Negative Reviews on Google: How To Respond To Or Remove Them
The customer is always right!
Are they really, though?
Have you ever had a negative review about your business posted on Google? Was it justified?
Negative reviews aren’t just frustrating, they can be potentially damaging if not handled properly.
It is even worse when negative reviews are posted maliciously, with the intention of stopping people using a business’ products or services rather than giving an honest account of a bad experience.
What is a malicious review?
A malicious review is one that has been posted with the intention of making a business look bad, reduce their average star rating on Google, or even cause potential harm, financially or otherwise – negative reviews and a low rating can lead to a reduction in sales, after all.
Some examples of malicious reviews could be:
A fake review posted by an unscrupulous rival business
A review that does not accurately reflect the reviewers experience or is an untruthful account of what happened
Multiple negative reviews posted by the same person (possibly under different accounts)
Another issue, which has still not been resolved by Google, is a negative review hack used by disgruntled customers or people looking to damage a business’ reputation where they “refresh” their review regularly, making it appear “new” and bumping it to top of the reviews.
How does this negative review hack work?
Essentially, the person writes a negative review of the business on Google then comes back regularly to edit the same review.
The problem with this is that Google changes the date of the review to reflect when the edit took place, not when the original review was posted.
Now, updating reviews and bumping them higher up the list in itself isn’t a bad thing.
For example, a customer may have bought an item but it was never received or was faulty. The business may have resolved this and the customer edits their review to state that a replacement was delivered and they are now happy with the product and the customer service they received.
Conversely, someone may have received a product they were initially happy with but has since developed a fault or defect that makes it unusable, and the supplier has refused to resolve the issue.
In both examples, it would be helpful for potential customers to learn about by way of an updated review, and is a good reason for them to be bumped up the listings.
However, this system becomes problematic when malicious intent is involved.
An individual is able to update their review periodically to keep it “fresh” and near the top of the reviews list, making it appear as if it is a recent interaction with the business.
Many potential customers can be instantly put off if they see a negative review (or multiple) at the top of the list, so this can be very damaging for businesses if negative reviews are consistently shown first.
Search Engine Roundtable recently posted an article about this hack, how damaging it can be, and how it still remains unresolved.
How to deal with negative reviews
Putting the negative review hack and malicious reviews to one side for a second (we’ll come back to them in a bit), let’s first discuss how best to handle “run-of-the-mill” negative reviews – those that have been posted based on a real and accurate experience with a business.
It can be upsetting to see a negative review of your business posted on Google (or anywhere else for that matter) but it is best to approach them with an open and honest mind. Don’t panic, just read the review carefully to fully understand what it says and the problem the reviewer had with your products, services, or anything else they mention.
Maybe you or a member of staff screwed up. We all make mistakes! Maybe the review mentions a health and safety concern. Maybe there was something beyond your control that caused the negative review.
Whatever the review states, make sure you fully understand it. Then respond to it.
More often than not, the best way to handle a negative review is to respond to it directly.
What to do if you genuinely fudged it.
If a mistake was made, offer a transparent and heartfelt apology, offer a solution, encourage a more 1:1 conversation, and offer an incentive as a goodwill gesture if you feel it’s necessary.
For example, “We’re so sorry this happened, clearly we made a mistake and we’ve passed your comments on to ensure this doesn’t happen again! Please email our customer service team to resolve the issue and they’ll send you a discount code for your next purchase with us.”
Now, you don’t need to offer a discount or incentive to every bad review you get, only if you think it necessary. If a customer is constantly complaining about you online and doesn’t purchase much, then they’re probably not the best fit for your business, products, or services. However, if the reviewer is a new or loyal customer, it may be worth offering them the incentive to retain their business.
Once they contact you directly, you can have an open and honest discussion, finding out how you fell short of expectations and resolve the issue with them, rather than going back and forth on a public forum like Google for all to see. You can even encourage them to update their review if you feel they had a positive experience and were satisfied with how you resolved the problem.
What to do if a review mentions a genuine concern
If a review is left about your business stating there were health and safety concerns, that your workplace didn’t meet acceptable standards, or anything along those lines, again, read it carefully to find out what the problem is, investigate, and respond directly to the review.
For example, if a review stated that there were items blocking fire exits or dirty surfaces in a restaurant you could reply with “Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. Your experience has clearly fallen below our standards. I have passed your concerns on to the appropriate teams, and we will rectify your concerns immediately.”
Then you can follow it up, once you have corrected any issues they brought up in their review, and invite them to revisit your business, thanking them and explaining how their review highlighted a problem that you were unaware of and allowed you to correct it.
What to do if the review mentions something beyond your control
If you receive a bad review and it mentions something that you have absolutely no control over, don’t ignore it or reply stating it’s nothing to do with you. Reply to the review, apologise for the fact they had a bad experience, but explain what the issue is, where the responsibility lies, and offer some helpful advice on how the customer can resolve it themselves.
For example, it may be that delivery was lost by the delivery company or it was delivered broken due to them mishandling it. You can provide a link to that company’s complaints page and ask the reviewer to resolve the issue using that link. You can also state that you’ll be bringing it up with them on your side too. Again, you can offer a discount code for their next purchase as a retainment incentive too.
Whatever the reason behind a bad review, always respond to it with empathy, take responsibility for mistakes, and politely explain what the issue is and how the reviewer can resolve it if it’s beyond your control.
What to do if a negative review is malicious
If some nefarious individual is negative review hacking your business or an unscrupulous competitor is leaving fake reviews, you can report them to Google.
Google has a strict list of prohibited and restricted content that it states will be removed if reviews are found to be in breach of this.
The issue that many businesses find they have is proving that the reviews meet the requirements for removal.
If you find that a review is malicious and is not merely a disagreement between your business and the customer leaving the review, then it is quite easy to report a review for removal.
Before you report it, however, it is worth investigating a little to ascertain which policy violation best matches the negative review. The better the match between the review and the policy, the more likely it is that Google will remove the review.
For example, “Fake Engagement” could be selected for any review that you find “is not based on a real experience and does not accurately represent the location or product in question.” The problem is explaining how the review meets that description. You need to prove to Google (or it needs to be abundantly clear) that the review is fake.
You can also report “Content that has been posted by a competitor to undermine a business or product’s reputation.” under fake engagement if you can prove that the review was left by someone working for or on behalf of a competitor.
The same goes for “review bombing” where people have left multiple negative reviews under different accounts in order to affect your overall rating on Google.
It becomes harder, unfortunately, when dealing with negative review hacks, as updating a bad review does not directly meet any of the conditions for content removal.
You could report it under “Gibberish and repetitive content”, which Google describes as “posting the same content multiple times…” This could be a way of showing a policy violation if you can illustrate that the review has been updated numerous times with no new information.
Dealing with negative reviews sounds like a lot of work!
Yup! We hear ya!
When someone gets a bee under their bonnet, sometimes it’s nigh on impossible to get them to stop their crusade of keyboard warriorship. Sometimes people don’t even stop to consider the effects their actions may have when posting online.
Unfortunately, we’ve also had to deal with spates of bad reviews that clients have had to suffer as part of our broader marketing efforts. So, we appreciate and understand how annoying, distressing, and upsetting it can be to have to manage this problem.
The good news is that because of this, we’ve got plenty of experience in getting malicious reviews removed on Google for clients and handling bad reviews appropriately to turn them around!
If you’d like any assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us!