You love the positive reviews. And you know how to deal with the negatives calmly and politely. But what do you do if you think someone has written a false review to smear your business online?
Negative false reviews may be left by trolls, competitors, disgruntled ex-customers or even bots. On the other hand, some companies pay to artificially inflate their star ratings with a glut of positive reviews. Good or bad, fakes are more common than you might think – one 2021 study found that more than 30% of online reviews analysed were fake.
You’re likely to run into a fake review or ten if you’re running a business, so you need to know how to respond.
Fake review spotting tips.
Minimising the impact of false reviews starts with identifying them – and you can’t do that if you’re not monitoring reviews on key platforms. It’s worth checking regularly, scanning for negative reviews and potential fakes and responding as quickly as possible.
Sometimes, a fake review is obvious. Other times, it’s about looking for clues and making a judgement call.
Here’s what to look for:
1. Read the details: fake reviews often include completely false information – they might mention a product you don’t sell or a location that doesn’t exist. If the info doesn’t match your business, you’re probably dealing with a fake (or a confused customer).
2. Check the user name and avatar: if the user has a generic or joke name and no avatar, they may not be genuine.
3. Look at their history: on most review sites, you can look back through a user’s history to see their other reviews. If your suspected faker has no other reviews, or if they have written a slew of negative reviews on a single day, that’s another data point to consider.
Once you’ve spotted a probable fake review, it’s time to respond. Here’s how:
Option 1: Flag for removal.
Review sites don’t want fake reviews on their platforms, as they undermine the credibility of their content. That’s why most platforms have a way to flag fake reviews for assessment. If the review is determined to be fake, they may remove it.
Google bans false, offensive and dangerous reviews from its review platform. Request a review removal here, and if it breaches any of Google’s content rules, it should be deleted within a few days. Remember, you can’t request removal for negative reviews – only those that are false or offensive.
On Yelp, reviews can be flagged for removal if they’re false, contain offensive language or images, or seem to be posted by a competitor. To request removal, find the review in your business account, click the ‘More options’ button, and click ‘Report review’. Again, assessment and removal may take a couple of days.
Yellow Pages reviews.
Yellow Pages reviews moderates all reviews before they go live, which helps reduce the number of fakes. However, if you do find a review that you think is false, inappropriate or offensive, click the ‘Report’ button to flag it for removal.
Option 2: Respond to the review.
Unfortunately, reporting a false review doesn’t always result in removal. Sometimes, this happens because there’s no conclusive evidence showing the review is fake.
However, you still have options. First, try responding to the review. As with negative reviews, it’s crucial to be calm, polite and professional. Even if you’re dealing with a troll or bot, your other customers can see your response.
Point out the inaccuracies that make you think the review is fake – for example, if it refers to an item that’s not on your menu or a location that doesn’t exist. If there are no tangible details to refute, respond as if it’s a genuine review and ask them to get in touch.
Option 3: Drown out the negatives.
Another option? Flood review sites with positive reviews to drown out the fake negatives. You can encourage your customers to leave reviews – for example, by sending a follow-up email requesting a review after a purchase. The good news? This strategy is smart even if you’re not dealing with fakes.
Managing reviews – and more.
If you’re running a small business, dealing with fake reviews can feel like just another task on an endless to-do list. That’s where Thryv comes in. A marketing automation platform designed for SMBs, it lets you manage all your key marketing tasks through a single interface – from reviews and scheduling to social media, CRM, email comms and more.
Slash your to-do list with Thryv. Get your free demo today.