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How to Deal With a Negative Review Attack

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How to Deal With a Negative Review Attack

Jason Brown
How to Deal With a Negative Review Attack

One Sunday, as our church was holding our outdoor patio service, a hummingbird got stuck in the skylight in the roof. We all watched as the hummingbird kept flying back and forth across the skylight, struggling for open space. The poor hummingbird kept looking up and was unable to see his escape path a few inches below him.

Sadly most business owners are this hummingbird; they are completely unaware of a review attack, and they are unaware of how to deal with it when it happens. In this post, you will learn what to do if your business endures the same.

GMB with negative reviews The Joint Chiropractic negative review attack

I worked on a case where a business had its Google My Business (GMB) rating drop from a 4.5 rating to a 2.8 rating in less than two weeks.

A user or series of users posted seventeen 1-star reviews or ratings for a Google My Business listing. This review attack was extremely upsetting for the business owner who felt completely helpless with what to do. Fortunately, I was asked to investigate.

Analysis: What I Found

I quickly discovered a very distinct pattern as I clicked on the reviews. It turns out that those same profiles were used to post 1-star reviews for the GameStop in White House, Tenn. The GameStop listing received eighteen 1-star reviews and /or ratings all on the same day.

I called the Gamestop store and spoke with a manager. She, just like the hummingbird, was completely unaware of the review attack. She kept staying, "Oh wow," as she read review after review. I could hear her panic and despair. I advised her there was good news, and I would report the reviews and help get them removed. Sadly, that is easier said than done.

What I Did

I documented all of the profiles and links to each review and rating and contacted GMB Support with a link to the to Google Sheet. 

Three days later, a friend of mine contacted me because a company that she knew was being slammed online with random negative reviews. The review attack had been ongoing for months but had escalated in recent days. I searched on Twitter for references to the business name and was quickly able to find the source behind the negative review attack. I  provided my friend with step-by-step instructions on how to report the negative reviews to get them removed.

It took a week for the Google My Business team to respond to my request for assistance. Four days later, Google removed all but one review.

GMB after negative reviews were removed The Joint Chiropractic GMB after negative review were removed

How to Handle a Negative Review Attack

Step 1. Remain Calm

Although it can be disheartening and anger you, you don't want to reply in anger. With the above attacks, I did not recommend responding to the reviews. In cases like these, replying to the reviews can only add more fuel to the fire. These attacks are personal.

All three businesses were the subject of a personal vendetta. Ignoring the reviews will help to de-escalate the situation.  

Step 2. Flag the Reviews

Google requires that the reviews are flagged in the dashboard and that the user waits three days before contacting support. Sadly flagging these reviews won't do anything to remove them. There is no option to leave notes and feedback or links to the documentation to support the removal of the reviews.

Google Support will only look at the verbiage of the review and determine if the text in review violates its Terms of Service (TOS).
 
Step 3. Contact Google

I recommend creating a Google document with the following information:

  1. Profile name(s) of the offending reviewers
  2. Link to profiles
  3. Notes as to why the review is being reported

You can contact GMB Support directly:

GMB Support Tweet Google My Business can't message you tweet

For Twitter, you must follow their Twitter account so that they can communicate with you via DM.

You may also create a thread at the new Google My Business community forum

You will need to supply the following information:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Link to Google document/sheet and links to resources. 

What Happens Next

A Google My Business Product Expert (PE) will review the thread and escalate it directly to Google only if it is warranted. If a PE does send your thread to Google, they typically hear back in one to two weeks. A Google employee will email them once they have reviewed the file and reviews with their findings. They will update the thread and ask the reporting party to double-check that all of the reported reviews were removed.

If any reviews were missed, the user will need to update the file and thread. The Google My Business Product Expert will then email Google Support with your updated set of notes. The entire process typically takes four to six weeks, unless there are any unforeseen complications.

In Conclusion

You don't have to be the hummingbird. There is help available, but it requires some patience. Take a deep breath and focus on flagging and reporting the reviews. If you follow the above advice, you will be able to get the fake negative reviews removed and continue to go about your business as usual. If you panic, you can make matters worse and prolong the damage and attacks.

Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

After more than a decade working in the field, I am currently the SEO manager for Over The Top Marketing. Although I have focused on local SEO for nationwide multi-location franchises since 2015, my resume includes combating and reporting fake online reviews, which includes several local and national news appearances. My comments can be found regularly in the GMB forum and I'm in the process of becoming a Top Contributor. You can find me on Twitter talking SEO and music; say hi sometime.
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Comments

2000
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Garage Living in Denver had the exact same thing happen to it. 18 1-star reviews stemming from a disgruntled employee. Thanks for all of your advice on dealing with this. Hopefully, we have the same outcome as The GameStop franchise that you were able to help!
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Aaron Cash
I am found Google needs "proper" motivation to do the right thing. I followed back up today as well. As I am sure you can see, I have not given up.
neetha_qb
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

what you had explained in above blog was really true,Yes, most of the people get panic on seeing the negative reviews,but as you is it good for not replying to customers negative reviews?actually its not good idea for some business right???
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Business reputation is the most valuable asset of any company. You need to defend it, but have to ensure that you are not looking desperate.

When we create a sales funnel plan for our clients, we include competition and market research, and an overview of their digital presence. This helps them identify the areas of improvement and deal with negative content.

It is, however, also important that you identify your negative ideal clients and avoid them. It is crucial that you focus on the people who are the most likely to buy from you and those who are most likely to be satisfied and loyal.

I actually wrote about negative ideal clients here: https://marketingfunnel.website/negative-ideal-client-sheet-how-it-can-improve-your-sales-funnels-and-social-media-packages-2/small-business-marketing-advice/
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Hey this one looks promising thanx for sharing this and in case you are wondering to setup security software then visit the Norton setup instruction website http://www.setupnorton.net/ to know more.
Shailendra Vijayvergia
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Hi Jason,

Thanks for sharing this actionable post. I followed your instructions and got success to improve my review rankings.

Google team took off the fake profile and notified me for the same. Sharing you the screenshot of the same.
https://cl.ly/1370c1efcc90

Hope others will also get benefited with this knowledge.
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Shailendra Vijayvergia
That is wonderful to hear. I am glad my advice helped you and also increased your review score.
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
I am going to help clarify a few things. I am working on another case where a business was attacked by 2 negative reviews in retaliation for leaving a negative review on a business. Flagging the reviews and replying to the reviews won't do anything to help. Google merely looks at the text of the review to determine if it violates the TOS when it's flagged. That works when a user used the middle finger in their review. The two revenge reviews will not be able to be removed by flagging them. Instead, I have to build out a document showing the negative review that was left and how these two reviews are in retaliation.

I had to create a folder in Google Drive to upload 10 images to support the claim for removal. I have a document with links to the business listings, reviews, and proof that the reviewers are connected to the original business. The business being attacked doesn't know the reviewers and has no way of contacting them.

Sadly, this is the third case this month were either friends, family or the business owner left negative reviews as a revenge tactic. All three cases, Google refused to remove the reviews when they were flagged. Google will not look at my file unless the reviews have been initial flagged. This is a Google policy.

I hope this helps to clarify some of the questions and comments that have been left.
Shailendra Vijayvergia
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Thanks for sharing detailed post and help to understand the whole process. I always respond to fake reviews (fortunately did not get any genuine negative review yet) with neutral tone along with acknowledgement. And never got response from reviewer.

In past, when I came to know that few ex-employees put fake reivew and had proof of fake profile, I took legal action and very next day those reviews were taken off.
Stephen Gagnon
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Don't reply, Flag, then call Google my Business & they'll remove them all. If the spammers keep going at it, another call to Google will get them removed; unfortunately, if it never stops, Google will only remove what's in direct violation with their best practices.

I do believe you need to get lucky & have the right agent answer the phone at GmB, because that's the agent that will stick with you through the whole process, & if that agent gets tired of helping you delete the spam; then there's nothing you can do (as far as I know)
Princy Tripathi
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

To minimize the damage to your company’s brand image:-

1. Respond quickly

2. Evaluate and rectify the situation

3. Address the complaint and apologize for the dissatisfaction

4. Offer to fix the problem

5. Be honest about it, and assure it won’t happen in the future.

As far as I can think your support team is the shield for this situation, it can make you sink or fix the damage easily.
Jay Holtslander
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

