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What You Can Do about Fake Negative Online Reviews

Sometimes negative reviews are legitimate and, unfortunately, sometimes they are just made up. It’s not unheard of for disgruntled employees or competitors to post negative reviews under fake names in order to make your company look bad.

What can you do if this happens?

Unfortunately, there are no fast and easy answers.

For example, Facebook will potentially remove posts that “don’t follow Facebook community standards, or don’t focus on the product or service offered by your page.” However, Facebook also says “you can only report star ratings that include reviews.” So if someone only gives you a one-star rating but no review, Facebook won’t even consider removing.

Yelp, on the other hand, says they will consider removing a false review “if it’s clear that it was posted by someone with a conflict of interest, including reviews from current or former employees, competitors, peers, or friends or family members of the business owner – even if they insist they were actually a customer and were uninfluenced by their relation to the business.” Sounds promising, right? Unfortunately, Yelp also adds to “please note that it usually isn’t enough to say you are suspicious of bias. It must be clear to our moderators that there’s a conflict of interest, so please provide evidence when you report the review.”

Likewise, Google will allow you to flag reviews that break their rules, like spam or fake reviews. However, proving that it’s fake is often the hard part.

  • There are some things that can help you prove that the review is fake:
    • Does the review use a lot of cleaning lingo? We use terms in the industry that your employees would know, but your average homeowner would not.
    • Does the reviewer have a weak profile. This one is for Facebook, but if the review is coming from someone you’ve never heard of and who has very little on his or her Facebook page, it’s like a fake profile.
    • Did the reviewer post on your competitors’ websites? If your competitors have similarly bad reviews from the same person, or if the person left a glowing review on one of your compeitor’s pages, then you can determine that it was left by a competitor.
    • Do you have records of the person in your customer files? If not, include that in your evidence. (This may or may not help.)
    • Ask the reviewer to call you. As mentioned in the piece on handling negative reviews, you want to take negative reviews offline. Document that the reviewer never contacted you after you suggested doing so.
    • Does the language in the review match your services? This is a common theme in fake reviews.

Once you’ve gathered your evidence, flag the review and send any evidence you’ve gathered along with your complaint. At this point, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the review gods.

Even if you don’t’ get the review removed, you can do things to help your company look better.

  1. Stay positive. As mentioned in our blog on negative reviews, if you have a lot of 5-star reviews and 1 or 2 negatives, you’re probably good. A not-so-great review may even help you.
  2. Call them out, but be subtle. If the person has not been a client of yours, mention that you have no record of the service. Ask them to call you.
  3. Stay Classy. No matter what, don’t lose your temper online, use foul language, call them a liar, etc. Just stay professional.

Finally, if you have a major problem with fake negative reviews, contact a lawyer and/or a company that specializes in working to get those reviews removed.