Does your competitor have fake positive reviews? Have they attacked your Google Business Profile with bad reviews? If so, you’ll want to read this article if you’re one of the many small businesses suffering from fraudulent reviews and false reviews because I’m about to tell you how to remove fake Google reviews to knock your competitor out of Google Maps (map pack) and help you climb up.
But, before we start, you should know that being featured in the map pack isn’t the best way to get new customers. The first organic position on Google receives 27.4% of clicks, higher than any other business listed in the map pack. In addition, the three organic listings below receive more than the third position. To get your website even more clicks, view our SEO Packages for Small Business.
If you’re still determined to remove fake Google reviews, let’s understand why Google reviews are important and how to identify fake reviews before I show you the steps to remove them.
Importance of Google Reviews
Google Reviews Attract Customers
In 2021, SEMRush studied 5,624 businesses to ascertain the impact of reviews on their Google Business Profile. They found that the business in the first position had the highest number of reviews while those in the second and third position had less, but more than any business not featuring in the map pack feature.
In addition, they found that businesses in the top three positions had an average review rating of 4.1. This information suggests that your business needs to gain more reviews than your competitors and achieve a higher average rating of 4.1 too to feature in the map pack.
But why is it even important to feature in the map pack, anyway? According to BrightLocal, on average, 32.2% of searchers looking for a local business click on the map pack feature. This breaks down to 17.3% in the first position, 12% in the second and just 2.9% in the third.
In addition, Google is used significantly more than review platforms like Yelp and Facebook by customers evaluating a local business before buying. Although many local businesses get leads from Facebook, the social media platform is in decline regarding reviews left and read by customers.
Google Reviews Educate You and Customers
Google Reviews offer a lot of value to you as a business owner. Every justified positive Google review from happy customers is a great indication of what you’re doing well, whereas every justified bad Google review is an area of improvement suggested by an unhappy customer. This can help you continue doing the right things while improving on the areas you’re not doing so well to remain competitive, as real customer reviews offer insight into the customer experience. However, unfounded fake negative reviews offer no value to you or your potential customers.
According to BrightLocal, customers regularly read reviews more than they did in 2020, which suggests they have become more important in their decision-making process. In 2021, there was an increase of 60% of customers “always” and “regularly” reading reviews. This suggests that you should ensure that your Google reviews accurately reflect your business, even if they’re negative ones. Therefore, it does mean trying to remove fake reviews, which is certainly possible.
Google Reviews Convert Searchers into Customers
Google Reviews is the word-of-mouth of the internet. According to BrightLocal, a staggering 86% of customers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family and even social media personalities. This suggests that having a solid review profile not only attracts potential customers due to higher local SEO ranking in the map pack or just educating you on good and not-so-good areas of your business but can convert those who read your reviews into paying customers.
Summary of the Importance of Google Reviews
Google Reviews can attract, educate and convert potential customers into paying customers. Businesses with a Google Business Profile listing with the highest number of reviews (at least one of the three highest) and an average review score of 4.1 or higher are likely to have a spot in the top three results. This feature gains, on average, 32.2% of the total clicks from searchers. Customers today are reading reviews more than ever and trusting them more too, so it’s become increasingly important to ensure they accurately reflect your business.
Identifying Fake Reviewers & Reviews
Reviewer’s Name & Avatar
Examining the review’s name and avatar can give you an indication as to whether the review is fake or not. If you’ve received the review, you can check the name of the review against your customer database, and if the name doesn’t exist, it’s likely fake. Likewise, they may show their face, but you don’t recognise the individual.
However, if your competitor received the review and the name is unusual for the area, it’s likely to be fake. For example, if it’s an Indian name, but your town is primarily English and vice versa. Likewise, the avatar of the individual may in fact be them but indicates a different style of clothing associated with other nations. Perhaps, it’s blank or possibly a stolen image (I’ll show you how to find out later).
Reviewer’s Location & Previous Reviews
Linked closely with the reviewer’s name, their previous reviews can offer insight into their location of residence. Most genuine reviews have a string of reviews for nearby businesses, and they’ll also have reviewed places in nearby towns and cities and, of course, some places further afield that may indicate a holiday.