I had a couple of fake negative reviews on my personal GMB profile and I immediately took all the steps detailed above but received no response or resolution. I also tried contacting GMB support via telephone and was told there was nothing they could do because "it's an open platform". Google my name and you'll see them.
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Jay Holtslander
Jay can try again and ping me the link to the GMB thread. I am 99% certain I can get one of them removed or do some damage along the way.
Dmitry Kotlyarenko
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Great case. I agree, many business owners are afraid of negative feedback and even just try to delete negative reviews if they can do it. But real clients reviews, even if they are negative, can become a gold mine. Listening to your clients feedback, is great opportunity to become better. By the way, google my business, not only the one way to get customers reviews. There are a lot of online review platforms. He you can find list with some of them https://clever-solution.com/blog/top-20-review-platforms-for-building-a-5-star-brand-image
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Dmitry Kotlyarenko
I am sorry, that link is for landing page research post.
Prem Nath Vishwakarma
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

I had faced many criticals for many clients into this space & it looks like that the new era will be going to born around this methodology.
Sebastian Hovv
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Great tips! Thanks Jason
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Sebastian Hovv
Thank you!
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

What happens when it's a larger coordinated attack? From a group mobilized via social media? Like not dozens of bad reviews, but hundreds?
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Steve Myers
In those cases, I use the link to the social media outrage or the press coverage and I emailed my GMB Community Manager. I consulted on a case where a law firm got trashed because they served a Bachelor In Paradise contestant a cease and desist order. I used the instagram post in my escalation. Google has made changes after The Law Offices of Aaron M Schlossberg incident. Users trashed the listing by editing the category, changing the name, posted irrelevant photos and posted slews of negative reviews. Once the press get involves or the situation goes viral, Google locks down the reviews. A few of us Product Experts call it "The Red Hen Protocol," as A. it was first done for The Red Hen in Lexington, VA and B. users still can't leave reviews for the GMB listing. I hope this helps and if you need more assistance, please feel free to contact me.
Stephen Gagnon
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Steve Myers
Don't reply, Flag, then call Google my Business & they'll remove them all. If the spammers keep going at it, another call to Google will get them removed; unfortunately, if it never stops, Google will only remove what's in direct violation with their best practices.

I do believe you need to get lucky & have the right agent answer the phone at GmB, because that's the agent that will stick with you through the whole process, & if that agent gets tired of helping you delete the spam; then there's nothing you can do (as far as I know)
Shailendra Vijayvergia
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Thanks for sharing detailed post and help to understand the whole process. I always respond to fake reviews (fortunately did not get any genuine negative review yet) with neutral tone along with acknowledgement. And never got response from reviewer.

In past, when I came to know that few ex-employees put fake reivew and had proof of fake profile, I took legal action and very next day those reviews were taken off.
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Shailendra Vijayvergia
Current and former employees are not allowed to post reviews on Google. It violates Google's TOS. You don't need to take legal action to get those reviews removed. You can contact GMB support and get those reviews with proof.
Shailendra Vijayvergia
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Jason Brown
But they used fake profile and could find out those profiles in their friend list. Nevertheless, it is over. Was just sharing my experience with negative reviews.
Lukasz Zelezny
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

The problem is that its very easy to leave review. And it only only apply to GMB. Also to Trustpilot and others. As long as there is no sufficient way to verify if person is a real customer these negative reviews will also be a problem. Finally its a double side coin as there is similar problem with good but fake reviews.
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Lukasz Zelezny
This post is geared towards businesses that get trashed online by a coordinated attack. An extremely small percentage of negative reviews are from non-customers. Sadly a lot of businesses that claim that the negative review was not a customer, actual was a real review.
Lukasz Zelezny
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Jason Brown
"Sadly a lot of businesses that claim that the negative review was not a customer, actual was a real review."

That is indeed true. There are even websites (quite reputable) you can buy-out negative reviews.
Muhammad Junaid
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

I have seen that most your competitors does this exercise and give negative reviews on your GMB Profiles through their employees or freelancers. But I think the best way to deal with negative reviews is that reply those users who give negative feedback and ask some details like order date / invoice no or some technical or my cart information. Also respond those users with positive comments and write some apology because customer is always right.
These tips are really nice but only works when you are on right but if your services / products are not satisfactory then you should need to go for.
Jason Brown
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Muhammad Junaid
I agree it is important to reply to negative reviews in a polite and professional manner asking them to contact the business. The businesses I have been consulting with, it's now up 7, have been attacked by non-customers. If your businesses or client is being attacked by a competitor, I recommend following these steps and documenting the reviews and profiles and send them to Google with proof that they are fake. If you can find physical proof that the reviewers are employees for a competitor, include that in the documentation.

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