Online reviews, both positive and negative, have been shown to have a crucial role in both attracting and retaining customers, but negative reviews are by far the most impactful factor in driving business. However, not every negative review is real, and knowing how to respond to fake reviews can be the difference between growing a customer base as opposed to barely hanging on to one.
- Most platforms, such as Google, have an easy-to-use review flagging system for businesses to initiate an investigation into a potential fake online review.
- Studies have shown that up to 30% of all online reviews are fake.
- Responding directly to fake reviews should be done concisely and politely and include a call to action to contact your business directly to resolve an issue and confirm a transaction record.
Dealing with fake reviews comes with some basic guidelines any business can use, meaning there’s no reason to let a malicious bot (or human) ruin the hard work you’ve put into building a reputation. So if there’s a dispute, remember that providing excellent customer service will show confidence in your services or products.
Genuine customer experiences usually rely more on nouns to give details, while fake reviews lean heavily on verbs and “action” to create the illusion of authenticity.
How to Spot a Fake Review
Studies have shown that well over 90% of consumers say they look at online reviews and customer feedback before making a purchase decision, and negative reviews have up to 12 times the impact on business as positive reviews, so knowing how to respond to a fake reviewer leaving negative feedback is a must.
Before that, however, you’ll need to know how to spot them. There are 5 easy ways to spot a fake or paid review online:
- Few details- describing an experience with a product is difficult if it never happened, and one of the key giveaways of a fake review is a notable lack of details in the description of an experience
- Far more verbs than nouns- Genuine customer experiences usually rely more on nouns to give details, while fake reviews lean heavily on verbs and “action” to create the illusion of authenticity
- More first-person pronouns- fake reviews will tend to lean heavily on “I” and “me,” again to lend authenticity to the review, whereas actual customers will focus more on details with less orientation on themselves
- 1-star or 4-star reviews- Giving the highest rating possible or the lowest one possible is often a sign of a fake review- most actual customers have more nuanced opinions and are eager to make that clear if they’re going through the trouble of leaving of a review
- Sketchy review history- A reviewer with no other reviews or many reviews using very similar language are often signs of a fake account. Most vendor sites allow you to search reviewer histories.
Responding To Fake Reviews
Responding to positive reviews is not the same as responding to negative reviews. One key factor is not to react emotionally. However, if you’ve determined or strongly suspect a review is fake, the next step is either to have it removed or, if you lack definitive evidence, respond with a polite and concise statement that your records don’t show any purchase or transaction with the reviewer.
Most review platforms have a system to flag reviews for issues like this. Google My Business is fairly typical and includes a few simple steps:
- Hover your mouse of the suspected fake review, and a flag icon will appear
- Click on the flag, and you’ll be redirected to a policy violation page
- Enter your company’s email address and the violation type, and press send
- Wait for a response from Google- this can take a few days in some instances
- If a review contains extreme or abusive language, you may wish to also contact Google Small Business Support and explain why you suspect a review is fake and any Google policies it may be in violation of
- If Google determines the review has violated its policies, you’ll be emailed with a confirmation that it’s been removed
Having a fake review removed can be difficult, depending on the platform. Google, for example, allows anonymous user names that are difficult to verify as belonging to an actual person, and they won’t necessarily accept a business simply claiming a reviewer never shopped with them as reason enough to remove the review.
When this happens, the next step is to engage with the reviewer directly. As stated before, this response should be as thorough, polite, and concise as possible. A good example text would be:
Hello (name of reviewer),
“We take customer feedback very seriously and would like to address your frustrations and hopefully find a positive resolution. Unfortunately, we can’t currently find a record of any transaction or purchase with us. In order to help you further, we’d appreciate it if you could contact (email address/name of service rep) with your full name and email so that we could go forward with a resolution. Thank you for your feedback, we hope to hear from you soon.”
If you don’t receive a response in a fairly timely manner, you can contact the platform again to report a non-response, which will often be enough to remove the offending review.
Note: Here are some other guidelines on how to reply to negative reviews when they happen.
Additionally, negative reviews can affect your business pretty badly. So, try to avoid getting them with great customer service and business transparency.
What can you do if another business leaves a fake review?
It’s not uncommon for competitors to hire a subcontractor in another country to leave a fake negative review. With many larger platforms, such as Google, you may not have to take any action, and the platform will be able to detect the fake review itself and have it removed. Otherwise, you may have to take action, such as flagging the review and contacting the platform’s small business support team.
How can I spot a fake review?
Common signs of a fake review are verb instead of noun-heavy text, reliance on personal pronouns instead of detailed descriptions, and a spotty review history on the reviewer’s part.
How can I remove a fake review?
It depends on the platform, but most platforms have a review-flagging system in addition to a small business support system for escalating issues with reviews suspected to be violating the platform’s policies.
STAT: Studies show that about 15-30% of online reviews are fake (source)