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Getting fake online reviews for your business can be extremely stressful and frustrating, particularly when you know that the reviewer has never been a client of yours or has never even approached your company.

The good news is that each platform has its own policy dedicated to getting fake online reviews removed. However, there is a certain process you have to go through for each platform before the review can be removed and these are often different from one another. Therefore, in this post, we’ll be focusing on removing fake Yell reviews, Trustpilot reviews, and how to remove a fake Google review, with expert tips on initial damage control.

One Star Review on Tablet Screen

How to Spot Fake Online Reviews

You can usually tell that the review is fake if it has one or more of the following signals:

  • The reviewer’s name isn’t in your customer order database.
  • The reviewer has left lots of other similar negative reviews for other businesses.
  • The reviewer does not contact you or elaborate after you have responded to their review asking for their contact details so you can resolve the alleged issue.
  • The review includes false information.

Take a look at these two five-star reviews – one is a fake review of a business, and the other is a real review of Zelst left by one of our clients. The differences are pretty stark!

With no other reviews and no details about what this person actually disliked about the business they interacted with or how there was a problem, there’s a good chance this is not a real review, especially if other reviewers have had largely positive experiences. Additionally, they never responded to the business’s attempt to reach out.

This second review, on the other hand, we know for a fact is real. Aside from the fact that it was written by a client we know well, you can see that this reviewer has written several other reviews and is considered a ‘local guide’ by Google. The review is detailed and specific.

Step 2: How to Respond to Fake Online Reviews

Person typing on silver laptop

Although you may be tempted to broadcast to the world that you are being trolled or targeted by a fake review, you must remain in control to effectively deal with initial damage control. It’s up to you to control the conversation.

You need to respond with the same tone as you would a legitimate negative review, thanking the customer for the review, and asking them to email you for further assistance. If you don’t have any record of the reviewer ever using your services or approaching the business, then you can put this in the response. However, be sure to be careful of your tone.

Here is an example of a response you could give: 

Thank you for your review; unfortunately, we do not have any record of anyone under your name ever using the services you mentioned in the review, or being a client of our company in the past.

We always take any legitimate customer reviews seriously and are always happy to help these customers. If you would like to please email us on … with any previous correspondence or record of sale you have obtained from us, we can discuss the issues in your review further. Kind regards, ….

If you would like to know how to craft the perfect response to legitimate negative reviews, then please read our dedicated guide.

Step 3: How to Remove a Fake Online Review

Remove a Fake Google Review:

Google logo

In order to remove a fake Google review, you need to flag the review to Google using the following steps:

  1. Click “read review” on the email you get from Google initially notifying you of the review.
  2. Click on the three vertical dots on the top right corner of the review.
  3. Follow the steps, choosing an option as to how it violates Google’s policy.
  4. Then, enter details of who is reporting the review, and how you are related to the business.

A part of the policy, Google gives a timeframe of seven days for the review to be investigated and they should get back to you within this time frame, even if it’s to update you that the investigation needs to be extended.

You can also remove a fake Google review by reporting this to Google Small Business support:

  1. Log into your Google My Business Page.
  2. Navigate to ‘reviews’ section.
  3. Click on the home menu, and then select support.
  4. Choose your preferred method of contact: phone or email.
  5. If you choose your phone as a preferred contact method, Google’s team should call within one minute, and you can explain everything to the advisor.
  6. The email address you attach is your tool to communicate with Google over this case, and they will escalate the case for you to a specialist team via this email.
  7. Complete the relevant information required. Attach a screenshot of the fake online review and any supporting information you believe will be helpful.
  8. Submit your report and you should hear back within two working days.
  9. If successful, the review will be taken down.

