Can you trust Google reviews?

There was a time when word-of-mouth was enough to maintain a good reputation and grow your local business.

Now that 87% of consumers start their buying journey online, those five-star Google reviews are more critical than ever to attract new customers.

But are the people writing reviews about your business real customers or bored internet bots leaving fake reviews? Google claims they have zero tolerance for fake reviews. But how do you know this policy works?

When over 89% of consumers choose a local business based on what they read online, you need Google on your side — your business depends on it!

So, the question is, can you trust Google reviews?

How fake online reviews can impact your business

You can’t control every customer’s experience, so negative or fake reviews will happen from time to time. They can affect your business in several ways.

  1. Fake reviews can mess with the algorithm and prevent your business profile from appearing in Google Search or Google Maps. Google rewards businesses with positive reviews by placing them high in local search engine results.
  1. Only some people can spot a fake review. If a potential customer isn’t able to discern a fake review, they may look elsewhere. This possible loss of business is something no business owner wants.
  1. Building customer trust is imperative in today’s competitive business climate. And this trust can quickly erode if too many Google reviews seem disingenuous or are negative.

So, what can you do as a small business owner to ensure you and your customers can trust the Google reviews on your profile?

Start by collecting more positive reviews to drown out the negative and fake ones.

What is the best way to get customer reviews for my business?

Getting five-star customer reviews is the best thing you can do to improve your local SEO on Google.

The more authentic, positive customer reviews you receive, the more likely Google is to serve up your business profile at the top of page one when someone searches for a business or service in your industry.

But keeping new Google reviews coming in takes time and effort.

Follow these six steps to maintain a steady stream of five-star reviews.

  1. Claim your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business).
  2. Verify your GBP so you can start showing up in searches and on Google Maps.
  3. Create a Google review link for sending out to customers.
  4. Ask customers to leave reviews and feedback online.
  5. Send customers your Google review link via SMS text or email so they can easily leave a review.
  6. Embed a link to your Google Business Profile on your website, either in the footer or as a pop-up.

Using a review management software like Broadly is also an excellent way to increase the number of positive Google reviews you receive.

Broadly’s software automates the ‘ask’ so you don’t have to remember to send out an email or text to every new customer after providing service. The platform is a time saver, allowing you to monitor and reply to reviews for all your online review sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp in one central place.

Broadly also helps you spot and filter out those fake reviews, too, so you can address them appropriately.

But you must know what to look out for before you can address a fake review on your Google My Business listing and Google Maps. Keep reading to see how to spot fake reviews and fake accounts and what to do about them.

How to spot fake Google reviews

No business with an online presence is impervious to fake reviews. The Internet is rampant with bots and fake reviewers — yes, even real people leave fake reviews.

How can you tell if reviews are fake? Here are some of the most common red flags.

Fake reviews are emotional

Pay attention to the content of the review. Fake reviewers have never interacted with you or your business, so they will use less spatial language and more emotionally triggering language to confuse readers.

For example, a review about your pet grooming business will focus heavily on negative emotions that have little to do about the actual grooming and exclude details about the process, interior layout or personal interactions with you and your staff.

Poor grammar and excessive exclamation points

According to an MIT study, fake reviews often include shorter words and excessive exclamation points.

The exclamation points emphasize the negative emotions behind the reviewer’s experience rather than the actual adverse events or products.

A genuine Google review will sound like an actual person wrote it. It might have a few grammatical errors and an excited exclamation mark, but it will read as if a real person wrote it.

Personal stories and details

Random personal stories are often used to make an emotional connection and deceive readers in fake Google reviews.

Typically, if someone recently hired a duct cleaning company, their review won’t include details about their children or dog who recently passed away. A good review focuses on the product or service, not on the person leaving the review.

How can you tell if someone is a fake reviewer?

As a small business owner, you’re likely the one managing your Google Business Profile. Because of this, it’s a good idea to learn how to spot a fake reviewer.

Here are some clues to determine if a reviewer is using a fake account to leave bad reviews.

The reviewer’s name and avatar are suspicious

A suspicious name and avatar aren’t always solid proof that an account is fake. Some people use quirky handles, but it can often be a clear giveaway. If Terry Crews has never been a customer, chances are he didn’t leave a legitimate negative review of your business.

It’s only possible to leave a Google review with a valid email address. And Google doesn’t allow anonymous reviews. Because of this, fake reviewers will create fake email accounts to hide their true identities.

They left a review without a comment

Negative reviews can sneak into your Google Business Profile if the reviewer leaves a star rating without leaving a comment.

It’s easy to miss star ratings if you aren’t regularly checking up on customer reviews. While not every review missing a comment is fake, it’s worth investigating further. Check the reviewer’s profile for clues and flag it if you suspect it could be fake.

They’ve left other bad business reviews

Suppose you click on the reviewer’s profile and see they’ve left similar suspicious business reviews. In that case, it’s a good idea to flag the profile — especially if they are promoting another business in the review.

In the same vein, if they have yet to leave any other reviews or they’ve left several reviews on the same day, it’s likely the account is fake.

Use caution when flagging accounts, though! Not every review is fake simply because it’s negative.

Google’s policies about fake reviews

Google claims to take fake reviews seriously. All reviews go through a moderation algorithm before publication, and any that violate Google’s policies are removed.

Some of the prohibited content from Google search and Google Maps includes:

  • Harassment
  • Hate speech
  • Offensive content
  • Fake engagement
  • Personal information
  • Impersonation
  • Misinformation
  • Violence

For a complete list of prohibited user contributed content on Google, head to their full policy on restricted content. Although the list is long, and fake engagement is on the list, fake reviews still slip through the cracks.

Business owners can’t simply delete fake reviews. There is a process to follow, and it doesn’t guarantee fake reviews will be removed. This can make it challenging to trust Google reviews.

If you suspect a review is fake, reply to the review politely before you request to have it removed. Let the reviewer know that you suspect they’ve never been a customer and perhaps have confused you with a similar business.

Another option is getting more Google reviews from happy customers and burying the fake ones.

However, if your online reputation is at stake because you’re getting spammed, follow these steps to request removal:

  1. Log into your Google Business Profile listing. Check out our guide to Google My Business if you need help with this.
  2. Find the review you want to delete.
  3. Click on the three dots to the right of the review and flag it as inappropriate.

It typically takes Google 24 to 48 hours to respond to a request. If you have been waiting more than a week, follow up with Google’s small business support.

Manage your online reviews and online reputation with Broadly

Managing Google reviews and maintaining an excellent online reputation are essential to growing any local business.

Instead of worrying about whether you can trust Google reviews, focus on building a robust online profile with reviews from genuinely happy customers.

Broadly helps you collect and monitor new reviews with a simple click of a button. Our review management software is designed to amplify your reputation and attract new customers.

Are you ready to get your local business discovered online?

Discover how Broadly can help you build an online Google profile with reviews that customers can trust.

Watch your online reputation transform with Broadly