What to Do If You Get a Bad Review on Google | Twelve Three Media

How to Remove Bad Reviews from Google

Business owners and marketers alike know the problems created by a bad review. When a user writes a bad review on Google, the negative impact on reputation is magnified by the aggravation of trying to get the review removed.

Google My Business (GMB) is expanding the ability of marketing agencies and business owners to manage their reputation on the platform – in theory, anyway. With the new GMB reviews management tool, account holders can report reviews to Google for removal and check the status of previously flagged reviews.

The problem: The tool doesn’t work for many accounts with multiple Google My Business listings. If you manage more than a small number of Business Profiles (we have seen accounts with as few as a dozen listings where the tool is not available), you get a message saying the “process is not available.”

This is unfortunate news for businesses with more than a handful of office locations (and, thus, multiple GMB listings) as well as agencies that manage a high volume of business profiles for their clients. So, if you get a bad review on Google and the management tool doesn’t work for you, what can you do to remove it?

The answer: Go through the standard process of reporting reviews to Google for removal. Any business owner or marketer will tell you that removing a bad review from Google can be frustrating. However, a little creativity can improve the likelihood that Google will take down a negative review before it does too much damage.

How to Request Removal of a Bad Review on Google

It is important to understand that Google will only remove reviews in certain circumstances. Just because you disagree with a review does not mean it will be removed. Instead, the review must violate Google policies or be associated with an incorrect location or listing.

For reviews meeting these criteria, Google offers the following tips for flagging the review:

  • If you are signed into your Google My Business account:
    • Choose the review you’d like to flag
    • Open the listing location, select Reviews
    • Find and click the More symbol, and Flag the review as inappropriate
  • If the review is in a Google search or Maps listing:
    • Find the business profile
    • Click Reviews, find the review
    • Click the Flag as inappropriate symbol and select the violation type

You will be asked to identify the reason you are flagging the review.

Google has gotten wise to spam accounts that are designed to leave inauthentic positive and negative reviews on business profiles. Unfortunately, the effort to curb fake reviews means that some genuine reviews (positive or negative) may be removed by Google.

Even if you follow these steps to the letter, you are unfortunately at the mercy of Google’s support team. Flagged reviews may not be assessed for several days, and even then your request to remove a review may be denied.

Improving the Likelihood That a Review Will Be Removed

Reputation management is crucial in the digital age. Getting found on Google (whether through organic SEO and/or optimizing your listings) is not a set-it-and-forget-it process.

Google may provide limited assistance to business owners and agencies managing reviews. So, businesses and agencies need to be diligent and take timely action on their own to limit the impact of a negative review.

Here are the top tips for getting reviews removed that Google doesn’t want you to know:

Time Is of the Essence

The most successful businesses regularly get new reviews on Google and other platforms. Considering the importance of fresh reviews (73 percent of consumers only look at reviews from the last month, according to BrightLocal), the most recent reviews on your Google My Business listing are perhaps more important than your overall review score.

Google also seems to pay more attention to new reviews than old ones. So, you should flag any new negative reviews as soon as possible.

Nothing in Google’s guidelines says that it will consider prompt reporting of a review over reporting a stale one. However, given the emphasis Google places on policy violations in removing reviews, it stands to reason that Google is more likely to pay attention to a recent review that other users are likely to see.

Multiply Your Efforts

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. However, in a massive machine like Google, sometimes you need to make a bigger squeak to get noticed.

Don’t flag the review from just one account and wait for a response. Instead, flag the review from multiple accounts in your control, making a concerted effort from multiple angles to get the review removed.

Having access to more than one Google account means strength in numbers. Reviews with multiple flags are more likely to get timely attention, and may be removed sooner. 

Broaden Your Offense

Google’s policies for prohibited and restricted content are intentionally vague. The lack of specifics effectively lets Google off the hook for managing the reviews left by users.

This leads to endless frustrations for business owners and marketing agencies trying to manage their reputations and limit the harm of negative reviews. Once again, however, “strength in numbers” can be helpful.

Read the review you want to flag carefully and compare it with the policies published by Google. As with flagging a review from multiple accounts, see if the review violates more than one policy specifically identified by Google. If you find that the review in question touches upon more than one offense, then flag it again.

Have a Fallback Plan

Google is unreliable at best, especially when user support is clearly not a priority for the company. If flagging the review gets you no response within 48 hours, you will need to engage in some reputation management of your own in an effort to resolve the situation.

Reply to the unwanted review with a polite apology and request to take the matter offline. You may be able to work with the unhappy customer to rectify the negative experience. Managing the situation may convince the customer to take down the review or update it.

At the very least, responding to negative reviews shows other users that you care. This is important in itself. Womply reports that 75 percent of businesses don’t respond to their reviews. And yet, businesses that respond to even one-quarter of their online reviews get 35 percent more in revenue.

Want more tips for boosting the online reputation of your business? Connect with Twelve Three Media today!

Conclusion

Ultimately, both good and bad reviews on Google are either visible or invisible. The only true “fix” for a bad review is to make it invisible.

However, Google makes it difficult to remove reviews even when they violate company policies or clearly mismatch the location and/or type of business. We have seen reviews for Italian restaurants posted to the listing for a law firm with a similar name, as well as highly specific negative reviews that are only taken down when we show that the specifics violate the rules on sexually explicit, offensive, or dangerous and derogatory content.

Given these challenges, a threefold strategy is beneficial: First, follow Google’s guidelines for requesting the removal of a review. Second, go the extra mile in an effort to work around Google’s processes to accomplish your goal of removing the review. Third, be prepared to exercise your reputation management and customer service skills to address the negative review outside of Google’s depersonalized, heavily automated system.

Whether you can use the new reviews management tool on Google My Business or you are forced to use the “old-fashioned” way to flag reviews, it is important to read between the lines of the Google guidelines and advocate for your business or client. Google may provide “free” tools to address a variety of situations, but your ingenuity and determination are your best allies when protecting your online reputation.

A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.

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