Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | March 18, 2024

How to Manage Negative Google Reviews (Plus 9 Violations That’ll Let You Remove Them)

98% of consumers read reviews of local businesses to help them make a decision about whether or not to visit. The same study found that Google was the most used and trusted review site in 2022, which shows why it’s more important than ever that your Google reviews provide an accurate and positive representation of your business. So, what can a business do to make sure their local business listings are free from fake, incorrect, or undeserved negative reviews?

At a time when every review matters, the ability to remove negative Google reviews and effectively manage your online reputation can be a game changer for local businesses. Therefore, it’s often common for business owners to ask themselves, “Can I actually remove that bad review from Google?” The honest answer is — it depends.

While not the most satisfying answer, it is for a good reason. For reviews to hold real weight and matter to consumers, Google reviews have to be trustworthy. So, if that pesky negative post about your brand was completely legitimate, you’ll probably have a tough time taking it down (and might want to look into improving your online reputation strategy).

But what about reviews that aren’t legitimate? Or, you’re not sure if it qualifies as a genuine review or not. For those, Google has 9 specific violations that allow a business to remove bad, negative, and fake reviews from their listings. By removing reviews that are in violation of Google’s Review Policy, a brand can improve its ratings, climb the rankings, and entice more customers to visit their business.

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9 Google Review Violations That Google Can Remove

1. Spam and Fake Content

Spam and fake content are big issues online these days. At least 50% of consumers are confident they saw fake reviews on Google in 2022. So, it’s no surprise that online directories are starting to crack down on people who leave fake reviews. 

In fact, it’s become so widespread that the Federal Trade Commission is proposing new rules to prevent the creation of fake reviews, with companies selling those reviews potentially facing fines of up to $50,000 per review

Most local search directories have automatic filters that attempt to mitigate fake reviews from being posted on local business listings; however, some still seem to slip through the cracks. In these cases, you can flag the reviews in order to bring them to Google’s attention directly. To spot a fake review, look for signs like:

  • Star ratings with no accompanying text review
  • Overly generic reviews
  • Ridiculous usernames
  • Fake/non-human avatars
  • Nearly identical reviews left by the same person for different businesses
  • Multiple reviews posted by the same reviewer in a short period of time

2. Multiple Negative Reviews From the Same Person

Sometimes, one person will use multiple Google accounts in order to leave more than one review for the same business. They could ask friends to use their accounts, or they could create multiple fake accounts. No matter how or why, it’s clearly against Google’s Review Guidelines to use multiple accounts to leave multiple negative reviews about one experience with a business, and it should be flagged for removal.

3. Inappropriate Content, Profanity, Racism, or Other Hate Speech

Any use of inappropriate content, profanity, or racial terms in a review is grounds for removal. This also includes explicit content, offensive content, hate speech, harassment, and bullying. Google’s content policy consists of many different guidelines restricting this content from reviews.

4. Fraudulent Reviews From Competitors

Sometimes, businesses go to drastic measures to beat their competitors in the local search results. At times, this may result in attempts to hurt a competitor’s online reputation. If multiple area businesses in the same industry receive a bad review from one person in a relatively short time span while leaving one competitor a glowing review, it’s a sign the person behind the reviews could be a competitor.

5. Oops! Wrong Business!

There have been some circumstances where a customer clearly but accidentally left a review for the wrong business. This is easy to spot because they refer to products or services that are completely unrelated to what your business does. In this case, you can either respond to the review and politely ask them to remove it or dispute the review with Google.

6. Leaving Reviews at Locations They Didn’t Visit

If you have a multi-location business, a bad experience at one location could cause a customer to go on a tangent of writing bad reviews at every location in an attempt to harm the brand’s reputation as a whole.

Google’s review guidelines state that you can only leave a review with a business location that you’ve actually had a customer experience with. It’s pretty unlikely that a customer visited more than one location on the same day and had the same negative experience at each location. Another good clue is the location of the user versus the location of the business. For example, if the user is in Florida, but they wrote a review about a location in Ohio and Texas in the same few days.

7. Reviews From Current or Former Employees

Whether the review is good or bad, reviews from current and former employees directly violate Google’s review guidelines under the “Conflict of Interest” section. This also means that employees aren’t allowed to post reviews about their competitors either.

8. Irrelevant Online Reviews

Digital media is enabling the distribution of news and other stories. However, this means that if your store or location becomes the subject of a news article or story, you may begin to receive reviews from people all over the country. The problem comes when these people are commenting on news stories, voicing their opinions, making personal rants, etc. Reviews are meant to contain content that is only based on customer experiences, which means anything off-topic or unrelated to experience is against Google’s review guidelines.

9. Inappropriate Images

People can also submit reviews in the form of photos. Many of the guidelines that apply to the text in reviews also apply to any visual content uploaded along with the reviews. Images should only depict the experiences being had at the actual location the customer is leaving the review for.

