How to Deal with “Bogus” Negative Reviews on Google
Google has tons of policies for users that leave reviews, but in our experience they’re pretty terrible at automatically catching violations of these policies. At First Draft Marketing, our Reputation Management team spends time each month carefully monitoring reviews for our clients on the “Big 3 for Online Reviews: Google, Facebook and Yelp.” The good news is that if you’re diligent at tracking them and can make a good enough case for why the reviews are against the guidelines, you can get them removed by contacting Google on Twitter, Facebook, or reporting via the forum.
A family attorney client we started working with didn’t even realize he had negative Google Reviews until we started working with him, and then got his law firm’s site ranked on the first page of search engines, where reviews are more obvious. Together, we determined that 4 out of 10 of his reviews were bogus reviews. They were either the opposing spouse that he’d represented in a divorce case, or were created by fake accounts.
Two of the four reviews were ratings without reviews. These are the hardest to get rid of because Google will normally tell you that they don’t violate the guidelines — since there’s no text on them. This attorney instantly knew they weren’t clients because he keeps meticulous records of who he works with and would know if one of them was unhappy enough to leave a review.
The challenge with negative reviews on Google
The challenge is that Google doesn’t know who your customers are, and they won’t accept “this wasn’t a customer” as an acceptable reason to remove a review, since they allow people to use anonymous usernames. In most cases, it’s extremely difficult to prove the identity of someone online.
The other challenge is that a person doesn’t have to be a customer to be eligible to leave a review. They have to have a “customer experience,” which could be anything from trying to call you and getting your voicemail to requesting a legal opinion on their case to dropping by your office and just puttering around.
How to respond
When you work hard to build a good, ethical law firm or business, it’s always infuriating when a random person has the power to destroy what took you years to build. It can be really difficult not to take them personally and go on the attack. Thankfully, we were able to follow the advice we’ve given many people in the last eight years, which is to calm down and think about what your future prospects will see when they come across review and the way you respond to it.
Solution: Share your dilemma
An option is to post on Twitter and Facebook about any negative reviews, and you may be surprised to find positive responses and support. Hey, we all need a little encouragement sometimes.
Whoever was behind these reviews was seeking to harm this attorney’s practice and reputation. The irony is that they actually helped him, because he ended up getting two new positive reviews as a result of our agency sharing his experience with people that he knew would rally behind him.
For most businesses, your evangelists might not be on Twitter, but you could post about it on your personal Facebook profile or on LinkedIn. Any friends that have used your service or patronized your business would likely respond in the same manner. If you’re a great attorney or business-owner, you’ll have these types of customers and they should be the people you want to share this experience with!
But what about getting the negative reviews removed?
In this case, we were able to have the reviews removed. However, there have also been several cases where we’ve seen Google refuse to remove them for others. Our plan B (and temporary solution until the reviews were taken down) was to post a response to the reviews offering these “customers” a 100% refund. After all, 100% of zero is still zero — we/our client had nothing to lose. We also replied to the reviews of people this attorney had never met, stating this matter-of-factly for readers to see. This would also ensure that future prospects see that the lawyer or business owner will still address people that have a negative experience, since even the best businesses in the world aren’t perfect. As much as we love a 5-star rating average, studies have shown that 4.2–4.5 is actually the ideal average star rating for hiring/purchase probability.
Have you had an experience with bogus negative reviews on Google? If so, we’d love to hear about it!
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