The Problem of Fake Google Business Reviews & What You Can Do About Them

The Problem of Fake Google Business Reviews & What You Can Do About Them

Google Business Reviews have been around since 2002 when the company acquired Deja.com.

Since then, Google Business Reviews have been very powerful in helping local and international businesses retain existing customers, as well as acquiring new customers.

Online reviews are a critical success factor for business success, especially for local and e-commerce businesses. However, over their history, Google Business Reviews have seen the influence of manipulative forces.

In this article we will talk about why online reviews continue to be important, the issue of fake Google Business Reviews, and how you can tackle fake Google Business Reviews for your business.

Let’s get started.

The Importance of Online Reviews

As the world continues to digitise and commerce remains at the forefront of this, online reviews form an important part of the process of people buying online.

95% of people read online reviews before purchasing and research shows that the purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270% greater than a product with zero reviews.

Online reviews are one of the biggest contributors to e-commerce success Click To Tweet

More and more of our industries have come online, from food and drink to financial services, to retail across all niches.

Research has shown that there are many reasons why reviews continue to work for businesses that use them.

Online reviews foster trust at the outset with the products people are looking to buy but also with the brand that sells them. They give consumers the confidence to proceed with a transaction.

One good experience can quickly result in repeat purchases, which can make the world of difference to small and large businesses alike.

Beyond this, Google frequently talks about the relevance of online reviews to search engine ranking factors. This is how important online reviews have been to how easily a business is found through search engines:

  • 2016 – reviews account for 8.4% of how Google ranks a business
  • 2017 – reviews account for 13.1% of how Google ranks a business
  • 2018 – reviews account for 15.4% of how Google ranks a business
google search ranking factors

Source: Chatmeter

By 2020, according to Google search ranking factors, online reviews are now the second most important factor for local business rankings (after businesses having a Google My Business Page). A further important point around this is that review quantity is becoming increasingly important meaning businesses need to ensure they consistently and frequently capture fresh reviews.

But in addition to helping a business optimize in Google search rankings, online reviews are also critical for their positive impact on conversions.

The combination of high numerical review ratings, positive sentiment in review text and the number of reviews can have a strong impact on convincing people to buy.

What Are Google Business Reviews?

Google introduced a review collection service early on in its history from the acquisition of another platform. Over the years they adapted and updated this so it remains fit for purpose.

Business reviews are a key search-ranking factor and have only been increasing year on year in their dominance and effect on search.

Even though Google temporarily paused Google Business Reviews during the pandemic, they have said they will resume these soon.

In order to be able to collect Google Business Reviews, it is necessary for businesses to first have a Google My Business profile and to have this verified. Once this is all set up, your business is open to receiving reviews online.

Important to note with Google Business Reviews is that the review platform is open. In other words, it is possible for anyone to go online and write a review for another business globally if they so wished, even if they didn’t buy.

Despite Google Business Reviews having helped many thousands of businesses worldwide, some have struggled with the issue of fake reviews.

This is an issue that in part has prevailed because of the open nature of the Google Business Review platform.

The Issue of Fake Google Business Reviews

The issue of fake reviews generally has been very prominent. A whole industry has been developed on the back of fake reviews with people buying and selling reviews on platforms online.

Some people now write fake reviews in their spare time in exchange for money and free products.

Fake online reviews have long been an issue and continue to be so today. Fake reviews harm consumers and businesses alike Click To Tweet

Large platforms that court reviews on their sites such as Amazon, Facebook and eBay have been in the press for their issues with online reviews.

In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority has started yet another investigation into the issue of fake reviews.

The reason for this spotlight and focus on reviews is because, at the end of the day, it is the consumer who suffers, as well as honest business owners.

It is expected that large sums of money are lost to fake reviews each year, typically affecting the consumer directly in purchasing products that were mis-sold to them. This is a big problem that has only continued to grow as more and more businesses come online.

Google Business Reviews’ open nature that allows anyone to write a business review makes it particularly susceptible to fake reviews. Sites have also been created to allow people to buy reviews.

buying google business reviews

As you can see, the business around fake reviews is making some people a lot of money.

On Google, competitors are routinely being reported who are suspected of having written fake reviews to hurt rival businesses. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort for anyone to write a Google Business Review if they wanted to.

fake google business review from competitor

In addition, and as mentioned before, companies have been set up that allow individuals to write fake reviews for their clients. These clients can be competitor businesses of other firms or companies who want to increase the number of positive reviews for themselves.

This issue is not isolated just to Google but given Google is one of the larger platforms for reviews online, it may affect it more.

So what can you do about fake Google Business Reviews?

How to Tackle Fake Google Business Reviews

Google recognises the problem of fake online reviews. As such they have their own policies around how they address fake reviews for businesses.

Source: Google

This works for some businesses that successfully manage to resolve complaints of fake reviews their business has received. However, for others, it continues to be a frustration as they struggle to get their issues resolved.

