How to Remove Fake Google Reviews
Post originally published – April 20, 2017.
There have been some changes to how to report a fake or inappropriate Google review, and a new tool rolled out to manage reported reviews. We’ve updated this blog post to help you navigate the ins and outs of reporting fake Google reviews.
Sadly, receiving a fake review on your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is not a rare occurrence. In fact, it is quite common and something many businesses have experienced. Both Yelp and Amazon have sued fake review posters and in October of 2021 the Federal Trade Commission notified 700+ national advertisers that deceptive endorsements can lead to financial penalties. Legal action hasn’t stopped or prevented fake reviews from continuing to be published, nor has paying huge fines, but that doesn’t mean as a business owner there is no way to fight back.
When it comes to fake Google reviews the two major issues that local business owners encounter are:
- Fake reviews on their Google Business Profile – They are on the receiving end of negative fake reviews. For some small businesses this could be a sudden influx of multiple negative fakes reviews.
- Positive fake reviews on competitors Google Business Profile – A competitor that didn’t have many positive reviews or had negative reviews is suddenly getting an influx of positive 5-star ratings they have paid for. This is review fraud – a business gaming the review system to hide their negative reviews, increase rankings, and buy their way to the top (learn more about this review spam).
Fake reviews continue to be a huge problem, and beyond the businesses they impact, these reviews do harm to consumers. A recent Uberall-Transparency Company study found that nearly 11% of Google reviews were potentially fake, which could amount to ~200 Million reviews in the US alone.
Trying to have a fake or spammy Google review removed can sometimes feel as frustrating as receiving the review (some call into question if the guidelines or spam algorithms even work), however; it is still important to make attempts to have the review removed, even though there is no guarantee that Google will take it down.
What to Do When You’ve Received a Fake Review:
Respond to the Review
While you may not be able to have the review removed, you do have the ability to respond. If the review is indeed fake, of course you will not be able to actually resolve the problem for this person. However you can make it clear to other customers and prospective customers that you are aware of the review, you take what reviewers say seriously, and that as a business you are dedicated to remedying these types of situations.
Just as there are guidelines for leaving a review, Google has some tips for responding. Your response should not be defensive. Keep it brief, and do your best to respond as you would for a negative review.
“Hi, [insert reviewer’s name],
We take these matters very seriously. Unfortunately, we have no record or recollection of any customer experience fitting this account, nor can we verify your identity from our records. We would like to investigate this issue further, please contact [insert contact name] at [insert company email address], so that we can resolve this issue immediately.”
If you can’t respond in a calm and professional manner, don’t respond at all. Yes, it’s very upsetting to receive a fake review, but how you respond is a reflection of the company, and securing business from a potential customer is far more valuable than getting the last word in.
In some cases there will be no point in responding. Use your discretion to determine the best course of action.
Report the Review
You can notify Google Support about a violation of their content guidelines by flagging the review.
1. Click the icon on the top-right corner (the three vertical dots) and click “Report review”.
2. Select which rule the review violates.
3. Check over the violation type selected and click “Submit.”
Then you’re done. You will only hear from Google Support if they require additional details from you or if they have information to share with you.
When reporting a review:
A) If you can, have several people report the review in question.
B) Once a review is flagged, wait three business days for a response. However, if the review is loaded with hate-speech, profanity, and/or has highly sensitive content, escalate it immediately through Google Support. According to Google, a team of human operators reviews all flagged content.
C) Google now has a tool that allows you to manage your review removal requests. This tool helps you check the status of any reviews you’ve reported. This is also an additional way for you as a business owner or marketer to “report a new review for removal” for any of the profiles you manage.
Report the Review via Google Business Profile Manager & Support
If the fake review has not been removed using the flagging method, get in touch with Google Support. You can do this through:
1. The Google Business Profile Dashboard
- Log into your GBP dashboard.
- Go to the Reviews section.
- Scroll to the review you would like to flag, click the icon on the top-right corner (the three vertical dots).
- Click “Flag as inappropriate.”
- Select the reason for reporting the review (off topic, spam, conflict of interest, profanity, bullying or harassment, discrimination or hate speech, personal information).
- Click “Submit.”
2. Ask the Google Community For Help
If you have a specific question with regards to the spam policy or are seeking advice from other community members, you can use the Support Forum to get answers and help.
- Go to the Google Business Profile Help Community website
- Start by searching for previous questions of issues that are similar to yours and look for a solution, or you can ask a question about your spammy/fake review problem.
