Beware the Promises to Eliminate 1-star Reviews…

I’m sure you’ve seen (and probably been tempted by) those promotions offering to eliminate your 1-star reviews. You probably wondered whether or not they’re legit. After all, who doesn’t want an instant boost in your 5-star ratings on Google?

Let me help you with that.

Yes, it’s possible to get rid of 1-star reviews. But there are right ways and wrong ways to do it, and a little bit of a gray area as well.

The RIGHT way to get rid of a bad Google review is to “report” it, offering one of these 7 reasons:

OFF TOPIC (Review doesn’t pertain to an experience at or with this business.)

SPAM (Review is from a bot, a fake account, or contains ads and promotions.)

CONFLICT OF INTEREST (Review is from someone affiliated with the business or a competitor’s business.)

PROFANITY (Review contains swear words, has sexually explicit language, or details graphic violence or other illegal activity.)

BULLYING OR HARASSMENT (Review personally attacks a specific individual.)

DISCRIMINATION OR HATE SPEECH (Review has harmful language about an individual or group based on identity.)

PERSONAL INFORMATION (Contains personal information such as address or phone number.)

If it’s a bogus review…

If it’s a bogus review from someone you never did business with, then “conflict of interest” is usually your best choice, with “spam” or “bullying / harassment” as possible alternatives.

If your first attempt doesn’t succeed, then I suggest the “squeaky wheel” approach. Resubmit your request every week, and ask your employees, coworkers, friends, family and associates to do the same. At some point, Google will notice, and with a little luck (or potentially out of frustration), they will take it down.

On the other hand, if it’s a valid review from someone who was truly disappointed in the work you did for them, then your only real option is to contact them and try to work it out with them. DO NOT try to resolve it in the Google review space. Do this OFFLINE, in person or over the phone.

The smart business owner will negotiate a deal in writing that says basically “If I do (whatever you agree to), you will remove your 1-star review.”

Now what about those “services” who promise to eliminate the 1-star reviews?

This is where it drifts into the “gray area,” and sometimes into a definitely BAD approach.

Most often, they use a software program to automatically pummel Google over and over again, until they finally remove the review. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that. (It’s just an automated squeaky-wheel approach.)

Getting lots of 5-star reviews is a great idea,
as long as they are valid.

The problem here is most of these companies aren’t getting you any “real” reviews. Instead, they have a bank of covert, semi-talented individuals all over the world who repeatedly set up fake Google accounts, and submit (what you hope are) realistic-sounding reviews on your behalf.

The dangers here are twofold.

First, most humans are pretty good at intuitively picking up the difference between real and fake. It’s true with robots, it’s true with social media posts, and it’s true with fake reviews. When you start piling up a bunch of fake reviews, like the one below, the whole experience starts to smell fishy, even if they are written by AI:

“I am very picky, I require perfect work and I spent months interviewing and getting quotes from many local pool contractors for our project. I am so glad I went with them, they had the best price and did the best work.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing more and more fake reviews online, to the point that I’m losing faith in the system.

Apparently I’m not alone, because in July of this year, the FTC proposed new rules to fine businesses $50,000 per fake review. (That goes for the business using the fake reviews, and the business producing the fake reviews.)

My recommendations?

  1. If you get a REAL negative review from a client, invest the time and money to win back their hearts and your reputation.
  2. If you get a FAKE negative review, report it to Google.
  3. If you want more 5-star reviews from your clients, just ask them. (But don’t bribe them, because that too can lead to a fine.)
  4. And under no circumstances should you pay anyone to provide you with fake 5-star reviews.

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