Fake Google reviews can wreak havoc on both your online reputation and local rankings.
Consumers rely on Google reviews to make informed purchasing decisions, while search engines use them to determine prominence.
So when spammers target your business with fake reviews, you’ll need to act quickly to prevent potential customers heading to your competitors.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to spot fake reviews on Google and prevent them from ruining everything you’ve built.
Sometimes, you can spot fake Google reviews from a mile away.
For example, the above one-star review for a McDonald’s restaurant in London references chicken chain Nando’s, suggesting the reviewer cut and pasted it from a fake review campaign and forgot to change the name.
Fake reviews aren’t always so easy to recognise, but if you know what to look for, there are a few obvious signs that will help separate them from the real deal.
Pay attention to:
Genuine reviews usually mention something specific about the product or service that helps you confirm the feedback is legitimate.
The more you actively manage your customer feedback, the easier it will be for you to spot fake Google reviews.
Web-wide reviews: Google isn’t the only place customers can leave you reviews. Use Semrush’s Listing Management to quickly set up profiles on 70+ top web directories to build a stronger online reputation.
Reporting fake Google reviews is not just a matter of protecting your business. Fake reviews mislead potential customers and damage the credibility of review platforms.
Small business owners fall victim to coordinated attacks from competitors buying positive reviews for themselves and bombing rivals with negative feedback.
Former employees might also write fake reviews to take revenge for perceived grievances, such as a recent firing.
Google publishes reviews instantly and it takes several days to respond to reports, so it pays to act swiftly. The search engine uses machine learning to catch fake reviews as soon as possible, but it’s not a perfect system, leaving it to businesses themselves to report wrongdoing.
Flagging fake reviews helps ensure that your online reputation accurately reflects the quality of your products or services. It also sends a message that your business values fair competition.
Rapid replies: The first step to managing a fake review is to address their complaint. Use Semrush’s Review Management to get back to all your reviews faster with AI suggestions.
If you’ve ever considered writing fake Google reviews to get a rankings boost, think again.
Business owners that get caught submitting fake ratings on Google may be prosecuted for false advertising under state law.
Punishments may be especially harsh in the case of writing fake Google reviews on competitor profiles, where defamation law comes into play.
Spam reviewers are becoming such a problem that the federal government is taking steps towards stricter legislation to control it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is planning harsher punishments for fake online reviews, proposing fines of up to $50,000 for each view of a bogus opinion.
Google itself may also penalize your business for writing fake reviews, costing you valuable online visibility and the potential revenue that comes with it.
Distance your company from fake Google reviews by reporting anything you suspect wasn’t written by a genuine customer, positive or negative.
Now you know how to identify fake Google reviews, it’s time to do something about them.
First, document the fake review with screenshots to strengthen your case. If your business is small, you may be able to prove with dated invoices or receipts that you didn’t serve a particular customer.
Next, reply to the review so potential customers can see that you’re eager to rectify the situation. Of course, this won’t matter to a fake reviewer, but it will look a lot better while you wait for Google’s verdict.
Finally, report the fake review to Google:
Select “report review”. 4. Follow the prompts to provide additional information. 5. Fake reviews will either be “spam” or “conflict of interest”.
Once you’ve reported the fake review, it’s now up to Google to decide if they’ll remove it. Expect up to three business days for Google to get back to you.
Connect GBP: Keep a closer eye on your Google Business Profile by connecting it to Semrush Local. You’ll be able to monitor it for errors, create reports, and reply to reviews without leaving the tool (Premium Location subscribers).
Occasionally, you’ll receive an overly negative review that you don’t believe accurately reflects the level of service your business provides.
As with fake Google reviews, start by replying to show you've made an effort to explain and make amends if applicable.
Google has published a long list of reasons it would suppress a review, including harassment, explicit content and falsehoods (the search engine has a separate team to handle reviews reported for legal reasons).
If you simply feel the review is an unfair critique of your business, you’re unlikely to have much success by reporting it. Try to learn from the incident, make changes as best you can, and move on.
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