Can You Remove Negative Reviews From Google?
Online reviews are growing more important by the day—especially for local businesses. Study after study show that what customers write about your business has a direct impact on the bottom line. Furthermore, online reviews affect more industries than ever, from restaurants to hotels, doctors to landscapers. Customers also find your reviews in more places than they used to: embedded in the search results, Google Maps, and on their smartphones, to name a few.
So what do you do when a review mischaracterizes all the hard work you put into your business?
Many business owners approach Reputation.com about removing negative reviews from Google, but this isn’t usually possible—nor is it always desirable. A few negative reviews are par for the course, and sometimes they can even benefit you indirectly over the long run. Read on to learn how.
Handling negative reviews: overview
- If you can prove the review is misleading—and only if—contact the review site to contest it
- Write a public response to the reviewer
- Show the steps you took to resolve any issues
- Encourage loyal customers to review you
- Use tools to streamline the process
How to contest negative reviews
Most review sites will not simply remove reviews you don’t like. Clearly, this wouldn’t be in their best interests; consumers trust reviews on third-party sites precisely because business owners can’t police them. However, there are a few instances when you can get reviews removed:
- Slander from competitors – If an underhanded competitor has maligned you on a review site, you can have that review marked as fake and often have it removed or hidden. That said, you’ll have to prove your case, which is easier said than done. Simply saying “This has got to have been written by so-and-so” won’t get you anywhere. On the other hand, if the email address associated with the review belongs to someone who works for a competitor, you might be in luck.
- Erroneous reviews – Sometimes customers write reviews for another business on your page by accident, or they write a glowing review but accidentally mark it one star instead of five. In these cases, if you politely contact the reviewer and explain the situation, you can often get the review amended or removed.
- Legal violations – Material that is highly offensive or is illegal to post can be grounds for removal, including threats, racist or sexist comments, graphic content, or copyright infringing materials. Google provides some advice for submitting complaints about this type of content. If the material appears on a non-Google review site, contact that site directly instead.
Responding to negative reviews
If you lack grounds to have a review removed, you should respond to the reviewer, publicly when possible. This gives you the chance to resolve the situation with the customer, potentially winning them back. Reputation.com’s internal research shows that when unhappy customers receive a thoughtful, considered response to a negative review, they often completely change their opinions, becoming loyal supporters of your business.
Even if you don’t win back the reviewer, a public response shows potential customers that you care and that you’re paying attention. People like to see how a business recovers from a fumble; it gives them confidence that whatever happens, someone will try to meet their needs. For those reasons, responding to negative reviews is a win-win for your business, no matter how the unhappy customer reacts.
With that in mind, here are some tips for responding to reviews effectively:
- Apologize for the bad experience
- Never accuse the reviewer of being wrong or exaggerating
- Offer to discuss by phone to resolve the situation
- Explain the steps you’ve taken to resolve the situation
Fixing the problem—and then talking about it
The plus side of negative customer reviews is that you get a free perspective on what isn’t working so well at your business. Do people frequently complain about long waits? Rude staff? If it’s more than one or two comments, there’s probably something that needs fixing on your end.
Use these negative comments to develop operational improvement plans. Not only will this reduce the flow of negative reviews, it will also give you a leg up on the competition by making your business that much more attractive to customers.
Finally, once you’ve come up with your plan, share it with your disgruntled reviewers. If possible, reach out directly to explain that their reviews helped you spot a problem, then explain the situation. If you’ve got a negative review about the issue that gets a lot of attention, it’s also worth posting your solution as a reply to that review.
Generating more positive reviews
Of course, not everyone reads all the nuances of your reviews. Many potential customers will skip right past your listing if the average star rating is too low. That’s why it’s important to encourage your customers to share their opinions of you online. Besides, the more positive reviews you have, the less that odd negative comment will affect your business. Here are some tips:
- Ask your customers - Most of your customers are happy with the service they receive; they simply haven’t thought to review you. We’ve found that Reputation.com clients who ask for reviews receive many times more reviews than those who don’t, and most of those new reviews are positive.
- Work it into your routine - No doubt you’ve already got a lot on your plate without having to worry about asking for reviews. That’s why you should work a review-request process into your daily customer interaction flow, so it happens without extra effort.
- Don’t ask for praise - Many small businesses make the mistake of asking for positive reviews. This makes the customer feel used. It’s better to simply ask for honest feedback, and to be thankful for whatever comments you get. When you show customers you trust them, they’re more likely to write nice things about you.
- Avoid fake review services - There are a number of unscrupulous businesses out there offering fake reviews. Avoid them at all costs. First, these reviews are often low-quality and reflect poorly on your business. Second, review sites have gotten quite good at sniffing out the imposters. If you get too many suspicious reviews, you risk being blacklisted and losing a big chunk of your positive reviews.
- Be careful with incentives - It’s alright to offer incentives to your customers for a review, but make sure these don’t turn into bribes. Provide incentives to all reviewers, whether or not they write something positive, and make sure the incentives you provide send the right message about your business.
Streamlining the process
Handling online reviews can be time consuming, which is why Reputation.com offers a suite of technological solutions to streamline the process. Our Reputation.com for Business platform allows you to see all your online reviews in one dashboard, respond to or forward reviews, set alerts for new negative mentions, compare yourself to competitors, manage social media, automatically send “please review us” emails to your customers, and much more. We offer multiple service tiers, ranging from self-serve to fully managed.
Curious to learn more? Sign up for a demo.