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UPDATE 12/10/18: Google has identified and removed many of the spam ratings via tracked reports from the Google My Business forum and through Twitter, but did not locate all of them. Google product experts could not pinpoint every single business impacted from the attack because the profiles used to carry out the spam ratings selected to hide their reviews.
If your company’s Google My Business account was hit with fake Google reviews in early December 2018, you’re not alone. Multiple marketing and review watchdogs recently reported—which Google confirmed—that over three million fake ratings were posted by at least 37 fake profiles in early December 2018.
According to review watchdog ReviewFraud, the recent explosion of spammy 4-star Google ratings started back in late September and still poses a threat. Each fake account executed an average of 64,000 fake reviews or ratings, highlighting the issue of automated or systematic review spam.
What makes this recent attack more alarming than general one-off false reviews is its sheer size, breadth, and spontaneity. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the attacks since accounts affected were businesses ranging from wedding planners to churches and home improvement companies.
Google has spotted and begun to rectify the issue, removing review links from the knowledge graph as well as removing as many of the false reviews as could be verified.
Fake Google Reviews: A Growing Problem for Business Owners and Marketers
Fake Google reviews are a growing problem for business owners and marketers alike, and the recent attack of fake reviews on Google proves just how problematic this trend is becoming—especially since local search results depend heavily on the number and aggregated rating of a company’s reviews.
Reviews, testimonials, and recommendations have always played an oversized role in commerce, and that hasn’t changed in the digital age. Currently, 95 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
The importance of reviews has grown even in the past year or so. Check out these statistics from BrightLocal‘s 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey:
- 86 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95 percent of people aged 18 – 34)
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
- 40 percent of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past 2 weeks—up from 18 percent last year
- 57 percent of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars
- 80 percent of 18 – 34 year-olds have written online reviews—compared to just 41 percent of consumers over the age of 55
- 91 percent of 18 – 34 year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 89 percent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews
What to Do if You Get a Spam Rating or Fake Google Review
If your Google My Business was spammed with fake reviews or ratings, the best thing to do is flag it as spam and respond, labeling as a spam review. Spotted by media firm RankFuse Interactive, this business owner in the Kansas City area got it right:
If You Get a Fake Review or Spam Rating on Your Google My Business Account, Follow These Steps:
Got a fake review or spam rating? Follow the steps below:
- Open Google Maps and search for your business.
- Click to see all your reviews, and find the one you want to flag
- Click on the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner of the review, then click “Flag as inappropriate.”
It doesn’t stop there, either. You have two more options to escalate the issue:
- Call Google and follow up on your flagged review status. Go to your Google My Business home page. At the bottom of the menu on the left-hand side there should be an option for support. Click it.
- Get legal. If the review can be counted as slander and false, you DO have an option to fill out a Google form for a legal removal request. The requirements for these are pretty high, so grab your nearest legal professional before you go this route.
We will keep this article updated as we learn more about the fake review situation, so check back for updates!
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About The Author: Betsy is Blue Corona's in-house Digital Marketing Specialist. When she’s not directing Blue Corona's corporate digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring with her wife, diving into the latest marketing trends, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
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