Are Fake Google Reviews Costing You Home Sales (and what can you do about it)?
How often do you make a purchase without checking the reviews? If you’re like most people, reviews play a big role in whether or not you’ll buy a product.
This is especially true when it comes to major purchases like a new home.
The online reviews your company is getting can make or break the sale. It’s normal to have a few less-than-stellar reviews - you can’t please everyone all the time - but sometimes people leave fake reviews, and these can seriously impact your business.
Why would someone leave a fake review? They could be coming from your competitors or a disgruntled former employee. Sometimes, it’s just a mistake and the review was meant for a different company.
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Skip to the section you're most interested in:
- Signs of a Fake Review
- Responding to Fake Reviews
- Responding to Legitimate Negative Reviews
- Taking Action to Remove Fake Reviews
- Having a Proactive Plan for Reviews
Whatever the reason, you need to stay on top of your reviews, and you need to take action to have fake reviews removed from your account so they’re no longer influencing your potential customers.
Signs of a Fake Review
How do you know if the review is fake or legitimate? Often, fake reviews come quickly. For instance, if your past history shows your business typically gets only one or two reviews a month and you’re suddenly getting one or two reviews a day, there’s a good chance they’re fake.
You can also spot fake reviews by the lack of details. They might be giving a 1-star rating without saying why, or the review could be somewhat generic, such as “Terrible customer service. Would not shop here.”
Detailed reviews can still be fake, though, and those are the ones you want to watch out for because these ones can strongly influence potential customers. One way to tell if these negative reviews are fake is to check them against your customer records and/or to see if the details seem incorrect.
For instance, if the review says something like, “We spoke with Joe and it was clear that he wasn’t listening to our needs,” but you don’t have any sales reps named Joe, it’s probably a fake review.
Responding to Fake Reviews
You may not be able to take down a fake review immediately, but you can definitely respond to the review publicly. Potential customers will see the negative review, but they’ll also see your response.
If the review includes details that don’t match up with your business, you can point this out by saying something like, “We take your concerns seriously, however, we don’t have a sales rep named Joe. Are you sure that you visited our company? If so, please give us a call so that we can make this right.”
If the review is somewhat generic, you could respond with a request for more information to show that you’re trying to help the customer out: “Hi. I’m Cheryl, the general manager at <your builder's company name>. We take customer service seriously, and I’m disappointed to hear that we didn’t live up to your expectations. Please feel free to reach out to me personally so I can handle your concerns.”
The most important thing about these responses is that they’re polite and personal. If your response to the fake review is rude, you’re going to lose out on potential customers.
Responding to Legitimate Negative Reviews
If you’ve determined that a negative review is legitimate, you still need to take the time to respond. Obviously, your response is going to depend on the exact situation, but it could include an apology or an offer to fix the problem, or both.
Potential customers know that you can’t make everyone happy, but seeing that you’re willing to go above and beyond to please your customers -- even when they’ve been rude to you -- shows you’re committed to your clients and your customer service.
Taking Action to Remove Fake Reviews
If you do have fake Google reviews, you don’t have to just accept it as a part of doing business! You can take steps to remove them.
When you’re looking at your reviews, you should see three little dots next to the review. If you click on that, you have the option to flag it as inappropriate. If you do this, Google will assess the review and remove it if it’s obviously inappropriate, such as a review complaining about food quality when you’re a home builder. It can take up to 30 days for them to audit the flagged review.
Sometimes, you can get a quicker response by logging into your My Business profile and emailing support through here. Some people even tweet the Google team if they’ve been waiting a long time.
Having a Proactive Plan for Reviews
You’ve probably heard that the best defence is a good offence, and that’s just as true when it comes to your Google review strategy. If you have a lot of positive reviews for your business, then a negative review - fake or legitimate - won’t make as much of a difference.
The truth is that a lot of people don’t always think about leaving reviews when they’ve had a positive experience that met or exceeded their expectations. They leave reviews when they’ve had a negative experience.
What you need to do is to encourage your customers to place reviews. A few months after they’ve moved in, send out an email that says something like, “We hope that you’re happy with your new home. If so, please consider leaving us a Google review. If you’re not completely happy, please let us know what we can do.”
Identifying fake Google reviews and having them removed can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Just like anything in marketing, having a solid plan in place will make managing your online reviews easy.
Originally published Jan 14, 2020