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No one likes receiving a bad review. Not only do they affect your company’s morale, but they can also easily scare off future customers if they check your reviews – and they will almost certainly read your reviews. Studies have shown that 98% of consumers read online reviews before doing business with a local company.

At the same time, there is usually very little you can do about a legitimate negative online review. In most cases, the best solution is to be humble, apologize for not delivering the quality service or products expected, and do your best to make it right.

Still, there are a few types of reviews that require more extreme responses. Thankfully, when dealing with fake, spammy, or inappropriate reviews, you may be able to get the offending reviews deleted entirely.

When Can a Review Be Deleted?

There are strict rules about what types of reviews can be deleted. 

For obvious reasons, complaints that appear to be legitimate complaints about a poor experience with your brand can not be deleted. 

However, Google can remove reviews for your business if they break the company’s policies and guidelines. These include rules banning deceptive, explicit, or irrelevant. Below, we will talk a bit more about exactly what violations may make a review subject to removal.

Offensive Content

As described by Google, offensive content may include any sort of content “that is clearly and deliberately provocative.”

This includes any form of hate speech or harassment, as well as reviews containing personal information.

Deceptive Content

Misleading or inaccurate reviews are a regular occurrence online. In some cases, competitors may try to hurt your reputation by manufacturing a poor experience. Personal conflicts between individuals may also boil over and result in negative reviews in an effort to get an individual fired.

This is why Google does not allow any review that is not an accurate representation of a real experience with a brand.

Mature Content

To ensure content on the search engine remains safe for all users, Google will delete any reviews containing profanity, sexually explicit content, adult themes, or graphic violence.

Regulated or Illegal Content

Reviews may not contain calls to action for products or services which may be subject to local legal restrictions. Additionally, Google warns that dangerous activities or illegal content will get reviews removed.

Irrelevant Content

Lastly, reviews must be related to an actual experience with a company’s products or services. That means rants, off-topic content, or attempts to promote one’s own products are subject to removal.

How To Get an Online Review Removed

Obviously, brands can not directly delete reviews from their Google Business Profiles. Instead, a company representative must report a review for removal through Google Search or Google Maps.

Once reported, Google will assess the review and determine if it violates any of the platform’s policies. Though this process may take several days, brands can also mitigate the damage of a misleading or inappropriate review with a response explaining the reality of the situation and noting that the review has been reported to Google.

Google Maps reviews have long been an important tool for both consumers and brands – allowing shoppers to share their experiences with other potential customers and letting brands showcase their great services where shoppers are most likely to be. 

Now, the company is finally explaining how this system works, including how Google Maps moderates reviews and automatically spots fraudulent, misleading, or inappropriate reviews among the millions of legitimate reviews posted every day.

In a recently published overview, the company says it relies on 5 key strategies to consistently ensure reviews on Google Maps are authentic, useful, and relevant for other consumers.

1. Strict, Up-to-Date Content Guidelines

The first line of defense against malicious or inappropriate Google Maps reviews is a strict set of guidelines dictating what sorts of content are appropriate on the platform. 

As the guide says:

“We’ve created strict content policies to make sure reviews are based on real-world experiences and to keep irrelevant and offensive comments off of Google Business Profiles.”

Additionally, Google points to its regular updates to these policies to stay ahead of bad actors. For example, the company points to the quick steps it took to prevent reviews criticizing health policies following the spread of COVID-19.

“We put extra protections in place to remove Google reviews that criticize a business for its health and safety policies or for complying with a vaccine mandate.”

2. Integrating Content Policies Into Google’s Algorithms

Once a policy is set, it is disseminated to every relevant area of Google Maps. That means it not only goes into training material for human moderators but also goes into Google’s own machine learning algorithms.

Broadly, this allows Google’s algorithms to evaluate new reviews for a variety of red flags, including:

  • Does it contain offensive or off-topic content?
  • Does the Google account have any history of suspicious behavior?
  • Has there been uncharacteristic activity – such as an abundance of reviews over a short period of time? Has it recently gotten attention in the news or on social media that would motivate people to leave fraudulent reviews?

