Dealing with Fake Reviews

Now that we’ve worked on getting more online reviews, it’s time to address the dark side. Buying fake reviews has become an enticing option for a lot of business owners. DON’T FALL FOR IT!

Dealing With Fake Reviews

You can go on certain websites and you’ll see offers for a certain amount of “guaranteed” or “verified” reviews. They’ll throw buzzwords that it’s foolproof or that the reviews will be authentic. Don’t believe it.

The problem with this is that sometimes these fake reviews can last for months without you getting caught. You might be dealing with competitors who have hundreds of glowing and obviously fake reviews, so you figure you’ll level the playing field.

Here’s the thing: if you get caught doing this by Google or a competitor who reports you, you put your entire website and company in jeopardy. You can get your local profiles banned and blacklisted for this type of behavior. I don’t think I need to explain the repercussions of that.

DID YOU KNOW? Fake reviews aren’t just against the rules – they’re illegal! Back in 2013, New York Attorney General Schneiderman made 19 local businesses and SEO companies pay more than $350,000 in fines for doing it!

Stuck With Fake Reviews?

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How to Identify Fake Reviews

So you decide against going with fake reviews. Great! But how do you compete with the guy down the street who has 500 five-star reviews on Google+? Good question.

One of the first things I do when starting a local SEO campaign is to perform an audit of the competition. I go through the top 10-20 competitors and inspect their reviews. After a while, you can get a good eye for spotting these phonies in a few seconds. Look for the following:

  1. Are there more than 30 five-star reviews?
  2. Is this review the only one the “customer” has posted from their account?
  3. Were the accounts created around the same time that they left the glowing review?
  4. Do the reviews just sound…fake? Do they use a lot of exclamation points and sound too good to be true?

How to Get Fake Reviews Removed

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, you might be dealing with some fake reviews. So let’s take some action.

Reporting Fake Reviews

Most of these review sites have a system for flagging a review that you might think is fake, inappropriate or against website terms & conditions. You should go through and manually flag any review you believe to be in offense. You should make this step a part of your weekly or monthly competitor audit.

NOTE: This method usually takes a lot of time and works best when multiple people have flagged the review. Google doesn’t usually take action until reports “pile up” in their back-end.

Contact the Business Owner

Next, you should contact the owner of the business to let them know about the fake reviews. The owner might not even be aware that their SEO company is buying fake reviews for them. If they are aware of the fake reviews, calling someone out on this type of behavior might put an end to it after they realize someone is on to them, even if they lie about having knowledge of them.

Keep Tabs on Your Competition

If you don’t already have a company monitoring your reputation, you can use free services like ChangeDetection.com to set up manual alerts on your own pages or competitor pages to see when they get new reviews. You’ll get alerts when new reviews are posted on their pages and can immediately audit them for authenticity. It’s easier to deal with the problem in the beginning stages rather then trying to fight 100 fake reviews.