How To Flag a Google Review for Removal

Companies have several different options for reporting reviews to Google that go against review guidelines. Whichever option you choose, if a review gets removed, it will no longer show up in any of the locations mentioned below.

Flag a Review in Google Maps

  1. Open Google Maps and search for your business location.
  2. Click to view all of your business reviews. Select “All Reviews.”
  3. Click the three dots in the top right corner of the review you wish to remove, and select “Flag as inappropriate.”
  4. Fill out the ‘Report Review’ form. This asks you to choose why you’re reporting the review. Pick the option that best matches why the review violates Google’s guidelines, and click submit.

However, if the review is a more serious violation and breaks local laws — like slander, defamation, or copyright infringements — you should click “Report a legal issue” instead.

This will take you to a different form where Google will walk you through the process for reporting content for legal issues. 

Flag a Review in Google Search

  1. Open Google and search for your business.
  2. Click to view all of your business reviews.

  3. Find the review you want to report.
  4. Click the three dots in the corner of the review you want to remove, and choose “report review.”

  5. Fill out the ‘Report Review’ form. This is the same form as if you clicked through from Google Maps. It asks you to choose why you’re reporting the review. Pick the option that best describes why the review violates Google’s guidelines, and click submit.

Flag a Review in Your Google Business Profile Account

  1. Log into your Google Business Profile account.
  2. In the menu, click “Manage reviews.”
  3. Find the review you want to report.
  4. Click the three dots in the corner of the review you want to remove, and choose “flag as inappropriate.”

What If Google Doesn’t Remove the Review?

Sometimes, the review sits on a thin line between violating Google’s review policy and not. If Google doesn’t remove it right away, there are several options you can take to handle the review and minimize its ongoing impact on your business.

Appeal the Decision Not To Remove the Review

You flagged a review for violating Google’s policy guidelines, only to get a notification that the review’s been looked at and no policy violation was found. That can feel incredibly frustrating, as it means the review stays online and continues to impact your business.

Thankfully, Google allows businesses to submit a one-time appeal against the decision not to remove a review. To submit an appeal, go to the Reviews Management Tool. Then:

  1. Click “Check the status of a review I reported previously and appeal options” in the menu.
  2. Choose “Appeal eligible reviews.”
  3. Scroll through to find the review you want to appeal. You can select up to ten at a time.
  4. Click Continue to submit an appeal. This will open a new form where you can add information about why you’re appealing the decision and why the review violates Google’s guidelines. Then, click submit to send your appeal.

This will go back to Google’s team for review. If the review is found to have violated their policies, it will be removed, but if not, it will remain live and visible on your listings page, in Google Maps, and in Google Search results. 

Respond to Fake Reviews

We know that consumers rely on reviews to help them make a decision about whether to shop with a business or not. But if you’ve got a bunch of fake reviews taking up space on your business listing, they don’t have to mislead customers.

Use your response to clarify the situation and suggest the review may not be genuine. This will help potential customers tell the difference between genuine reviews and fake or spammy ones. 

Respond to Negative Reviews

If you’ve got a negative review of your business that doesn’t violate any of Google’s content guidelines, unfortunately, you’re just going to have to accept its presence on your page. But just because the review content is negative doesn’t mean the whole experience has to be a poor one. Two practical steps can help the customer feel heard and reflect positively on your business:

    1. Respond to the review promptly. This lets the customer (and potential future customers) know that you take their reviews and opinions seriously. Chatmeter’s reputation management solution alerts you to reviews as soon as they come in, helping you to respond quickly. It can also help you identify trends and common themes in your reviews.
    2. Apologize for the poor experience. Negative reviews help corporations make changes to improve current business practices. It’s tempting to get defensive or attack the reviewer back, but that will reflect poorly on you and bring more attention than the situation deserves. Instead, apologize for the unsatisfactory experience and thank them for giving honest feedback. A simple apology goes a long way. If you’re stuck for words, we’ve put together a list of customizable review response templates your brand can use right now.
    3. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t say more than is absolutely needed. The idea is to handle the review as quickly and politely as possible.

Use a Tool To Monitor Your Reviews

While you can’t simply remove every poor Google review that comes your way, you can take defensive action. Your best bet is to stay on top of all your reviews — positive, negative, neutral, or fake. You want to be aware of reviews as they come in so you can report inappropriate ones and respond to others so consumers feel like they can trust your business. 

Chatmeter’s review monitoring tools make it easy to identify, escalate, and respond to every review. That’s exactly what Rise Brands did. They partnered with Chatmeter to boost their local search rankings, take charge of their online reviews, and ultimately increase the number of 5-star reviews on their pages. See how they did it, or book a demo to learn how Chatmeter could support your business.