Did a customer just leave you get a bad or unfair Google review?  Did someone pretending to be a customer leave you a nasty negative review?  Unfortunately, it happens.  If you arrived on this page, then you are in the right spot and we will show you how to address it and take back control of your reputation online.

If you own a local business, your customers are most definitely Googling you before visiting your business.  And with Google results, your Google My Business profile shows up on the right side with a summary of your business along with your star rating and the number of reviews. 

This is extremely important to pay attention to.  86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. 

If you are reading this page, you most certainly know the impact that 1 or many negative reviews can have on your business. 

Review sites such as Google reviews, make it far too easy for your customers and even your competitors to leave nasty negative reviews and trash your business.  Is it fair?  Nope.  Can you do something about it?  Absolutely.

Claim Your Google My Business Profile

Claiming your business with Google is the first step in building your credibility. By not claiming your business profile on Google My Business, it shows the general public that you simply don’t care about your reviews.

In the example above, their reviews are pretty good, with a 4.4 star rating and 89 Google reviews.  However they have not claimed their listing as it still shows “Own this business”. 

Claiming your Google My Business profile is quite easy, so if you have not yet “Claimed” your Google listing follow these steps in this article to set it up: How to Claim Your Google My Business Profile

But, wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple button you could press to delete a bad Google review?   If only that was easy!

Once you have “Claimed” your Google My Business Profile, the first thing you want to do is to review Google’s guidelines on ‘Prohibited and Restricted Content’” page. If the review appears to violate one of Google’s guidelines, that’s when you can flag the review for removal. 

How to Remove a Bad or Negative Review that Violates Google’s Policies

Google has a detailed list of what is considered “‘Prohibited and Restricted Content’ for businesses and reviewers. Most fall under the guidelines but it’s also introduced key elements to its ‘Format Specific Criteria’ rules to outlaw practices such as review gating.

  1. Don’t review your own business
    Reviews are intended to be honest and unbiased accounts of genuine customer experiences, therefore reviewing your own business (or asking staff to review your business by posing as a customer) is against Google Review guidelines.

  2. Don’t review competitors
    Google considers “posting content about a competitor to manipulate their ratings” to be a conflict of interest. 

        3. Don’t post content about a current or former employment experience

An update by Google in December 2017, explicated added that current and former employees are no longer allowed to leave reviews as that would fall in the section of Conflict of Interest.  The below image would be a perfect example of a Conflict of Interest review. 

4.No Spam and Fake Content

  • You content should reflect a genuine experience that you had and not be something that is copied from somewhere else.
  • Don’t post fake content
  • Don’t post the same content multiple times.
  • Don’t post content for the same place from multiple accounts

5. No review gating

Review gating is a newer addition to Google’s Review guidelines and means that local businesses should not use a 3rd party tool to filter out negative reviews. Recovering unhappy customers before they write a negative google review is common-sense customer service from a business perspective. 

However, some review publishers may view this practice as manipulating, “gating” or “gaming” reviews.

Note: Google’s review content policy changed on April 12, 2018 to state: “Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.” It is anyone’s guess how Google will interpret this policy or if they will enforce it.
To err on the side of caution, you can use a non-segmenting review funnel layout or simply show all visitors the same options for reviews

6. Don’t offer or accept money in exchange for reviews


You can’t incentivize customers to leave a review for your business by offering to pay them or compensate them for doing so.  Obviously, if you  are going to compensate or reward someone for leaving a review, the reviewer will no doubt be more inclined to leaving you a positive review in order to claim their reward, which goes towards undermining the process.

Google published in 2017 their stance against review solicitation:
 “Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. (For example, business owners shouldn’t offer incentives to customers in exchange for reviews.)”

Don’t solicit reviews from customers in bulk

Although Google doesn’t specify what constitutes as “bulk”, it’s in your best interest to try to err on the side of caution.  For example, you shouldn’t send a mass email blast to your entire mailing list requesting a review. Keep in mind that Google’s focus here is on ensuring reviews are accurate, genuine and even timely.  

Google would prefer businesses have a consistent stream of new reviews coming in, rather than a surge every few months.

