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June 20, 2024

How to Report a Google Review

How do you report / remove a Google review? How should you time responses and follow-up appeals? Our hands-on experience will give you a fighting chance.

*This post was updated on 6/20/24 and originally published on 1/24/19.

If you've just received a negative review on your Google Business Profile - which is suspicious, unhelpful, aggressive, inappropriate or skewing-fraudulent - all varying violations of Google’s review policy - you might be wondering as to the best way to (attempt) to have it removed.

After responding manually to over a million reviews (so far), Widewail feels we definitely have some insight as to how to best mitigate the more repugnant, which have obviously not been left by one of your actual customers. But the timing of your response, removal request, and any subsequent appeal can be important factors. 

As they say, “timing is never perfect, but it’s always everything”, and that critical cadence is one of the things we’re going to walk you through below. The following six sections should equip you with everything you need to know in in terms of reporting and removing dodgy online customer reviews:

  1. Understanding Google’s Review Policy
  2. How to Spot a Suspicious Review
  3. How to Report / Delete a Google Review
  4. What Happens When You Report a Google Review? 
  5.  Responding to Negative Reviews: Removal Best Practices
  6. Aligning Engagement with Google's Review Policy
Should I Respond? