Hands down, the most common question we receive from clients is, “Can I remove a negative Google review?”
It makes sense: everything is fine and dandy until you receive that dreaded negative online review. There even seem to be phases to the way people respond to negative online reviews, including disbelief, rage, and blame.
Today, we’re here to clear the air about how you can remove negative Google reviews and what even qualifies for the removal process.
Types of Negative Online Reviews
There are a few types of negative online reviews that you may encounter, each with its own background and nuances that require your attention before moving forward. Though there are numerous reasons for negative reviews, we’ve narrowed things down to four stereotypes for negative online review posters.
If you want more information on the posters behind negative online reviews, be sure to check out our guide on fake reviews.
The Angry Customer
The most common type of negative online review poster is…you guessed it: the angry customer!
These are individuals who walked through your doors and 1) were having a bad day and therefore are having bad experience after bad experience, no matter the reality of the situation or 2) encountered a legitimate problem with your business.
If a staff member remembers the situation described in the review, or if they are named specifically, you will want to speak with them or review video footage of the event. Does the customer have a valid reason for being upset? Were they asking for an irrational level of service or for an impossible exception to be made and that’s why their experience was “negative”?
Think about these points before moving on in order to best determine if you could reach out to that customer personally and try to rectify the situation. By trying to work with an angry or upset customer to improve their experience, you may earn more loyalty from them than from the customer who had a good experience but forgot about it as soon as they walked out the door.
The (Ex) Employee
Negative online reviews left by (ex) employees are tricky. Similarly to positive reviews left by employees, they fall into a questionable area of online reviews.
Warning signs that a negative online review may have been left by an (ex) employee are:
- If management or another staff member was explicitly called out
- If they complain, generally, about how poorly staff is treated
- If they mention seeing something specific that was only privy to other employees
- If their username matches, or resembles, the name of an employee
These may be obvious, but you will want to check off these boxes if you want to start creating a good case for this particular type of negative review to be removed by Google.
It’s an unavoidable part of doing business: sometimes competitors choose to take shadier routes to make their own company look better.
This means you may come across a negative online review that attacks the ethics of your business directly. In other cases, you may notice that a negative review will specifically mention a competitor as the “best” to sway users away from you.
If you suspect this is the case, try looking at the review profiles of your competitors. Do some of them have similarly worded negative reviews that point to a singular “recommended” business? If so, you may have found the perpetrator.
Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. It doesn’t matter if your business has 300 positive, 5- star reviews and you have never had a single upset customer in all of your years running the business. Anyone who uses the internet knows one basic truth: trolls will exist anywhere, any time, and for any reason.
This is why some negative online reviews come from fakers who are leaving a negative review for an unknown reason. They could simply enjoy causing a minute level of chaos in the life of a business owner, or they may enjoy the idea of writing a ridiculous negative review to dissuade potential customers from working with a business.
Whatever the reason, you will want to do as much research as you can into the name of the reviewer. Barring clearly made-up usernames, does the poster have the same last name as an upset client who came in last week? Is their negative post clearly nonsense? We’ve even seen negative reviews for doctors office saying that the doctor is their neighbor and does a bad job shoveling their snow. If you think you fall into this category, you may have a decent case to get this review taken down by Google.
If you want more information on the posters behind negative online reviews, be sure to check out our guide on fake reviews here. Though this guide is aimed at fake patient reviews, the information holds true across all industries.
How to Remove a Bad or Fake Google Review
Before you run to Google, you will want to take a few steps to ensure that you are starting this process off on the right foot.
As mentioned above, you’ll want to do as much research as possible to find out if the reviewer was a real customer of yours. This means looking into the situation they’ve described in their negative review and see if any of your staff remembers being involved with it.
You will also want to check your client database for their name, last name, or any similar matches (such as Pat for Patrick) that came in around the time the review was left.
Knowing, as surely as you can, whether or not this review was left by a real client will be an important detail to share with Google when you present your case to them.
