Help! I Got a Negative Review From Someone That’s Not My Customer.
If you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably experienced this on one or more occasions: You’ve received a negative review from someone who isn’t your customer.
So, what do you do now? In most cases, nothing. Although you may think this sounds hopeless, I can assure you it’s not. There are a few circumstances when Google will act and remove the review so if any of these situations apply to you, reach out to Google to start the review removal process.
When Google Will Likely Act
I want to clarify that I said “likely” because as most of you know, very few things with Google are absolute and depending on who you speak to you might get a different answer. But from our experiences, these 3 circumstances has resulted in Google removing the review(s):
- Public Media Attention
While extortion for a negative review is rare, it does happen. A business owner we were assisting on the Google My Business forum, had a “reviewer” demand $600 for them to remove the negative review. When the business owner refused, the price went up to $1000 and they edited the review to make it worse.
When dealing with extortion, you need to show Google proof that you’re being extorted. Screenshot all texts, emails, etc. so you can send them to Google to prove that the review is fake.
Public Media Attention
If your business is being attacked publicly and you can find proof, send it to Google. A few years ago an American dentist made headlines when he shot and killed a lion while on safari in Africa. We use this example a lot because shortly after this his Google My Business (GMB) listing was bombarded with negative reviews from people all over the country. Google removed these reviews since it’s clear that they have nothing to do with the business.
While the first example was extreme, this also happens on a smaller scale. An unhappy customer of this business sent out a Tweet asking people to spam a business with negative reviews. Just like with extortion, you need to be able to show Google proof so if you find something like this online, take screenshots! Just linking to the Tweet might backfire on you if the user decides to delete the Tweet.
If a disgruntled ex-employee posts a negative review, you can report it using the following as proof:
- They say they worked there in the review
- Public source showing they worked there
Again, make sure to take screenshots and send those to Google.
When Google Won’t Act
The one scenario where Google won’t act is when a user leaves a rating without a review. It doesn’t matter whether their “in your system” or not, Google needs proof and without an actual review, there’s nothing to work with
But don’t stress!
These ratings appear at the bottom of the list in GMB, so your real customers are less likely to see them. And on mobile, ratings with no review text don’t show at all, so no one will see them there.
Negative Reviews Help Your Business
The notion of negative reviews helping your business shouldn’t be taken out of context here. I’m not encouraging business owners to provide poor service in order to get some bad reviews on their listings. Instead, what I’m saying is that most consumers are smart enough to understand that it’s impossible for any business to completely satisfy every customer. A study by Power Reviews found that “A consumer is most likely to purchase a product when its average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. Why? Because a perfect 5.0 rating is seen as too good to be true. An average star rating of 4.2-4.5 stars, however, is seen as more transparent and balanced.”
It’s All About Balance
At the end of the day if you’ve received a negative review from someone who isn’t your customer and it doesn’t fall into a “likely to remove” category, don’t stress! Just keep providing your real clients with the same excellent service and your real positive reviews will help your business maintain a “balanced” review rating.
This Post Has 14 Comments
Good info 🙂
A customer of mine got a One Star Rating, but no rating text. So I did some research. The evaluator had mostly (approx. 95 %) done “One Star Ratings” and no text written. Furthermore he was employee in a SEO agency. I answered him and confronted him with the facts. I accused him of doing these reviews only with big companies that don’t care about the reviews, and suspected that he was only doing it to quickly get points as a local guide. Then you reported the case to the GMB Forum. In the evening the evaluator had been deleted – sorry for the deleted level 5 account 😉 It is therefore always worthwhile to do some research and write a good response.
What Stefan said.
Also you can potentially go over Google’s head and report them to the authorities if there’s enough evidence.
* In the U.S., this is FTC turf. (https://www.ftc.gov/complaint)
* In Canada, it falls under the Competition Bureau of Canada and the RCMP. (https://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/frm-eng/GHÉT-7TDNA5) See the “Competition Act” Section 74.01 (1)(a)
There are times when Google is completely messed up because of their internal policies though. I’m dealing with pretty serious one for a client that has ended up with my client’s lawyer getting involved. It all started because Google’s policy about merging businesses went very wrong.
My client started a new construction company and happened to come across a another builder who’d gone bust, bought some of the assets (sales office and designs) from that in the bankruptcy sale. The past clients of the bankrupted company had been leaving scathing reviews for a while. What my client didn’t know though was that because the sales office kept the same address and the phone number was still assigned to that premise, that he would be at risk of having the two GMB pages get merged.
Guess what happened… Google did exactly that. So my client now has a heap of horrible reviews on his GMB page for a company he simply bought (essentially the wrong) parts of.
Even after several (30+) emails back and forth with Google on this, they still won’t take down the reviews, even though they have nothing to do with my client’s business.
This is where their policies can go very very wrong.
If any of you good folks out there have ever figured out a way to resolve something like this, I’m all ears.
Good article and excellent way to articulate, keep it up
In my experience Google will not act in most cases. Recently someone not a customer of a client left a review on Yelp under one name and on Google under another name. The facts and assertions in the lengthy review were the same. Google’s response was that posting under a fake name is not cause for removal.
Another reviewer posted reviews twice under slightly different names — affecting a client and many other businesses and locations across the US and Canada. Google’s response on the third request (with help from Jason at ReviewFraud.org) was to remove one duplicate review (not the duplicate affecting my client).
This was a reviewer who had posted 55 reviews in one hour on a Sunday afternoon for businesses across 12 US states and Ontario. He reviewed a rest stop on a highway in Ohio, a nail salon in NY and the Utah Department of Transportation in that busy hour. I asked GMB on Twitter if they thought this review behavior might be a bit suspicious and GMB responded that the reviews had passed their spam detection system.
I’ve been involved with online business reviews since 2002 and fake reviews are as common now as they were back then. Although Google has the technology to do a much better job of review policing, there’s no compelling economic interest for them to do that. So they don’t.
I recently had a case with an ex-employee, named Mr. X (he also left the review under that name). Even though I could prove (screenshot from the company’s website) that Mr. X used to work for the business, Google would not remove the negative review. The GMB lady said, that they cannot be 100% sure, that Mr. X on the company’s website is the same Mr. X who left the review! They would only act if the reviewer said he worked there in the review. The point “Public source showing they worked there” obviously isn’t sufficient at times…
I would suggest posting your case on the Google My Business forum. It’s worth a second shot to see if we can convince Google to remove it. If you do post, reply with the link to the thread here and I can escalate it.
A person who has never been a client of our firm has posted “scam” on our 5 Star review page. can anyone help up get this removed?? We are proud of our track record.
You can flag the review and if Google doesn’t remove it, you can contact them in 3 days about it. However, they’re unlikely to remove reviews like this per what was explained in the article.
Does anyone have any experience for reviews/users cancelation outside US and Canada?
We do not.
“Publically” is not a word.
Actually, that is apparently an alternate spelling of the word (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/publically) which is why our spellcheck didn’t pick it up as a typo. I’ll correct it now since most of our readers are in the US or Canada. Thanks for taking the time to point it out.