Responding to Google Maps fake reviews

Respond, but only if you have a small number of reviews

There are mixed opinions about this with some sources saying reply to all reviews(even fake ones) and others prefer to only respond if you can’t get it removed.

Personally, I feel while it can be tempting to respond to the review but this only feeds the trolls and encourages others to do the same. Although seen as good customer service, it is important you only reply to genuine reviews, good or bad (make sure to do that, it’s helpful for customer engagement).

BUT ALWAYS FLAG THE REVIEW (caps so you read this section)

If you open Google Reviews you have the option to flag a review as “inappropriate”.

You can also contact Google from their support page, or fill a legal request (if the review falsely defaces your business).

On Google’s Support, they talk about checking the policy and say “don’t flag a review because you disagree with it or don’t like it. Google doesn’t get involved when merchants and customers disagree about facts since there’s no reliable way to discern who’s right about a particular issue.”

However, in the same paragraph, they also link to another support page where ‘Spam and Fake Content’ are prohibited. So flagging does seem appropriate, despite the discouragement from Google.

If the above fails and your review is still there

Well, now you choose to respond. This is based on

  1. The number of negative reviews (if you have a lot of negative reviews it would be best to reply to at least the genuine ones, maybe clarify that this customer “can’t be found on your records” — keep it polite.
  2. The number of positive reviews — If you’ve amassed a large number of positive reviews it may not be worth replying to one negative one. Although it can be tempting to set the record straight, some things are best left to disappear by themselves (more positive reviews will mean the negative one gets ‘lost).

So the choice is really up to you. If you want to reply to the review then here are my tips.

  1. Keep it civil — you get much more benefit when you’re being overly nice. If people have left the review to start an argument if you don’t give them anything other than “I’m sorry but we don’t appear to have you on our records. Please contact our support team [contact detail] and we’ll be happy to try and find you with more information.”
  2. Don’t waste your time — If it is a troll then the time you spend writing your response is the time that they have successfully stolen away from your workday. Don’t allow them to be able to do this by responding in the most concise way you can. No lengthy monologues a small paragraph is more than sufficient.
  3. Don’t respond to responses — After you have made a statement on the review there is nothing further to add. By continuing to respond not only are you wasting more time, but you’re also adding fuel which is going to make the fake reviewer respond again and again. Instead, respond once and no more. It’s unlikely they will make future contact.
  4. Consider commenting on social media — This is a very thin line and should only be done if your brand’s voice allows you to say this. For more professional companies (I’m thinking lawyers, accountants etc…) this may be inadvisable. But for playful companies then make a comment about the fake review. You may find you get a few more positive ones for it.

A final note:

Fake reviews are horrible for business owners. You work so hard to build up your empire and it’s almost like that one review will cause all that to tumble down. It won’t. It’s very unlikely that one single Google review is going to have a catastrophic impact on your business. Of course, small businesses which rely on Word of Mouth and have a smaller customer base will be impacted more.

Try not to worry. Stay calm, and with the methods above you’ll be sure to mitigate your Google review as quickly, and effectively as possible.

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