Online Review Spam: What it is and How to Fight Back

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No one wants to be on the receiving end of online review spam. After all, you’re proud of your business and have clawed your way from the bottom to get where you are today. But nonetheless, online reviews have their place in the digital world, and most times, they’re there to do you a favor.

Online review spam can include both fake favorable reviews created by your competitors for themselves and fake unfavorable reviews for you, posted by your competitors. The most important online review sites for eldercare service providers are Google, Yelp, and Facebook, in that order. Common favorable review spam created by competitors includes outright fakes and favorable reviews that violate Google and Yelp’s terms of service, such as reviews posted by current and former employees.

For the purposes of this blog, we will not cover what to do in the event of an authentic negative review by a customer on your business, only spam.

What is Online Review Spam?

Online review spam involves false reviews that misrepresent either the relationship of the reviewer to the business or the nature of the interaction the reviewer experienced with the business, or it violates set guidelines, says Moz.

An online review is considered spam if the reviewer:

  • Is a competitor of the business they are reviewing in an attempt to hurt that competitor and help themselves.
  • Is the owner, employee, or marketer of the business they are reviewing with the intent to falsify a review and sway public opinion.
  • Did not actually have a transaction with the business being reviewed; rather, they are posing as a customer in order to either help their own business or hurt someone else’s.
  • Did have a transaction, but has chosen to lie about the details.
  • Was offered an incentive of some kind to write the review.
  • Has violated any platform guidelines regarding personal attacks, advertising or hate speech.

These practices are not allowed on any major review platform, such as Yelp, Facebook and Google, and should be reported and removed.

Know What to Look For

The first step in fighting back against online review spam is to know how to spot a fake. There are legitimate negative reviews out there that you should respond to as a reputable business. But there are many others that are not legitimate and should be dealt with swiftly. Here are a few ways you can tell a review is fake.

  • Not much detail: If an experience never really happened, it’s hard for the spammer to give too many details about the product or service.
  • Too many verbs, not enough nouns: Genuine reviews tend to describe situations with nouns, while fake ones use verbs in an attempt to make the reviews sound more convincing, according to Digital Marketing Institute.
  • Has more first-person pronouns: In an effort to sound more sincere, fake reviewers use more first-person pronouns such as “I” and “me.”
  • One or five stars: Yes, many five-star reviews are real, but some aren’t. Be on the lookout for extreme ratings—either all five stars or just one star. A fake reviewer could be attempting to dramatically boost or slash the average rating.
  • Sketchy reviewer history: A red flag is when the reviewer has little to no reviews or uses similar language for all reviews. Check their profile and do a little research if things seem off.

Removing Fake Reviews from Google

If you have determined the review is fake, it’s time to remove it. Sounds simple but it’s not – at least when it comes to Google. They don’t always just take your word for it. You have to have proof. On top of that, it’s hard to prove a person’s online identity, due to the fact that Google allows for anonymous usernames.

Check out Google’s tips for reading and replying to reviews, which should be short and sweet. Here’s an example:

Hello [name]:

While we take these matters seriously, we can’t find a record of your experience and cannot verify your identity from our records. If you have indeed conducted business with us, we will investigate the issue further. Please contact us immediately.”

Now that you have responded, you should flag the review by visiting the “Report a Policy Violation” page. Google will get in touch with you if they need more information. To speed things up, you can contact a Google support team member via email or phone to make your case. Be prepared to give them photos and other documentation of why you think the review is fake. When a decision has been reached, you will be contacted.

Removing Fake Reviews From Yelp

For removal of fake Yelp reviews, respond in the manner above, then click the flag icon at the bottom of the review in question. Select your reason and submit. The moderators will consider your request, and either remove it or leave it. They will give you an answer either way. Again, it’s best to have evidence to provide to bolster your case. You have the best chance of removal when the review is an outright violation of Yelp’s Terms and Conditions and Content Guidelines.

Removing Fake Reviews From Facebook

Follow these steps to report a fake review on Facebook:

  • Click on the three dots in the top right corner of the fake review.
  • Select “report post.”
  • Follow the instructions.
  • A Facebook administrator will review it and make a determination.

In the end, it’s not easy to remove reviews of any kind. It takes a lot of patience, work, and commitment to not only track down fake reviews but to handle them properly so they don’t negatively affect your business.

Contact A Servant’s Heart Web Design and Marketing

Don’t have that kind of time? We do! Learn more about our online review and reputation management services when you call us at 760-227-2720.

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