- If you can’t get the answers you need then you can submit your question and problem and ask the community directly for help. If you’re concerned about privacy or a backlash, you may want to post to the thread under a different display name to protect your identity. Be sure to make your case and provide as much proof as possible of the current situation.
Make Your Case
Okay, so you have finally got in touch with Google Support, now what? Well, you have to make a case and do your best to show
- why the review is false,
- how it violates the policy,
- why it should be removed,
- make sure you have images/screenshots, links, and any other details that back up your claim. The more proof you can provide the stronger your case will be.
After you report it and make your case, Support will tell you whether or not they will escalate the review(s) to a “specialist.” This specialist will determine the outcome and notify you by email.
Report a User in Maps
In 2020, Google released a feature that allowed you to report Google Map users who are contributing false information, uploading offensive content, or abusing Google’s content policy. If you have a legitimate fake review and can show that a user is violating Google’s user contributed content policies which is defined as “fake content, copied or stolen photos, off-topic reviews, defamatory language, personal attacks, and unnecessary or incorrect content.” You may also want to report users that you believe are writing fake positive reviews for your competitors.
- Open the Google Maps mobile app.
- Tap the Review, Photo, or Question/Answer for the user that you would like to report.
- Tap the username.
- Tap the top right icon (three vertical dots).
- Select “Report profile.”
- Choose the type of abuse.
How We Had a False Review Removed
When the review is clearly fake or spam, it’s easier to remove. For instance, we had the following review removed because the “experience” being referenced was absolutely not related to our business and services:
I followed ALL of the steps above:
- We responded to the review. We actually kind of thought it was funny how far off this reviewer was and it didn’t really bother us that the review was there, as it is very obvious to anyone that this review is not for our business.
- I reported the review and provided my contact information and reason why the review was being flagged.
- The review I reported violates their content policy as an Off-topic Review. The review is for a furniture company called Masseys. We do not sell furniture here at Whitespark.
- I made the case to the support associate and showed how it violated their content policy, at which point he advised me that he agreed and will send this to one of their specialists. He informed me that he cannot guarantee the removal as it is up to the discretion of the review specialist. Either way he would be in contact with me. In less than 24 hours, I was notified that the review would be removed. Success!
The Best Defence is a Good Offence
The best way to ensure that a fake review won’t be detrimental to your business is having a solid review strategy in place. Reviews are the second biggest local pack/finder ranking factor and a GBP conversion factor. If you are not making reviews a priority for your business, then you need to start.
Building up your reviews by encouraging customers to leave you an online review is an easy way to mitigate the risks of receiving a fake review while showcasing how awesome your business is. Plus reviews build stronger customer relationships, positively impact rankings, and provide credibility and social proof.
Simple and Effective Ways You Can Grow Your Online Reviews:
1. Encourage All Customer Feedback
Sometimes we are blinded by the allure of those shiny review stars, but before you start asking all your customers for a review, have you checked in with them to see how they are feeling about your service or product? Reviews are the outcome of great customer service, so how is yours stacking up?
There are so many opportunities for you to obtain customer feedback, here are eight easy ways to help get you started.
2. Monitor Your Brand Mentions
Stay on top of what people are saying about your company. Any solid reputation management plan includes monitoring what people are saying and engaging with your audience.
Start by setting up Google Alerts, it takes no more than 10 minutes. Add alerts for your brand name, website, CEO, and keywords. There are also a bunch of applications in the market that can help you with monitoring social mentions, building brand awareness, and reviews. Examples would be Mention, Brandwatch, or Sprout Social.
You don’t have to review your alerts every day, but schedule a small block of time once a week to review the alerts and stay on top of what people are saying about your business.
3. Start Asking Every Customer For a Review
Having a solid review strategy in place is a great way to combat a fake review. Receiving consistent reviews builds up your review numbers, and provides a more complete picture of how your company truly operates.
The best way to build up your online reviews is to make asking a part of your daily operating practices, and knowing that you will have to ask a lot of customers before one will leave a review. It’s nothing personal, life is busy and just because a customer doesn’t leave a review immediately, doesn’t mean they never will.
Potential customers are not just reading reviews on your Google listing, they are on sites like Angie’s List, Facebook, Trip Advisor, etc, so it’s up to you to ensure you are listed on these sites, and actively trying to get reviews here as well.
You can manually encourage reviews on these sites by directing customers to these sites, or consider using a review platform that helps you organize your feedback requests, earn testimonials, grow your online reviews , and streamline the process.
