How to Deal with Fake Negative Reviews on Google
Establishing a solid reputation is vital for dental practices. It demonstrates the trust your patients place in you, and is key in attracting new clients.
In the digital age, online reviews like those on Google My Business (GMB) profiles are a crucial element of the trust-building process. However, fake negative reviews can be a major problem for small businesses like dental offices.
When someone is looking for a dentist, they generally see reviews as trustworthy because they assume they accurately reflect the experiences of your patients. This is why false negative reviews about a dental practice can be so damaging, possibly leading potential new patients to look elsewhere.
How can you deal with fake negative reviews on Google? Firstly, you need to understand Google’s policies on reviews, and what the company considers as violations of the rules.
Flagging a Fake Negative Review
The major stumbling block in dealing with untruthful reviews of your practice is the difficulty in getting them removed. You can flag a dishonest defamatory review but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Google will take action.
Another problem is that Google doesn’t require reviews to be from your actual patients. Anyone with a “customer experience” is eligible to post a review – whatever that means. So, simply telling Google that a review hasn’t been posted by one of your patients will get you nowhere. A further problem is that reviews can be filed under an anonymous user name.
To make a strong case to Google for getting a false review removed, you need to:
- Explain why the review is false.
- Detail how it violates Google policies.
- Explain why it should be taken down.
- Provide any links or other details that support your case.
The most difficult false reviews to get rid of are those that contain no text, just a star rating. In cases like this, Google will usually say there’s no breach of its guidelines. However, other forms of fake review are easier to have removed. These include reviews that:
- Are off topic.
- Contain offensive language, personal attacks or illegal content.
- Demonstrate a conflict of interest.
Difficulties of the Legal Route
If nothing else works in trying to get a fake negative review taken down, you could consider legal action in instances that appear to libel you or your dental office. However, this course of action can be extremely difficult, time-consuming, costly and frustrating.
Because of the guarantee of freedom of speech in the First Amendment, defamation law in the U.S. tends to give more protection to defendants than libel legislation in many other countries.
A further problem is that the definition of libel varies in different states, and a defendant may well use the libel defense that the review was fair comment.
How to Respond to a Fake Negative Review
While it can be difficult to have an untruthful bad review taken down, you have the right to reply to it. It’s upsetting to receive an adverse review, and more so when it’s obviously dishonest. Nevertheless, it’s important to remain calm and professional.
The way you respond to a fake negative review gives you the opportunity to showcase the core values of your practice and your business philosophy in providing outstanding care for your patients. On the other hand, being over aggressive and focusing on having the last word is likely to do more harm than good.
Obviously, since the appraisal is fake, you can’t resolve the problem for this individual. However, you can make it clear to your real patients and prospective clients that you’re aware of the negative assessment, and that you take reviews seriously.
You could say something along the lines of: “We have no record of any patient undergoing an experience similar to the one described. In fact, we take great care to ensure all our patients receive the highest standard of care and treatment.”
Another strategy in dealing with fake negative reviews on Google is to tell people about them via social media. This can turn the negative into a positive for your practice. If you have patients who follow you on Twitter or are your Facebook friends, they may well come to your defense.
You can also turn to the Google My Business Spam & Policy Forum for help from people who’ve experienced similar problems.
Importance of Reputation Management for Dental Offices
The best way to minimize the effect of a false negative review is to ensure you have an efficient reputation management policy that encourages your real patients to post reviews that honestly reflect the professionalism of your dental office. A solid reputation management strategy includes monitoring what people are saying about your practice and engaging with your patients.
Ensuring you receive ongoing reviews will counter any fake negative reviews by giving a more complete picture of how your dental office really operates – to provide the best possible care and treatment for your patients.
So, encourage your patients to post reviews. Bear in mind that besides Google, reviews on other platforms are important. These sites include Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, Healthgrades and RateMDs. And don’t forget to ask patients to file a review on your own dental website.
Why You Need Ongoing Honest Reviews
Diversifying your reviews around several platforms will boost your practice’s online presence and strengthen your localised search engine optimization (SEO).
Studies indicate that more than two-thirds of consumers will leave a review if asked to do so. However, around the same percentage will ignore reviews over 90 days old, so you need to make getting reviews an ongoing feature of your reputation management approach.
The possibility of fake negative reviews will always be present, but, once you have a strategy in place to deal with them effectively, you shouldn’t be deterred from encouraging honest reviews from your patients. These reviews represent a potent marketing tool that can play a major role in attracting new business.