Compile the Evidence
Get as much information as you can, such as the reviewer’s name and whether or not they were a real client, whether other businesses in the area were hit with similar negative reviews, and anything else that could be relevant.
You should also look into the profile of the reviewer themselves. Have them left reviews in vastly different areas back to back? If they left a review for a barber in Austin, TX on January 1st, a review for a restaurant in Santa Monica, CA, and a review for a bar in Ft. Lauerdale, FL within one month…it’s likely they aren’t prolific world travelers, but a fake negative reviewer instead.
Up Your Review-gathering Efforts
While you’re trying to get one negative Google review removed, it’s important not to lose sight of the overall goal. This means that you want to up your review-gathering efforts during this sensitive time.
Submitting something for removal by Google isn’t a guarantee, so you’ll be best served by increased efforts toward real, positive reviews. Simply ask new customers, clients, and patients to leave a review about their good experience on Google and you can begin to effectively bury the negative review with positivity.
How to Remove a Negative Google Review
Log into your Google Account
As a business owner, you should have already claimed your Google My Business listing for each and every one of your locations, and for any providers that work within your office. This is a good practice to manage the information publicly available online (such as your business hours, number, and address) and it also prevents someone from claiming the profile for themselves and incorrectly representing your business’s information.
If you have more than one location, make sure you select “Manage Location” for the one you have received a negative review on.
Access Your Reviews
Once you are logged in and have selected the specific location that you are looking to access the negative review on, you will be sent to the Google My Business dashboard that allows you access insights, your Google My Business Posts, and other information. This is also where you will be accessing your reviews, as you can see in the image below.
Once you’ve opened your reviews, you’ll be able to see everything people have said about your business online. All you’ll need to do at this point is pin-point the negative review and flag it.
Once selected, you’ll receive the following notice, in which Google explains that they have a high demand to review and remove these negative reviews and that there may be a delay in their response. However, you’ll also notice that only reviews that violate their terms of service should be flagged for removal.
This means that a review that is simply negative cannot be removed. Again, because Google errs on the side of the reviewer, there must be more to that negative online review that detailing a bad experience.
What’s against Google’s Terms of Service?
If you want your review to be removed, you’ll want to make sure that it actually violates Google’s content policies. On top of that, you’ll want to have all the information we listed previously at your disposal to help your case.
None of this is a guarantee, though, as it is dependent on the Google employee to ultimately decipher the rules and decide whether or not the review has crossed a line.
Below is a high-level overview of what Google considers a breach of their content rules. You can view this information on your own profile by clicking the “Google’s Content Policy” link within the pop-up report review, as seen in the previous screenshot above.
How Long Does This Process Take?
Google is the most popular search engine in the world, and they are constantly navigating requests for reviews to be removed. The entire process may be as quick as five days from start to finish or longer, depending on how long your research takes and how backed up the log of flagged reviews is.
What Happens if Google Ignores me?
Unfortunately, Google going MIA on your request to remove a negative online review is all too common. Because of the sheer volume of requests that roll in, legitimate or not, Google requires very specific information and evidence before they’ll even consider removing a review.
Keep in mind that Google, and other review platforms, err on the side of the reviewer rather than the business. Though this may seem unfair, it’s meant to protect the validity of reviews as a whole – even if you’ve been hit with an unfair or fake negative review.
If you aren’t able to get your negative Google review removed, it isn’t the end of the world – really.
By keeping up with a good online review management strategy, you should have a steady stream of real and positive reviews that can effectively “pad” the reputation of your business on these review platforms, including Google. When a negative online review appears on one of your profiles, not only will your overall rating drop minimally (if at all), it will contrast starkly with the multitude of good reviews that are already present on your profile.
That is why we always recommend using an online reputation management tool, like RepCheckup, to solicit reviews from your customers. To see exactly how our tool provides the perfect solution for businesses who are looking to manage their online reputation, please try our free trial.