Most review platforms are easy to use, it’s a matter of entering your company information, adding clients, sending a customized email asking if they would recommend your business, requesting feedback on their experience, and then asking if they would leave a review. This is exactly how our Reputation Builder works. The bonus of using a review tool like this, is that you also have many additional features at your disposal, you can incorporate customer survey’s to get specific customer feedback, you can showcase your reviews on your website, and you can monitor your reviews across many platforms so that you can respond in a timely manner.
Having a solid review strategy in place that helps you grow your reviews on your Google listing and multiple third-party sites is not only a deterrent for fake review spammers it’s good for your business, your local rankings and building your reputation.
A Negative Review or Rating Does Not Equal a Fake Review
Negative reviews happen. No business is perfect and not every single customer will be satisfied, mistakes will be made. Receiving a negative rating only review can be annoying because you don’t know why someone is unhappy with your business and removing rating only reviews is really hard. But also, negative reviews are not all bad news. While hearing someone had a negative customer experience sucks, it’s an opportunity to make things better.
- Provide honest feedback that you can turn around and use to improve your business or make changes.
- Create trust. Seeing only positive reviews of a company can result in people questioning the authenticity of the reviews. Seeing a few sprinkles of negative reviews creates a level of trust.
- Create opportunities for turning something bad into something good. You won’t be able to please everyone, but if you can make things right for someone, why not try? If you can take that negative review and turn it into a positive one, that will be noticed. How you respond and how you react will be what other’s are judging.
- Research shows that “5 star rated businesses have below-average sales—the sweet spot is 3.5 to 4.5 stars.” Consumers do not want perfection. They want to be able to trust in the reviews they see on Google, they want business owners to be active in responding to reviews, and they want to see recent reviews.
You Got This!
Don’t let spammers get the best of you with fake reviews. Stay on top of your reviews, always flag and report fake reviews (even if they are challenging to remove), and get a solid review strategy in place for your business.
Do you have any fake review horror stories to share? Or better yet, any awesome pro-tips to help other businesses who are dealing with a fake review? Let us know in the comments below!
39 comments on “How to Remove Fake Google Reviews”
We have a one star review from a former employee that we fired. In our response should we mention that this is a former employee that was fired? What about bad reviews from employees of competitors?
My instincts with regards to receiving a fake review from an employee who was fired, would first be to try and have the review removed immediately. The review violates the Conflict of Interest content policy.
With regards to responding to the review, I would first ensure that it doesn’t violate any HR or Privacy policies given the individual was fired and a previous employee. This could be a situation that warrants no response, especially when coming from a disgruntled ex-employee with malicious intent.
Sadly, I think a lot of competitors write fake reviews or hire someone else to, there are a lot illegitimate and spam reviews out there, having a solid review strategy in place really truly helps combat this.
Hopefully this information helps you out. Good luck with the removal of that review!
Outstanding article and advice! Last December, one of my small business clients got a solicitation from an online reviews business citing a recent bad Google review and offering to help. Funny thing was that this bad review appeared just a few hours before the solicitation email. The reviewer was not a customer. Was there collusion between the fake reviewer and the reviews assistance solicitation? Can’t prove it, but I’m suspicious. Anyway, the GMB small business team was very helpful and removed the fake review for violation of Google’s guidelines.
I just forwarded this to a client of ours who is having trouble with fake reviews. Thanks Jessie!
Best of luck to your client. Hopefully they can get help with their fake reviews.
Thanks, Jessie! He’s hard at work on it.
Two bad fake reviews in two days. Likely the competitions. Still sad someone would do this.
Awesome post. I have just followed your advice to deal with the situation faced by one of your other commenters i.e. a 1-star bad review from a disgruntled ex-employee. Definitely a conflict of interest.
Good luck! That is definitely a sensitive situation to manage. Best of luck in your removal efforts Ewan.
There was a false review stating their experience with the business. It was damaging and it was all fabricated. I can identify the person that gave the review. I can also prove that it was a false. Is there a way one can sue?
Thank you so very much!
I had not allocated my google business complaints through the right channels. Your multi pronged approach to remove complains is enlightening.
I am trying the first approach, through Google, and will keep you posted.
With the Kindest Of Regards.
Best of luck with your efforts Robert.
Hi! Great article. We have a customer that is unhappy about losing a PayPal battle with us and is posting absurd lies about our company. They have solicited all their friends and family to do so as well. None of the reviews are from actual customers and much of what they are saying is lies about employees/owners and not specific to their experience with us. The stuff written about our service is a repeat and rewording of the PayPal case that we have already beat with extensive documentation such as time stamped email communications and a signed contract. Any advice?
