Blog Posts

How to Fix a Bad Google Review

Casey Morgan
June 26, 2020

Crap. You got a bad review. Someone out there isn’t happy with something that happened. They’re calling you out publicly and trying to tank your hard-earned reputation. What should you do? Yell and scream at the person who left it? Complain to Google and try to get it removed?

removing Google reviews

Relax. Bad reviews happen to every business. But not all bad reviews are the same. Some are earned and represent an opportunity for you to do better. Others come from a frustrated customer venting—which way or may not be fair to you. There are many ways you can react to legitimate negative reviews but what about reviews that are nasty, vindictive, spiteful, or just plain untrue? What can you do to protect your business from people who are purely abusive or openly trying to do your company harm for personal or even philosophical reasons?

In this piece, we’ll look at exactly how to get illegitimate reviews removed, but we first need to explore what illegitimate means and what constitutes abuse.

Why Some Reviews Can’t—or Shouldn’t—Be Removed

Google’s goal is to provide consumers with quick, accurate information, so they can make informed decisions about what to buy and who to work with. They’re concerned with legitimate, honest feedback. As much as possible, Google takes a neutral third-party stance on most reviews you’ll get. According to their policies, “Google doesn't get involved when merchants and customers disagree about facts, since there's no reliable way to discern who's right about a particular customer experience.” Google also won’t remove reviews if you disagree or are upset about a rating someone left you. Since Google’s aim is to provide a platform that everyone trusts and that represents the most honest feedback of everyone. In some cases, a negative review can’t be removed. Tough luck.

Google review policy quote

The good news is regardless of why someone leaves you a negative review, there’s an effective way to deal with it (check out this piece for more detail). In a lot of cases, a negative review is your opportunity to show the world that you can fix mistakes you make, which can help you build trust with people. And wouldn’t you rather know you made a mistake so you can fix it? Negative reviews can ultimately have a positive outcome. Plus, a perfect star rating might actually be suspicious to some potential customers. There is a such a thing as looking too good to be true.

So what about those truly bad reviews? Those ones that bend the truth, contain outright lies, or are fabrications or spam? Google has a process for handling these as well.

Understanding Prohibited and Restricted Content

According to Google, reviews are illegitimate if they violate Google’s content policy. In general, Google prohibits the following types of content:

Google prohibited content

  • No spam or fake content – A review can’t contain advertisements or be written fraudulently.
  • No off-topic content – A review must be relevant to the business and the customer experience.
  • No restricted content – A user can’t hijack someone’s business listing to sell their own stuff by adding links, landing, pages, etc.
  • No illegal content – a review can’t contain copyrighted material, sexually explicit content, terrorist content, or offensive, dangerous, or derogatory content. This includes things like threats, impersonation, or conflicts of interest (like a competitor taking jabs at you intentionally).

How to Flag a Google Review for Removal

If a review you receive violates a policy, you can flag it. Don’t abuse this privilege. Be sure that any reviews are indeed in violation of Google’s policies before you flag them. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign-in to Google My Business account on your smartphone or desktop.
  2. Under Manage Locations, select the right location (if you have more than one).
  3. Select Reviews.
  4. Navigate to the review you want to flag.
  5. Select the three-dot menu.
  6. Select Flag as Inappropriate.

Assuming Google agrees with you, it may take Google several days to remove flagged content, and they may contact you to discuss the review in question. Be prepared with evidence that a review is fraudulent if it isn’t obviously in violation of policy. If Google doesn’t see the review as an obvious violation of policy, they may not change anything.

There’s one more thing to note about removing reviews. In some cases, Google will pull in third-party reviews from other platforms (usually reviews of hotels and travel accommodations). Google doesn’t control these reviews. Should you get a Google review from a third-party platform, you must contact the relevant platform to flag or remove a review.

Getting Additional Help From Google

If you haven’t gotten the help you need from Google by flagging a review, you can try to contact Google’s business support team and see if they can help. Visit this page and scroll to the bottom, where you can seek help through their forum, or reach out directly through the contact option. Be prepared with a screenshot of the review in question so you can discuss it with a support representative.

your reputation quote

Note that there’s no guarantee Google will remove the review. But when your reputation is on the line, you should try whatever you can to get illegitimate reviews removed.  

How to Fix Reviews You Can’t Remove

Despite your best efforts, Google may not remove a review someone left on your business listing. Don’t worry, because at this point you still have a few options that can keep your reputation intact.

  • Reply and move on – Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to get a bad review removed. In these cases, reply to the review politely and courteously, explain the situation, and attempt to remedy the situation. Ask the reviewer to contact you directly to discuss the issue. In some cases, you may wish to ask the reviewer to update their review if you’re able to solve the problem. In some cases, you may be out of luck. The bottom line is that you should never leave a negative review without a reply. Most people will see right through a ridiculous review on your account. By replying courteously and trying to fix the situation, you prove you’re willing to do the right thing. Often, your business will look good while the reviewer looks like a nut. Check out this article for some advice on replying to negative reviews.
  • Drown negative reviews in great ones – Rather than watch your online reputation get tanked by one nasty review, you can bolster your business by getting loads of great ones. Using tools like Swell Review, you can solicit reviews from your customers via text message.  This is an extremely effective way to gather reviews of your business, and most will get dozens within the first weeks. Once you have a solid enough reputation, a few negative reviews will actually help you more than harm you.  
Swell review icon

How to Get More From Your Review Strategy

Between reading them, replying to them, and making sure you’re getting plenty of fresh ones, managing reviews can be a headache. But it doesn’t have to be. Swell makes it easy for businesses to solicit reviews for platforms like Google My Business and more. When it comes time to analyze reviews, you can see an aggregate review score across multiple platforms, reply to reviews in one single screen, and much more. Of course, Swell isn’t built solely to help business get and manage reviews—it’s made to make local business growth easy. From interacting with customers to gathering feedback so you can improve, Swell is a fantastic way to put business growth on autopilot. Here’s how the process works:

Discover – Learn from honest feedback to improve customer service, your online reputation, and search ranking.

Connect – Create meaningful interactions and build trust through text, email, online chat, and more.

Grow – Use feedback to fuel a stronger online reputation and to get higher search rankings, so you can attract more business.

Swell growth flywheel

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