Removing a Fake Trustpilot Review:

As part of Trustpilot’s policy whilst they are investigating reviews, they blur or distort the review so that they can’t be viewed by the public. Again, when it comes to investigating the fake reviews, Trustpilot has its own guidelines it follows to determine whether a review gets removed or not. Here are the steps you need to follow to remove a Trustpilot fake online review:

  1. Click on reviews > product reviews on the left-hand side menu.
  2. Find the review you wish to report and click ‘report’ that appears under the review.
  3. A screen will then pop-up explaining the reporting steps:  before you continue, you need to be aware of what details and reasoning you give to Trustpilot, as it will be made public on the distorted review as to why it’s under investigation. 
  4. Select whether you want to report the review text or image, and press the ‘continue’ button.
  5. Then, choose the reason why you are reporting your review (e.g. harmful or illegal) and select ‘continue’ again.
  6. Trustpilot will then display your report summary including the reason you selected and information regarding the following steps.
  7. You will then receive a confirmation email from Trustpilot once you’ve reported the review.
  8. They will also mention that reviewing the report may take several days. In this time, they will contact the reviewers to see if they have any evidence to support their review.
  9. If you have any evidence to support your claim that the reviews are fake, such as the language being copied and pasted from a review they’ve left elsewhere, then email it back to Trustpilot as this will help your case.
Trustpilot User Guidelines

Trustpilot will contact you to inform you of the outcome once the investigation is over. They will provide you with an update on whether the removal of the review complies with their policy and their decision to remove the review or not. 

Removing Fake Yell Reviews:

  1. To report fake yell reviews you believe violate Yell’s reviews policy, click on ‘report review’ next to the review.
  2. Yell’s support team will then analyse the content and check this against their guidelines and email you with an update on the outcome, whether it’s been successfully removed or not.
  3. You can also remove fake Yell reviews by deleting your account. However, this might not be ideal for your business as it will delete all reviews. This includes any positive reviews and they won’t be restored if you decide to restore your account later down the line.

Step 4: Stay Calm and Think of the Bigger Picture 

Sign saying "you got this" on a sign, next to laptop on a desk

Panicking and going on a witch-hunt for these online trolls isn’t a productive initial response. If possible and relevant, you can try and bring these fake reviewers to justice once you’ve done some damage control and feel calmer. 

Instead, it’s a much better use of your time whilst reviews are under investigation that you try and bury the fake online reviews with legitimate positive ones. Sending an email or campaign to past or current clients/customers, inviting them to review your service on the same platform as the fakes, can have a great effect on the overall rating and also help to move the latest negative fake reviews much further down the page. 

Step 5: Remember your Current and Future Customers

Megaphone animation with five stars coming out

This is an important point, no matter how many fake online reviews you are receiving. It’s important that every move you make to either get them removed or buried is always carried out thinking about how things look to your current and future customers. Although the fake reviews may feel personal and you may be worrying how it will affect business, you need to think of how things look from a different perspective. 

For example, if you’re receiving numerous fake online reviews across multiple listing locations you have for your branches, then you need to remember that a potential customer realistically is only going to be looking at one location. Therefore, they will be none the wiser to any of the other multiple fake reviews. Take a look at your listing’s rating on the review platform as it’s more likely that a potential customer will look at this rather than reading through every single review.

If they do scroll and spot the negative fake reviews as a first impression, then you’ve done the best you can by providing a professional response to the review, whilst also highlighting to the reader that the review they have read could be fake, as you have stated politely you have no record of ever dealing with them. Potential customers are not as easily dissuaded as you think, particularly after you’ve launched your collection of legitimate recent reviews. 

If you’re worried about your brand’s reputation being damaged, check out our previous blog post on using content to restore your reputation.

Legal Removal
Court hammer made of hardwood

If the fake online review isn’t getting removed there is another level of escalation that can be taken in the form of a legal removal form. However, we would only recommend doing this if you are familiar with the law or are able to seek advice from someone who is. Part of the process requires you to cite specific provisions of law which identify why the content is unlawful in your description on the form. You will also need to provide URLs for all the content you have flagged.

From our experience of this, you may not hear back from Google regardless of the outcome, so be sure to monitor the reviews yourself via a spreadsheet and request a call to try and get more information on the matter if you haven’t heard anything.

Check Other Review Platforms

It’s worth checking a host of other review platforms, such as:

  • Facebook
  • Which?
  • Yelp

As many of the platforms state, it can take several days to get a fake online review removed, so patience and trust in the relevant processes are key. While you wait, you can do the appropriate damage control, so that quick, positive changes are happening. This will make you feel much better about the fake online reviews in general and will give you peace of mind that you are doing all you can to help the situation. 

Zelst has a wealth of experience regarding how the digital marketing environment works, with knowledge of the best methods to rectify frustrating situations such as removing fake online reviews. For more information on the services we offer and how we can help you grow your digital reach, please contact us