3. Using Human Moderators To Understand Nuance In Reviews

Of course, automated systems do not always understand the subtleties necessary to tell the difference between legitimate and illegitimate reviews or criticism. This is why Google Maps reviews also rely on a robust team of human moderators to review content and guide algorithms.

As the blog post explains:

“Training a machine on the difference between acceptable and policy-violating content is a delicate balance. For example, sometimes the word “gay” is used as a derogatory term, and that’s not something we tolerate in Google reviews. But if we teach our machine learning models that it’s only used in hate speech, we might erroneously remove reviews that promote a gay business owner or an LGBTQ+ safe space. Our human operators regularly run quality tests and complete additional training to remove bias from the machine learning models.”

4. Encouraging Community Moderation

Google doesn’t believe moderation ends once a review or comment gets posted. Once visible to the public, Google strongly encourages businesses or other users to report fake or inappropriate reviews. 

“Like any platform that welcomes contributions from users, we also have to stay vigilant in our efforts to prevent fraud and abuse from appearing on Maps. Part of that is making it easy for people using Google Maps to flag any policy-violating reviews.”

5. Predicting Where Fake Reviews Will Happen

Lastly, Google works to stay ahead of users by identifying listings in Google Maps which are most likely to be the targets for malicious activity. For example, Google may increase protections for a listing if it is involved in a political event or has recently been in the news.

As the guide explains:

“In addition to reviewing flagged content, our team proactively works to identify potential abuse risks, which reduces the likelihood of successful abuse attacks. For instance, when there’s an upcoming event with a significant following — such as an election — we implement elevated protections to the places associated with the event and other nearby businesses that people might look for on Maps.”

Modern consumers rely on online reviews more and more, and Google Maps is one of the biggest places for shoppers to turn before doing business with someone. Though bad actors may manage to slip through the cracks from time to time, it is good to know that Google is always striving to ensure consumers and businesses can rely on these reviews to give an honest assessment of local businesses.

Google My Business is finally giving businesses a little more information and control over their reviews with a new tool available here.

Through the tool, business owners or managers can view reviews, submit a request to remove misleading or problematic reviews, and check the status of takedown requests for these reviews.

How To Use The New Google My Business Review Tool

Rather than being built into the Google My Business dashboard, the tool is available through the GMB Help Center.

To get started, simply sign into the Google account related to your business and go to the help page. 

From there, select whether you want to check the status of a review or file a new report for a problematic review.

If you wish to submit a new takedown request, Google My Business will pull a list of your recent reviews which can be viewed and reported within the tool.

If you are simply checking the status of a past takedown request, the tool will show all your most recent requests along with information about the status of the request.

If you select a review, you can also get more in-depth information about the review and request. You can also submit an appeal from here if you believe a request has been improperly denied.

Only Available For Small Accounts

At this point, it appears the tool is only available for accounts with just a few Google My Business listings. Several SEO specialists who manage dozens or even hundreds of listings say they have received a message stating “Based on the number of Business Profiles you manage, this process is not available” when attempting to use the tool. It is unclear if or when GMB plans to expand the tool for larger accounts.

Google is changing what business owners see when they view their own reviews in order to make it easier to encourage new reviews.

In the past, business owners or account managers would see a button which directed them to “write a review” from their business listing. Now, many are reporting seeing a new button which instead reads “get more reviews.”

"Get More Reviews" button

While the function has not changed, the new text makes it more clear exactly what Google is offering – a chance to share your review links across Facebook, Twitter, email, and more.

The meaning behind the text is also much more clear as leaving a review for your own business is strongly frowned upon and can get your listing penalized by the search engine.

When shared, the review link directs people to your Google Maps listing with a pop up to immediately write a review.

Google My Business has released a new way for business owners to respond to online reviews, giving increased flexibility to when and where you can reply after a review.

Now, you can reply to your business reviews from your listing in Google Maps from any desktop device.

In the past, replying to reviews was only possible from the GMB app or website.

Of course, you will still have to verify your listing before you may be able to respond to reviews. Still, the release of the new way to respond to reviews makes it easier than ever for business owners to reply to reviews as soon as they see them.

