If you are a business owner, you know that being in the spotlight can be great for business – that is unless you are in the spotlight due to negative media attention caused by a stance that you took on a political or otherwise controversial issue.
Suddenly, you are bombarded with fake reviews and the 5-star rating that you have maintained for several years falls to a 3-star or even a 2-star. You are devastated that your reputation has been destroyed overnight.
The damage has been done and the story spreads across social media like wildfire. What can you do? Call the news outlet who aired your story and ask them nicely to delete it? This, unfortunately, is not going to work.
Google does offer some protection in the event that your review page is flooded with false review caused by media attention. Their policy on spam and fake content under prohibited and restricted content prevent such activity.
Spam and Fake Content
Googles policy on spam and fake content reads as follows:
“Your content should reflect your genuine experience at the location and should not be posted just to manipulate a place’s ratings. Don’t post fake content, don’t post the same content multiple times, and don’t post content for the same place from multiple accounts.”
Reviews that are created because of media exposure are not going to be genuine experiences. In addition, these reviews were created to manipulate your ratings by lowering it in order to discourage others from using your business or service.
But how does Google know whether or not a reviewers experience was genuine or what the reviewers’ intentions were? Well, they really don’t have a way to determine that.
However, when you bring it to Google’s attention and the reviews investigated by an actual human, they will notice characteristics such as:
- A sharp spike in the frequency of reviews. For instance, prior to the media attention, you were averaging 2-3 5-star Google reviews per month and suddenly you received 100 1-star reviews overnight.
- Many of the reviews reference the issue at hand. For instance, several reviewers proclaim that others should not patronize the establishment because you believe in XYZ.
Having The Reviews Removed
Having the reviews removed is sometimes not a quick and easy process. It involves reaching out to Google, often multiple times, and then waiting. Take a look at this post on removing fake reviews on Google for more detailed information.
To summarize, you should politely reply to each review. When doing so, consider including a statement that explains that the review was left in response to a recent media publication. This will give the person at Google who is investigating the reviews some insight into what’s going on. It also lets customers know that the person leaving the review was not necessarily a customer, but someone who read about you in the news, disagreed with your views and decided to drop a bad review on you.
After reporting, flag the review as inappropriate and mark it as off-topic. After all, the reviewer is attacking you as a person and not necessarily leaving helpful feedback about their personal experience with your establishment. From here you simply wait.
In addition to flagging the reviews, you can also call, chat, email, or reach out to Google on Twitter or Facebook. You can find more information on how to do so here.
In the end, there is no guarantee that Google will remove the reviews, but if you are persistent and clearly identify the issue and why the reviews should be removed, you stand a good chance at having them removed.