Helpful Tips: How to spot a fake Google review

  1. Look at the reviewer’s profile photo: Do a reverse image search on their profile photo to see if it’s a stock photo. Doesn’t mean it’s fake, but it sure does look shady.
  2. Look at the profiles that posted the reviews:
    1. Are they posting reviews in multiple states?
    2. Are all the businesses in the same niche?

Now if you think there’s even a chance that a review violated one of these Google review guidelines, follow these steps to try to get it removed.

  1. Log into your Google My Business Profile
  2. Once you are in your Google My Business account, click the reviews link on the Left column scroll to the bad review and click on the three vertical dots on the right side of the review.  
  3. Once you click on the three dots, a drop down will appear.  Click on “Flag as inappropriate”
    4. Next, you will “Report the Policy Violation”.   Select from the radio buttons the most appropriate reason for the violation.   

Note: Google’s Comment posting policy is as follows:

  • Don’t spam or post fake reviews intended to boost or lower ratings. 
  • Don’t post or link to content that is sexually explicit or contains profanity. 
  • Don’t post or link to content that is abusive or hateful or threatens or harasses others. 
  • Don’t post or link to any file that contains viruses, corrupted files, “Trojan Horses,” or any other contaminating or destructive features that may damage someone else’s computer. 
  • Don’t post any material that violates the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others. 
  • Don’t impersonate any person, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity. 
  • Don’t violate any other applicable law or regulation. 
  • Don’t use comments as a forum for advertisement.

    You might also like to follow these guidelines and tips: 
  • Make your comments useful and informative. 
  • Post clear, valuable, and honest information specific to the content which you are reviewing. 
  • Try to include both positives and drawbacks. Be nice to others; don’t attack others. 
  • Keep it readable; don’t use excessive capitalization and punctuation. 
  • Use good grammar and check your spelling. Please note that we reserve the right to review and remove commentary that violates our policies.

That’s all there is to it.  All you need to do is follow these steps for any bad reviews that violate any of Google’s content guidelines. 

Now what if the negative Google review doesn’t violate Google’s guidelines?  Sometimes you receive a valid bad Google review due to a customer complaint.  Here’s what you need to do.

How to Remove a Bad or Negative Review that Doesn’t Violate Google’s Policies

It’s always important to respond to a bad review right away.  Yelp has found that a reviewer is 33% more likely to upgrade their review, if you respond back to them within 24 hours.  This will probably apply to Google reviews as well.  Even if a review appears to violate one of Google’s policy guidelines and you are already working to get it remove by Google, don’t wait for hear back from Google.  If possible, treat the reviews as a legitimate reviewer, and contact the reviewer right away. 

With any type of bad review, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to get the negative Google review removed, or at least upgraded to a higher rating.  

Now if you have a bad Google review that’s been there for a while, don’t let that stop you from following the steps listed below.
When you get bad Google review, your first instinct is to get angry and rebuttal the reviews emotionally.  DON’T!   A single negative Google review handled the wrong way can cost your business thousands of dollars.

Do not respond back with childish responses, or even lash out at the reviewer.  Remember, you are responding to the reviewer, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, you are responding back for the benefit of everyone else who is reading your reviews.

How to Handle a Negative Review

Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Timeliness:
    1. Do: Respond quickly within 24 hours
    2. Don’t Ignore it
  2. Response:
    1. Do: Keep your response brief
    2. Don’t: Write a lengthy response full of excuses
  3. Acknowledge:
    1. Do: Acknowledge the complaint
    2. Don’t Deny that your company did anything wrong
  4. Apologize:
    1. Do: Apologize even if it wasn’t your fault
    2. Don’t: Write a defensive response and attack the reviewer
  5. Offer:
    1. Do: Offer to fix the problem
    2. Don’t: Threaten to sue.
  6. Follow Up:
    1. Do: Follow up with your promises
    2. Don’t: Leave fake good reviews to balance it out.

Here’s what you need to do to fix a negative Google review. 

  1. Breath and take a step back.
  2. Swallow your pride and try to reach out the customer by Phone if possible, if not, by email, and if both are unavailable, you can respond back to the reviewer by going to the review itself and clicking on “Send Direct Message”.
  3. Contact the Reviewer:
  4. Introduce yourself and thank the reviewer
  5. Apologize and mention any changes that you’ve made as a result of the feedback
  6. Offer an ethical bribe to correct the issue or compensate the reviewer. and request another chance

What is an Ethical Bribe? 