Fake reviews may not indicate an area of residence. In other words, reviews are all over the place, and it doesn’t quite make sense. For example, they used a domestic cleaner in London but washed their car in New York, then attended swimming lessons in Sydney.
On the other hand, the fake reviewer indicates a place of residence, but it’s miles away from your or a competitor’s business, and therefore, it was unlikely they ever visited or used your services. For example, they reviewed several local businesses in Bangladesh and happened to have their carpets cleaned in Herne Bay, Kent.
Reviewer’s Use of Words & Punctuation
According to research by linguistic specialists at various universities, individuals aiming to deceive others tend to use simple words. This is mainly because they’re using significant cognitive effort to create a false story.
In addition to their usage of basic vocabulary, the review may consist of various spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes and exaggeration—for example, excessive use of exclamation marks.
Summary of Identifying Fake Reviews
Identifying a fake review is not always easy and often involves several clues bundled together. Some indications you want to look for in your review profile, and your competitors (if you want to knock them off the face of the earth) include the reviewer’s name, avatar, suspected location, previous reviews, vocabulary and punctuation.
Steps to Remove Fake Google Reviews
Report the Review on Google via Your Google My Business Account (Now Google Business Profile)
Reporting a review on a competitor’s Google Business Profile or your own is most efficient on the platform itself. To do it effectively, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Identify the Fake Review
The first step involves identifying the fake review using the information I’ve shared, including their name, avatar, location, previous reviews, use of words and punctuation.
Step 2: Screenshot Evidence
Take a screenshot of the fake review and annotate the evidence that suggests the review is fake to help prove it to the representative at Google. For example, a string of random reviews by the reviewer.
Step 3: Report the Review
Report the review by clicking on the three dots and “Report Review”. Select why you’re reporting it; in most cases, it’s spam or fake. Then, attach the supporting screenshot evidence.
Complete a Form to Contact a Google Representative
If Google doesn’t see eye to eye when reporting directly on the platform, you can fill in a form and attach more evidence proving the review is fake. This method only works for businesses that you’ve claimed. It doesn’t work for reporting competitors.
Step 1: Go to Google Business Profile Help
You’ll need to go to Google Business Profile Help and click the “Request review removal” button. A new tab will appear where you’ll need to be signed in to complete the form to remove a review that you suspect is fake.
Step 2: Complete the Form
Complete the form using as much evidence as possible. It doesn’t mean writing a load of paragraphs but attaching screenshots with annotations highlighting broken policies. If you report it before a competitor reports you, it will not impact your listing in the map pack.
Best Evidence to Prove Reviewers and Reviews are Fake
To help you win your case against the fake reviewer, I’ve shared two of the best possible forms of evidence to prove that a review or a particular review is fake. The more evidence you can collect and present to Google, the more likely you will win.
Screenshot of Sporadic Location Reviews
If the reviewer writes reviewers for businesses worldwide that don’t quite make sense, like a car wash in one country, a haircut in another, and a new kitchen in another, then make a screenshot of it.
Screenshot of Irrelevant Location of Reviewer
If your business doesn’t attract customers from all over the place, like a B&B or restaurant, then take a screenshot of the review that seems out of place. Snapshots of their avatar can support it, particularly if you refer to clothing style.
Google Won’t Take Down a Fake & Spammy Google Review
Google won’t always take down fake reviews, which can be incredibly frustrating for business owners. In this case, it comes down to you in terms of how you manage your online reputation. The best way to approach it is by responding tactfully to the reviewer because your potential customers will be reading your response.
You can do this by explaining that you have no record of their name in your customer database, you don’t recognise them from their profile picture, you don’t sell that particular service or product, or you believe they’ve mistaken you for another business. If they’ve highlighted issues that may be linked to your business, then offer to speak with them over the phone or share your email address to nip it in the bud.
Google Reviews can attract, educate and convert searchers into paying customers. Negative Google reviews can lower your position in the map pack, while fake five-star reviews can help competitors climb higher (if Google hasn’t spotted it). This not only gives the business a false brand reputation but potentially more clicks to their website from Google Search. You can report reviews by clicking on the three dots to the right of the review or by searching “report fake review google” on Google. Use evidence to support your claim, particularly screenshots of reviews location or previous reviews. If Google doesn’t remove the fake review, respond politely to the review accordingly.