Review Management

Fake Google reviews: How to spot and report them

Weed out bogus reviews that could tarnish your business’s reputation

Quick summary
  • Recognizing fake Google reviews is an important skill to keep your local SEO in good shape.
  • When you find fake reviews on Google, report them for the good of your company and the local community.
  • Semrush Local gives you better control over your online reputation with simple review trackers and reply tools.

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.

How do you know if a Google review is fake?

Sometimes, you can spot fake Google reviews from a mile away.

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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:

  • Overly positive or negative language that seems scripted
  • Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Lots of similar or identical reviews posted in a short period by the same reviewer
  • Vague details that could describe any business
  • Comments that couldn’t possibly refer to the products and services you offer
  • Reviewers with no other review activity
  • Long reviews for fairly simple products and services
  • Reviewer names that are just random letters and numbers
  • High praise for a competitor in a negative review for your business

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.

Why it’s important to report fake Google reviews

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.

Why you must never write fake Google reviews

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.

How to report fake Google reviews

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:

  1. Make sure you have access to your company’s Google Business Profile.
  2. Bring up the fake Google review that you want to report.
  3. Click the three dots to bring up the menu.

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Select “report review”. 4. Follow the prompts to provide additional information. 5. Fake reviews will either be “spam” or “conflict of interest”.

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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).

What about “unfair” reviews?

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).

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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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Semrush Local: Review management done right

Flagging fake Google reviews and taking control of your online reputation is an important part of your local SEO strategy.

To help, Semrush Local is here with all the tools you’ll need to improve your average rating and attract more genuine reviews.

Streamline your review tracking

Managing reviews scattered across different platforms can be a tall order for small businesses.

But with Semrush's Review Management, you can easily monitor all your reviews from various platforms, including Google, in one unified dashboard.

No more hopping between platforms to check and respond to reviews and no more tedious data collection for reporting.
The dashboard in Semrush’s Review Management

Competitor review analysis

Need a simple way to compare your ratings with competitors so you can identify areas for improvement?

View your rivals' review data alongside your own in an easy-to-read format with Semrush’s Review Management.

The insightful tool supercharges your competitive analysis to help drive your business to new heights.
Competitor review data in Semrush’s Review Management

Reply to reviews faster with AI

Replying to fake Google reviews is the first step to avoiding negative repercussions.

But with feedback spread across multiple platforms, getting back to all your customers can be seriously time-consuming.

Semrush’s Review Management suggests personalized responses to speed things up while ensuring your messages are thoughtful and relevant.
A reply window in Semrush’s Review Management

Get reviews from more platforms

Google isn't the only platform you need to monitor for unscrupulous fake review activity.

An effective review generation strategy means distributing your NAP data (name, address, phone number) to other top websites for the strongest possible review profile.

Semrush's Listing Management publishes your business listings the easy way so you can focus on delighting your customers and asking them to review you online.
Listings directories connected to a Semrush Local
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