How to Remove Fake Online Reviews
For local businesses, online reviews have a significant impact on your success. A recent study showed that 90% of survey respondents claimed that online reviews influenced their buying decisions.
Because of the importance of online reviews, business owners have become savvier in proactively managing their online reputation. But what about dealing with fake reviews?
Unfortunately, getting fake, inappropriate or inaccurate reviews on sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook is not uncommon and can be detrimental to your business if ignored. That’s why knowing how to remove fake online reviews is so important.
So how do online reviews get removed? The reality is there are 3 ways to make this happen.
- You ask the person who originally posted the review to remove it.
- You contact the website where the review is posted and ask them to remove it.
- You get a court order from a judge that compels the appropriate party to remove the review.
While getting a fake review can be frustrating, the good news is that you do have options for having this type of review removed. While the steps can vary depending on the review site, what follows is a general process for how to remove online reviews that are fake, inappropriate or misleading.
1. Carefully Assess the Review in Question
It goes without saying that business owners should be reading all online reviews their business receives. However, if you do see one that looks fraudulent, take extra time to review it. It’s a good idea to have someone else read it as well.
If you’re certain a review is fake, get confirmation by gathering evidence to support your case. Check the name of the person that left the review against your records. Are they a customer? A competitor?
Also, talk to your staff to see if they can shed any light as to what happened. Some fake reviews will be obvious. For example, if someone says the “burgers were terrible” and you own a pizzeria – it’s clear they reviewed the wrong establishment.
2. Respond to the Review
This action may seem counter intuitive. After all, if you believe a review is fake, why would you want to respond to it? The reason is that the process of removing a review can take weeks. During this time, that fake review will remain live online for all to see. Because of this, you still need to let potential customers that might read the review in question know that your business cares about your customers.
If the review in question is of the variety that contains hateful content or is otherwise toxic, you may consider not responding to the review. In these cases, it will be obvious to others as to why you didn’t respond.
Below is an example of what your response might look like in this situation:
“We appreciate you taking the time to leave a review. However, we have no record of any interactions with you or of you being a previous customer. So that we may resolve this issue with you, please contact (business contact name) at (direct phone number) at your convenience. Thank you.”
If the review was clearly meant for another business and therefore a mistake, point that out in your response and politely ask the reviewer to remove it.
3. Contact the customer directly
In some cases, you will know the person that left the review. If so, you should attempt to contact them directly to discuss the problem. Your tone should be friendly and non-confrontational. Also, apologizing, even if you are not in the wrong, can help diffuse the situation. Remember, your objective it to get the review removed.
Once you have resolved their issue, then ask that they edit or remove the review.
4. Flag, Report or Dispute the Review
A likely step for any business wanting to get a fake review removed is to contact the site where the review is posted and report the review.
Most review sites have terms of service documentation that include guidelines regarding prohibited content. This includes inappropriate content – such as reviews that contain profanity, hateful or threatening language – and reviews that are misleading or inaccurate.
All the major review sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook have options available for businesses to report fake reviews. These include flagging the review, tagging the review as “not helpful” or submitting a review dispute form.
Here is an example of what flagging a Google review looks like.
While many review sites have “filters” built into their software to automatically remove reviews with prohibited content, these types of reviews can still get posted. This is another reason why it’s important for businesses to monitor their reviews and take steps to remove fake ones.
Filling out a dispute form is where good evidence gathering comes into play. Make sure it clearly supports the removal of the review in question. When completing the form, use a constructive tone when stating your case. For instance, it’s better to say that you believe the review violates their terms of service instead of outright demanding that a review be removed.
Some sites will even provide a phone number or online chat for you to talk directly to a representative. Also, try reaching out to the review site via Twitter. These channels can help expedite your request to get the review removed. Take advantage of them if offered.
5. Monitor the Situation and Be Persistent
This is perhaps the most important step. It’s relatively easy to report a review and move on. But you need to be vigilant and follow up on your case. Make sure you get some sort of resolution from the review site where it was posted (good or bad). And, even if they say the review will be removed, check and make sure this indeed did occur and the review is deleted.
In a world where consumers go online to research the products and services they want to buy, online reviews play a key role in driving sales. Unfortunately, some of these reviews are fake. Left alone, these reviews can end up damaging your brand’s online reputation and cost your business money.
That’s why it’s important for businesses to not only be aware of online reviews being posted about them, but to also take action to remove reviews that are fake, inappropriate or inaccurate.
While the process of removing a review can take time – with no guarantees the review will be removed – don’t get discouraged. Your efforts will pay off in the long run.
The business of online reputation management, as the old saying goes, is a marathon not a sprint. And, removing fake reviews about your business is just part of the race. To win, your efforts should be focused on responding to reviews and generating new ones – as well as improving the customer experience along the way.
Have you successfully removed a fake or inappropriate online review about your business? Please share your story in the comments below.
Need help with building your brand’s online reputation? ReviewIgnite specializes in helping businesses leverage their online reputation to improve their brand image, attract more customers and increase sales. See our online reputation management software in action. Contact us to get your free, no obligation demo today!