That sounds like a complicated and stressful situation. I would suggest reporting the reviews in your Google My Business dashboard. Before you report, be sure to have screenshots of all the replicated reviews and the original, so you can show how the reported reviews have violated the guidelines. You may not be able to have the original review from the actual customer removed, however, it is likely the solicited reviews from friends and family could be removed (especially if you can show proof or make a strong case against the authenticity of the reviews). Don’t forget to focus on earning reviews from happy customers, the more feedback you receive over time from a full range of customers will help create a better picture of your business and other customer experiences.
Good luck with working through all of this 🙂
Another great piece of content Jessie! I suspect one of my competitors is writing himself fake 5 star reviews. For one of the reviews he stole the first sentence of a review one of my clients wrote for me. Lots of signs suggesting it’s him writing them down to the grammar and writing style lol.
Any suggestions on how to handle this?
If you believe you have a case for reporting your competitor for fake reviews, you could try report/flag one of the fake reviews. It’s always frustrating when people are gaming the system. If you’re earning authentic reviews and have your own solid review management system in place, I would focus on that over your competitor. Even though it’s annoying and frustrating that they may not be playing fair. Good luck.
I’m struggling to complete your suggested step “Report the Review to Google Small Business Support”. My Contact Us box only has “Need More Help?” and “Send Feedback” listed in it. It doesn’t look like the screenshot in your article, which includes “Phone” and “Email”. Any advice here?
Yes things are constantly changing in GMB. When I go into our GMB dashboard the steps I can see to get more help are:
In your Google My Business Dashboard
1. Click on Support
2. Click on Need more help?
3. Click on Photos, reviews, or business summaries
4. Click on Inappropriate review
5. Go to Learn how to flag and fix inappropriate reviews
5. Scroll to the bottom Need Help? section and request a call, chat now, or send an email for further support.
Hopefully that gets you to where you need, so you can get assistance.
Hello! I had a customer leave a bogus review about our business. The person then went on to slander my name and say very untrue things. I flagged it and it appears that it has been removed, however in the review summary it still quotes the review. Does that make sense? I’m trying to figure out how to remove the review summary off the page.
What if company employees harassed a fotographer legaly filming outside the company and the fotographer have help from viewers to give bad reviews
If a customer posts a Bad review and we think is not real because the problem isnt as he states on the comment and we dont agree with it but he is a real customer we can just accept it and theres nothing we can do about it, but what happens if he makes his friends and family members start posting 1 star rating? Is there a way that google will accept that as a fake review? I mean we usually only get 1-2 reviews a month on Google, we have had like 5 on the last 3 days regarding the same issue. How can we prove that to Google, any tips u can tell us that will help us. Thank you very much!
This is sounds like a frustrating situation. If you can “prove” to Google these are fake reviews and not based on real experiences then it may be possible to have it removed. The hardest part is gathering and collecting the information to prove this. Can you show that these are not actually customers? I would suggest flagging the reviews regardless, gather and compile your proof, and attempt to have them removed. I also would suggest that you increase your efforts to receive more reviews from actual customers. Hope that helps and best of luck.
I have received a one star review from the disgruntled ex boy friend of an otherwise happy customer. He wrote information that would otherwise be confidential to her which limits my response options. If I challenge the review am I potentially inviting getting into a debate with the poster in a situation where I’d have difficulty explaining my position without revealing confidential information?
This sounds like a sticky situation. Personally, I would just leave the situation alone and focus my time and energy on earning reviews from actual customers. You really can’t please them all, especially if it’s a “disgruntled ex-boy friend” who knows the lengths that person will go to? I just don’t think it’s worth it. By all means flag the review and try to get it removed, the move on. That’s just what I would do. Good Luck!!!
Hi Jessie Low
That is amazing Information! very Knowledgeable and helpful. Great work, After reading this article, I have a solid review strategy. Thanks for sharing
I was able to get google to remove a fake review by signing into my google “my business” app on my phone and requesting a call back under the “help and support” section. They called within 2 minutes of me requesting. Gone within 12 hours. Thank you for the tips!!
I had a Google My Business page get a 1 star review with no details from an account that was recently created with no profile image or anything like 2 days after I made the page. I did everything I could to get that stupid review removed and it’s still there.
Honestly it made me want to give up on that part of Google entirely. It’s annoying that they can have so much influence, and also be so easily manipulated by some guy with a bunch of fake Google accounts.