Along with the new way to respond to reviews, Google has also updated its help document on the subject by adding tips specifically for responding to negative reviews.

How Google Says to Respond to Negative Reviews

First and foremost, Google encourages business owners to remember that negative reviews are not always reflective of a bad business. For instance, some customers may have mismatched expectations. In this case, replying to the review can help other customers set their expectations appropriately and provide more customer satisfaction in the future.

Additionally, Google says to follow these tips when leaving a negative review:

  • Do not share personal data or attack the reviewer personally. Instead, suggest that they contact you directly.
  • Investigate the reasons behind the reviewer’s negative impression of the business.
  • Be honest about mistakes that were made, but do not take responsibility for things that weren’t your fault.
  • Apologize when appropriate. It’s best to say something that demonstrates compassion and empathy.
  • Show that you’re a real person by signing off with your name or initials.
  • Never lash out. Never get personal. Always be polite and professional, just as you would be face-to-face.
  • Respond in a timely manner to show that you pay attention to your customer’s experience.

It is important to keep in mind that negative reviews will not automatically hurt your business. How you respond can be just as important in shaping the public perception of your brand.

Not long ago, it seemed like every business website had a “Testimonials” page filled with reviews and references from either past-customers or fellow members of their industry. If you have a keen eye, though, you might have noticed these pages are slowly falling out of use in favor of posting your Google, Yelp, and other online reviews on your site.

The practice has led to some confusion, as many experts claimed putting your own online reviews from across the web on your site could be potentially dangerous for search engine optimization. There have even been suggestions it could lead to Google penalties.

Now, you can breathe easy and share your online reviews with pride, as Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has confirmed that it is totally fine to highlight your reviews on your company website – with one exception.

While posting your reviews on your website is acceptable, Mueller warns that you can not use review structured data on these reviews.

As Mueller explained on Twitter:

“From a Google SEO point of view, I don’t see a problem with that. I imagine the original is more likely to rank for that text, but if you use that to provide context, that’s fine (it shouldn’t be marked up with structured data though).”

Mueller then went on to explain that review structured data is intended for reviews “directly produced by your site” and using them on third-party reviews on your own site would go against Google’s guidelines.

Every small business person knows there is no marketing quite as powerful as word-of-mouth. No matter what you promise in your ads, it won’t pack quite the punch as a positive, well-written review for your business. But, what if you could turn your positive reviews into your ads?

With the help of Google’s #SmallThanks Hub, you can no do just that. The new online resource aims to help small businesses create top-quality digital and printed marketing materials based on your Google reviews.

“Simply search for your business name on the site, and we’ll automatically create posters, social media posts, window clings, stickers and more — based on the reviews and local love from your customers on Google,” writes Google’s vice president of marketing for Ads & Americas, Lisa Gevelber, on The Keyword blog.

The new resource is available to all US businesses with a verified Google listing with an address.

“Reviews from your fans are like digital thank you notes, and they’re one of the first things people notice about your business in search results,” writes Gevelber in the announcement.

In the post, Google also highlighted data indicating that up to 71% of consumers say positive reviews in search results make them more likely to visit that business and that business listings boasting positive reviews receive up to a 360% increase in click-throughs to their website.

As part of the launch of the #SmallThanks Hub, Google also included a few tips for small businesses. These include keeping your Google listings up to date, encouraging customers to share reviews online, and posting “Find us on Google” stickers in their store and across social media.

They say word-of-mouth is the best advertising a business can have. The same could also be said for the online version of this: user reviews. There are few better ways your company can earn the trust of potential customers than showing how much other customers have enjoyed your services or products.

Now, Google is giving an even bigger platform to user-generated business reviews by adding “Reviews from the web” to its Knowledge Panels that appear in search results. This comes a month after Google started including best-of lists and critic reviews in results for local search.

local-reviews-google

Source: Google

Consumer reviews will appear in the Knowledge Panel exactly as critic reviews do, but they will be more visible on mobile where they appear before both critic reviews and best-of-lists. You can see how they will appear in the screenshots above and below:

localsearch-1

Source: Google

If you want to feature user-generated reviews from your site or another prominent review site, you need to mark up your content with Google’s review Schema. You must also abide by Google’s guidelines for inclusion.

