread and ask the reporting party to double-check that all of the reported reviews were removed.

If any reviews were missed, the user will need to update the file and thread. The Google My Business Product Expert will then email Google Support with your updated set of notes. The entire process typically takes four to six weeks, unless there are any unforeseen complications.

In Conclusion

You don't have to be the hummingbird. There is help available, but it requires some patience. Take a deep breath and focus on flagging and reporting the reviews. If you follow the above advice, you will be able to get the fake negative reviews removed and continue to go about your business as usual. If you panic, you can make matters worse and prolong the damage and attacks.

Author Photo
After more than a decade working in the field, I am currently the Spam Hunt for Sterling Sky. Although I have focused on local SEO for nationwide multi-location franchises since 2015, my resume includes combating and reporting fake online reviews, which includes several local and national news appearances. My comments can be found regularly in the GMB forum and I'm in the process of becoming a Top Contributor. You can find me on Twitter talking SEO and music; say hi sometime.