Negative and spam reviews are part of doing business online nowadays. Just as a small business will attain positive reviews from real customers, there are times when a business owner will notice a negative review or spam review from someone who may or may not have been a customer. This is a common occurrence on Google and something I have helped businesses work through, especially in the legal niche.
What do you do when you get a negative review? What are small business owners options? Unfortunately, most times, there isn’t much a business owner can do. There are a few circumstances where Google will remove a spam or negative review from the business profile. Most times, a business owner will simply have to accept the negative review. If you believe a review violates the Google Review Guidelines, you can flag the review in your business account, Maps, or Search, and to have Google manually determine if the review is inappropriate. Before you flag a review, make sure the review violates Google policy.
Flag a Google Review
To flag a Google review on your GMB profile you will need to:
- Sign into your GMB profile – business.google.com
- Choose the review you would like to flag
- Click the 3 button menu and Flag as inappropriate
You may have to wait a few days for Google to get back with you about their decision. While you are waiting, you may want to respond to the review so potential customers can read why you believe the review is inappropriate. It’s a good idea to respond to all reviews anyway.
Google’s Automatic Spam Filtering on Content
Per Google Review Policies, Google may reject certain content from publication on Google Maps if the content does not accurately represent the location in question, if content distorts the truth, or if the content is inaccurate. In addition, reviews are supposedly auto-processed to detect inappropriate content. Examples of inappropriate content include:
- Spam and Fake content
- Fake content or posting the same content several times on different business or with multiple accounts.
- Content should be based on your personal experiences with the business
- Restricted content
- No calls to action, links, emails, or promotional offers
- Illegal content
- Content or images infringing on legal rights or copyrights
- Sexual abuse images
- Terrorist content
- Self explanatory – no terrorist organizations are allowed on the platform and no content celebrating terrorist acts
- Sexually explicit content
- Any content containing sexually explicit material
- Offensive content
- A bit of a grey area, but anything profane, or offensive language
- Dangerous and Derogatory content
- Any content which is deemed threatening to others, harassment, bullying, inciting hate or violence
- Impersonating another individual or company
- Conflict of interest
- Reviewing your own business
- Posting about current or former employees
- Posting about a competitor
Most of these will be automatically pulled down by Google or simply not published at all. There are times when some content may sneak through the cracks and then you can report the content to Google.
When Google Will Take Action
Google will usually act upon negative reviews in these 3 circumstances:
- Public Attention
- The most famous case of Google reviews being spammed happened in 2015 when a Minnesota dentist went on safari in Africa. The dentist shot and killed Cecil the lion, a tourist favorite in Zimbabwe. When the public found out what happened and who shot Cecil, the dentist’s business was destroyed with Google reviews. Google took down most of the reviews because the reviews were targeting the dentist personally and had nothing to do with his business.
- There are times when a reviewer will agree to take down a bad review they left on your business IF you agree to pay them money to do so. Take screenshots, save emails, texts, DM’s and send them to Google to prove your case. Google will take the review down and you can save your pennies.
- Most review platforms will remove negative reviews from ex-employees and Google is no different. Again, save emails, texts, DM’s, and Tweets so you can easily prove your case to Google.
Negative Reviews are OK
This may seem like a backwards thing to say, but having negative reviews for your small business can be beneficial. Potential customers are going to be viewing all of the reviews on your business profile, and that includes negative reviews. Having negative review will provide a more realistic look at your business and ensure more trust in your business than having all 5 stars.
Customers are not trusting of all 5 star businesses any longer. They are expecting to see a few negative reviews. Having all 5 stars is unrealistic. Negative reviews can lead to better purchasing decisions and help build trust in your business. In addition, it can help small businesses learn from their mistakes and become stronger.
Don’t Sweat the Negatives
Receiving a few negative reviews on your GMB profile should not be the downfall of your business. Stay positive and focused on generating additional positive reviews. The positive reviews will outweigh the negatives and allow your business to be viewed in a more real world setting.
Get In Touch
If you are a small business having trouble attaining reviews, getting reviews removed, or just want Local SEO help, drop me a line.