An Ethical Bribe is a generous offer to correct the mistake or compensate the reviewer to get them to give you another chance.  It’s ethical, because you are NOT asking them to change their review or asking for another else in return.  When they do come in, this is your opportunity to go over the top and deliver an outstanding customer experience.  The majority of people will happily revise and/or even remove the review on their own.    If not, you can always reach out to them at a later date to ask them to consider revising their review based on their latest experience.

Here is an example

Introduction: Hi Jason, this is Sarah, the owner of Wing’s R Us.  I wanted to reach out to thank you for your feedback on Google about your recent ordering experience with us. 

Apology & Changes:  I’m so sorry that we did not include the additional sauces as part of your order as expected which resulted in a “dry” food experience.  I personally had a meeting with all our staff and gave them a training on how best to handle take out orders and developed a check list to follow. 

Ethical Bribe:  How can I make it up to you?  Can I re-send you another order with an assortment of our best sauces on the house and a free dessert   I hope you’ll consider giving us a chance to make it right!

We know it’s not easy to read the negative Google review and then reach out to the reviewer to make an offer to give you another chance. However, you’ll be amazed at how well this ethical bribe strategy works to get the reviewer to upgrade their review or even removed all together.

How to Bury a Bad or Negative Google Review

What do you do when you tried to get Google to remove a negative review and they refused?  You also tried to reach out to the reviewer privately and that also failed?

If you can’t get a bad Google review removed by the steps mentioned above, your next course of action is to take steps to minimize the damage it can cause you business. 

Respond to the Review Publicly

When you respond back to a customer’s feedback in the right way, you are showing potential customers that you listen and that you value your customer’s feedback.  It also shows that you are continuously striving to improve. 

A good well-balanced response will neutralize the harm that a negative Google review can have on your business. 

A couple of negative reviews won’t harm your business, as long as you respond back to them in the appropriate way and then bury them under a wave of 5-star reviews.

Let’s get started.  When you receive a negative Google review, you will need to act and respond back to the review. 

  1. Standard Public Comment for a Bad Review
    • Thank the reviewer for their business and feedback
    • When appropriate, apologize and mention any changes you’ve made as a result of the feedback.
    • Offer an ethical bribe.

  2. Public Comment for a Fake/False Review
    • Present your case briefly and politely
    • Never attack the reviewer
    • When appropriate, apologize that they are unhappy without admitting responsibility.

Remember: Potential customers will be reading your comments, and you don’t want to leave the impression that you would criticize or attack a customer under any circumstances.

Here’s an example of how to address a negative Google review that the Google moderators refused to remove.

Hi Jason.  Thanks for your feedback.  I’m not sure what to do here except to apologize.  We don’t have a record of any Jason R from Orleans in our customer database and unfortunately, no one on our staff recalls the situation you have described.  Regardless, I’m really sorry that you had a bad experience.  Please call my office so we can see if there is a way that I can make this up to you?

Bury the Negative Reviews

There is a saying in the SEO (search engine optimization) world.  “The best place to a hide a dead body is page 2 of a Google search results” because no one goes past page 1. Well at least most people don’t. 

In the world of reviews, we want to apply a similar approach, and build up enough positive 5-star reviews that it will push down the bad and negative Google reviews out of sight.

Once you’ve addressed and neutralized any negative reviews with a public response addressing the review, the best next step is to bury the bad reviews out of sight.

While removing the bad reviews will help you avoid losing business, the real magic happens when you bury the bad reviews under an avalanche of 5-star reviews.    

How can you get more 5-star reviews?

You have 2 ways:

  1. You can do what many businesses do: hope and pray for 5-star reviews
  2. Or you can take control and make it happen by implementing a review generation strategy through the use of a Review Management platform such as ReviewPanda

ReviewPanda is an easy-to-use software tool that lets you monitor your company’s online reputation, collect and use customer reviews in online marketing campaigns, and work with unhappy customers to address issues before they turn into negative reviews that can damage your brand. 

ReviewPanda is a complete automated reputation management platform that help you to grow your reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook Tripadvisor and many more review sites.

Best of all ReviewPanda is already integrated with Google reviews and also 150+ other review sites.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print