Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
Fake reviews are costing industry around $152 billionin lost revenue each year. While there are many well-intentioned users of review sites who genuinely want to share their experiences, there’s also a percentage of malicious users and bots that have a negative impact on global online spending.
The good news for ecommerce retailers is that there are ways to tackle the issue of fake Google reviews or false reviews being posted elsewhere online. Read on to learn how to spot a fake review and the different methods for removing or suppressing these types of reviews.
The impact of fake customer reviews on businesses
Online reviews play a huge role in driving traffic to online ecommerce websites. One study found that approximately $3.8 trillion in global spend on ecommerce in 2021 was driven by online reviews. However, official figures gathered from some of the world’s leading online review sites suggest that as much as 4% of all online reviews are fake. This represents an economic impact of approximately $152 billion in terms of lost spending.
Fake Google reviews and other false customer reviews can have a damaging impact on businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Bad reviews, especially those that are unsubstantiated, can damage your brand’s reputation, potentially causing customers to shop elsewhere.
Word of mouth is an invaluable marketing tool for online businesses – fake reviews can cause negative word of mouth to spread.
An estimated 93% of all consumers say reading online reviews affects their buying process – this can easily lead to lost business if the reviews they read are fake.
Spotting a fake review
Fake reviews from people who have never visited the site, purchased a product, or used a service give a false impression of the brand. There are ways to spot fake reviews and deal with these. However, business owners should be careful to ensure they are only dealing with fake reviews – it is not good business practice to try and hide genuine but negative reviews.
There are several things business owners can look for to help identify fake reviews:
Lack of detail – genuine reviewers are more likely to talk about concrete facts, while fake reviewers will be more generic. It is hard to talk about a product or service you have not used in specific terms.
Highest and lowest scores – while some genuine reviewers give the highest or lowest score to the business they are reviewing, most fall somewhere in the middle. One-star and five-star reviews may well be fake.
Reviewer profiles – business owners can often check reviewer profiles to see who else they have reviewed. Things to look for are no history of reviewing, or a history of reviewing excessively.
First-person pronouns – fake reviewers are more likely to attempt to sound genuine by using first-person pronouns such as I or we throughout their reviews.
Verbs over nouns – most real reviewers use a lot of nouns to describe their experience. Fake reviewers often replace these with verb-heavy pieces.
Copy and paste – reviews across multiple sites or for multiple companies that are copied word for word, including the same errors, are most likely generated by a fake reviewer or bot.
How to get them removed from various platforms
Each online review platform has its own unique policy in terms of removing fake reviews. Some will be easier to navigate than others. While business listings and review sites will not allow business owners to take down every post they don’t like, most will accept requests for the reviews to be assessed and will take down any that are identified as false.
Google will ask an independent moderator to assess requests for removal of reviews. They will take them down if they are deemed to have been written by someone impersonating someone else or someone with a conflict of interest.
To start the process of reporting fake Google reviews, search for your business on Maps and click on the star rating – this will take you to the list of all your reviews on Google. Hover over the review you would like assessing and click on the flag icon – you can then follow the online prompts to make your request. You can remove fake Google reviews if the criteria for removal are met.
Facebook will only remove reviews that are classed as threatening, bullying or harassment, as per their community guidelines. Click on the V-shaped icon towards the top of the review you would like removed to report the post.
Yelp will only remove reviews that are deemed to be offensive, include private information, don’t focus on a personal customer experience, or have a clear conflict of interest. Click the flag icon towards the bottom of any review you would like to request removed and write your reason – if the site moderator agrees then the post will be removed.
You can ask for reviews to be removed from TripAdvisor by clicking on the My Business tab in the “account” menu. There will be an option to report a review – you will be required to provide evidence that the review violates the guidelines of TripAdvisor.
Feefo is invite-only, so fake reviews should be impossible to post – only verified customers can leave a review here.
Zagat is now owned by Google so you can follow the process above for requesting the removal of Google reviews.
OpenTable is willing to remove certain reviews if they meet the criteria for removal. These criteria include violations of privacy, reviews where the customer did not dine at the restaurant, offensive language, mentions of illegal activity, old or irrelevant reviews and any attempts to extort or blackmail the restaurant. OpenTable also recommends securing the services of a lawyer specialising in defamation removal for more serious cases.
Other ways to get customer insight
Another way to help tackle the issue of fake reviews is to ensure your customers have easy access to a good selection of genuine reviews. Hopefully these will be mainly positive and help drive traffic to your website. When the odd genuine poor review crops up, rather than trying to hide it, the best thing you as a business owner can do is respond publicly and resolve the issue promptly to the customer’s satisfaction.
You can reach out to customers in a variety of ways to generate more positive reviews:
Surveys - Adding surveys to your website or your email list can be a great way to gather customer feedback. You can include links to encourage customers to leave [feedback].(https://squareup.com/gb/en/customer-engagement/feedback) on your website or other review sites as well as use the information to improve your business.
Website reviews - with a Square Online website, you can enable customer reviews about real-world experiences that will be visible to other customers browsing your website. You can set a timescale for automated email requests to be sent for reviews after purchase.
Online marketing insights - Market insights can be used to determine what your customers want the most. Once you know this, you can develop your products and services to meet that demand. The more satisfied customers you have, the more likely you are to receive positive reviews.
Square for SMBs
Using Square software can help small to medium business owners everywhere gain real insight into what their customers want, helping to generate a stream of positive, genuine reviews that will in turn drive more traffic.
You can gather customer feedback and use advanced analytics tools to discover ways to improve your business, keep up with changing customer demand and tackle fake reviews as they happen.