Including the new “Reviews from the web” section, Google’s Knowledge Boxes are now prominently displaying three review sources. It will still be collecting and highlighting its own reviews, making it more important than ever for businesses to have a strategy to collect reviews from customers across a wide range of platforms.

Thanks to the increased profile of user reviews, it has never been easier for your customers to spread the word about your business to thousands of potential customers every day.

Google Authorship

In a move that should please many online businesses, Google is making it easier to leave reviews on the platform. Finally, users can leave reviews without a Google+ account.

To clarify, while you don’t need a Google+ account, you do still need a regular old Google account. The change was first spotted by Conrad O’Connell from Serptests.com.

The difference seems small, but in this case, semantics is everything. By not requiring a Google+ account, Google is opening the door to a considerable number of reviews. Considering review counts and overall rating are top ranking signals for local search, this also means it will be easier to improve your local rankings with reviews.

This doesn’t mean you will have to do with an enormous amount of anonymous or troll reviews either. The first and last name of the reviewer will still be shown, so you shouldn’t have to worry about being flooded with one-star reviews by nameless accounts.

At the same time, Google also fixed a well-known bug which would keep reviews from being submitted from a mobile device for businesses without another pre-existing review.

Reputation is everything for local businesses, and these changes make it easier than ever for your customers to spread the gospel of your quality service or products.

3872691762_723d015a2aAny business owner who has ever received online reviews – whether they were negative or positive – can tell you the power online reviews have in influencing how others perceive your brand. All it can take is one glowing or irate review on a popular service such as Google or Yelp to make or break your business.

Most business owners will also tell you the most likely person to leave a review is an angry customer, but a new survey from Mike Blumenthal published on GetFiveStars suggests those business owners may be wrong.

While it is true that extreme reactions are the most likely to result in reviews for your business, the evidence suggests consumers are actually more likely to reward excellent service than they are to attack businesses which provided a bad experience.

Blumenthal surveyed over 600 consumers that self-reported being active online reviews, asking when and why do you typically leave a review for a local business, and the findings show that few reviewers see calling out exceptionally bad service as their primary motivation.

In actuality, most reviewers actually see their reviews as a means to help inform the community, the business, and other consumers.

when-why-consumers-leave-reviews

For the survey, Blumenthal and colleagues allowed the respondents to answer in their own words, which were then categorized into the following categories:

  • When Experience was really Good or really Bad
  • Only When the Experience really Good
  • Only When the Experience was really Bad
  • To Help Other Consumers
  • To Help Business/Community
  • To Inform Business
  • Other

While the largest cohort of consumers was defined by extremes with a third of respondents only writing reviews based on really good or really bad experienced, the second largest group is entirely characterized by individuals who only use reviews to celebrate excellent service.

Importantly, this group was not much smaller than those who were motivated by extreme experiences on both ends of the spectrum, suggesting business owners are more likely to get positive reviews for good experiences than they are to receive poor reviews when they drop the ball.

To put this in context, 25% of active reviewers reported leaving reviews only when the experience was overwhelmingly positive, but 5% of reviews only leave reviews for truly poor experiences. That means the average reviewer isn’t the perpetually angry critic they are often portrayed as.

The truth is the vast amount of reviewers aren’t out to get anybody. They view themselves as integral parts to the current business ecosystem and an important part of society.

Ultimately, the reason online reviews may seem overwhelmingly negative is because it is simply much more difficult to provide exceptional service than it is to provide a terrible experience. That doesn’t mean it is impossible.

As a business owner, you should naturally be striving to provide the best service possible. If you are doing that, all you have to do to start drawing in scores of positive reviews is make it easy for your consumers to give you feedback and be sure to listen to their needs. If your customers feel like you are listening and responding to what they have to say, you should expect to see great reviews flooding in within no time.

Read the full report from GetFiveStars here.