If you are one of those who have not succeeded in getting a resolution via Google or are seeing fake reviews repeatedly for your business, there are a number of things you can do.

Approach the Issue Head-on

You may instinctively know if a review is fake or not but the signals below may help you determine this more comprehensively.

Conversely, the following are clearer signs of a genuine review.

You can question the review on the platform by responding to the review and asking questions to clarify the customers’ alleged experience.

Highlighting that you think the review is a fake is fine as it alerts others to the potential issue and they may take the review with a pinch of salt. Be clear, however, that just because you disagree with a review, it does not make it fake.

The issue is that unless Google removes the review, the rating still impacts the overall star rating for your business. Clearly more negative fake reviews can have a material impact on the reputation of your business online.

We mentioned earlier how reviews play a significant role in search factors for the Google search engine. With a fake review remaining up, it will impact your business’ overall search results in all search engines.

Use a Closed Review Platform

As previously discussed, the issue of fake reviews that can occur with Google is due to the fact that the Google Business Review system is an open platform, i.e. anyone can write a review about any business online.

As such, one way to combat the issue of fake reviews is to seek reviews from genuine customers on a closed platform.

A closed platform does not allow anyone to write a review that has not been verified as a real customer, and as a result, it limits vastly the propensity for people to write reviews who may be looking to manipulate the system.

A 'closed' review platform can combat fake reviews as only consumers who have made a purchase are invited to write a review Click To Tweet

Ideally, a closed platform only invites those people to write a review that has been a verified customer and who have provided their contact details and actually made a purchase.

Not only does this ensure all reviews (whether positive or negative) are genuine, but also that you can contact and engage in proper dialogue with customers to understand in more detail, what worked and what didn’t.

This is powerful as it gives the business owner more data with which to run your business.

How We Address this at Syntellio

The issue of fake reviews is the exact problem we identified at Syntellio and focused on addressing.

how syntellio works with your review system to address fake google business reviews

Source: Syntellio

With more businesses coming online, and those who have been trading online for a while disillusioned with the online review system to make things work for them, we believe we have developed a solution that meets the needs of all parties.

For consumers, we provide genuine reviews that allow consumers to purchase with confidence. They can be rest assured that all reviews on our platform are unedited and presented in a ‘warts and all’ approach.

We are not selective about which reviews we present and which we do not. Further, no incentives are provided to customers to seek out reviews.

For businesses, you can be confident that all reviews displayed for your business are genuine reviews from customers that we can trace in order to identify them.

If there is an issue, the process is simple to address. In any case, we will receive customer contact details from you and so the customer will already be in your database.

At Syntellio, our closed, online review platform delivers only genuine reviews, but if there are still issues, you can speak directly to a human! Click To Tweet

Consequently, it is much easier and extremely straightforward for businesses to reach out directly to customers to ask them about their experience. This works very well to improve the overall user experience and to allow businesses to make better decisions in their business.

If there are any issues, we are a phone call away and you get to speak to a real person.

The result is honest reviews and a star rating that truly reflects real customers’ experiences that give businesses a real view of how well they are doing.

How Can you Use Syntellio?

Syntellio is a complementary solution to what you are already doing with online reviews.

It is not necessary for businesses to change everything they are currently doing with online reviews and move over to Syntellio. Instead, Syntellio works side by side with other review systems you already have in place, whether this is with Google Business Reviews or a plugin on your own site.

syntellio works with your existing review system including google business reviews

Source: Syntellio

We say to our clients that Syntellio provides their customers with another data point to purchasing decisions.

We provide you with a microsite that has your own company information on including your social media handles. This page links back to your own website.

All reviews are shown on your microsite on Syntellio but linked back to your website. We have built this way as it further demonstrates to the customer the independence of our review system, which builds your credibility with customers.

This approach also works better for search engine rankings.

Get in touch with us to see how Syntellio can work for your business, and how you can get started today.

Conclusion

Online reviews continue to have significant importance today to convince customers to buy online.

Their importance is not only for customer conversions but also as a ranking factor for search engines. Their impact on search engines has been increasing and will likely continue to do so.

Google Business Reviews is one of the largest review platforms on the internet and has helped many thousands of businesses and millions of customers to have a better experience online.

However, given the open nature of the platform, this has resulted in a big problem of fake Google Business Reviews. These can be difficult to remove, and for smaller businesses, the effects on reputation and site traffic can be terminal.

By tackling the problem head-on and trying to bring clarity to any suspected fake reviews, businesses can start to address this problem.

The best approach, however, is to complement collation of reviews via Google with the collection of reviews on a closed, independent, 3rd party site.

Syntellio is such a review platform.

By collecting reviews from only verified customers who are invited to provide a review, we limit the possibility of fake reviews.

This approach gives businesses more information with which to make decisions, to improve and grow their business online.

Have you had problems with fake Google Business Reviews? Let us know in the comments below and tell us what you have done about it.

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