I currently work for a moving company whose name, and online reviews, have been dragged through the mud due to a man running fraudulent operations under the same business name. Naturally, a number of negative reviews have been sprouting up here and there on our Google reviews; however, the frustrating aspect is that absolutely none of those reviews reflect the work of our business but rather his (i.e. customer reviews from individuals not in our system, explaining business practices we do not utilize). Do you think that this warrants valid reason to reach out to the Google Small Business team? Our Google star rating has gone down about a star and half over the last 6-8 months (total 49 reviews) but the negative ones are clouding up the positive ones and driving away business. Thanks for any and all feedback and for writing this helpful article!
This sounds like a complicated situation. If someone is running a fraudulent operation under the same business name – I would speak with a lawyer about your options. If you can provide the Google Small Business team with proof that the reviews you received are for a different business then you are more likely to have the reviews removed. Another option, which may not be ideal for the company you work for, could be to change the Doing Business Name as. That may be too drastic, however, it could be a solution to avoiding having your company name “dragged through the mud due to a man running fraudulent operations under the same business name.” Best of luck to you.
I have a slightly different situation as I am trying to have fake reviews of a customer’s competitor removed (in Germany). A significant number of his positive reviews does not come from actual customers, but from the owner or his employees.
I have flagged these reviews already several times citing a “Conflict of Interest”. Some of my colleagues have done the same, but without success.
I have tweeted the Google SmallBiz Team twice – no reply…
The policy violation is obvious, as all users are listed on the company’s website (with the same photo and name they used to leave their review…). It’s a shame that Google obviously does not care about the poor quality of its product.
Any advice what else I could do to finally have these reviews removed?
Yeah it’s a very frustrating situation. The Spam factor in Google reviews is huge. Mike Blumenthal often writes about the Spam Hall of Shame – http://blumenthals.com/blog/?s=Google+Spam+Hall+of+Shame . Sadly, I don’t have any further advice for you. If you are passionate and determined to have those reviews removed, I would continue your efforts in getting in touch with the Small Biz Team, gather proof (like screenshots of the reviews, with screenshots of the employee profiles/images from the company website), build your case and when you do eventually get in touch with a support team member you will have your proof and be able to make a stronger case. Also, focusing on helping build customer feedback for your client so that the competitors reviews pale in comparison would be beneficial and worth your time. Good luck!
I hired instaboost media for seo.
They didnt service me properly
So i fired them,
I left an honest 1 star reviev and minutes later i recieved a 1 star bogus review from somebody , tottally made up completely false.
The owner said take down my review and sign an agreement , then he would refund my money.
Any ideas to move forward on this.
This is beyond my scope of experience. My personal belief is that being bullied to remove an honest review is not okay. Seems like you need to decide what is best for you and what you want to do. I personally would not like to feel like I am being bribed. I say trust your instincts on this and do what feels right for you (whether that’s keeping the review up or taking a refund). Good luck.
If I flag a google review is it anonymous or does the person know who flagged it? Thanks!
I work for a company where I recently noticed a bad review from a disgruntled ex-employee. I have flagged this review a couple of times and have heard nothing in regards to my concerns. On top of it we believe this is a different employee who left the company using an employees name that was fired!! I could really use help on how to get rid of this negative comment.
Seems most here are just concerned with their occasional 1-star reviews. I have a few competitors who have a lot of fake 5-star reviews. To me this is dishonest and sad and misleading. It angers me a bit, because consumers are not smart enough to see through this. A smart consumer would read the 1-star reviews in my opinion. For example, my competitor A has 12 5-star Google review just when they first opened up. Half of their Yelp reviews are filtered/not recommended. The owner left a fake Yellow Pages review with his own name. They have 30 fake Facebook reviews on the same day. Competitor B has like 140 Google reviews with the reviews having same writing style as the responses. One of their customers caught them logging into his Google account and leaving themselves a 5-star review! How crazy is this? He later edited it and rightfully mentioned it. This same competitor has four Yelp reviews. Such a big difference seems fishy. I would like to report them. This reminds me of fake reviews on Amazon for phone cases where the phone hasn’t even been out yet.
Thanks Jessie 🙂
First of all, when searching for how to remove malicious reviews, you came out top, above even Google’s own answer! You guys must be getting your SEO spot on, congratulations.
We had a very nasty review, accusing us of actual criminal acts. We didn’t know who it was from, but suspect a women we know who appears to have a lot of “issues”. We flagged it, but nothing happened for a week so we reported the review to Google Small Business Support. Someone called us within 24 hours and It was down with 2 days.
My experience would suggest forget the flagging and go straight to reporting.
Thanks for your help!
Yeah flagging can be tedious. I definitely agree that when it comes to really problematic issues to go straight to support. Glad to hear that the support team was quick and helpful.
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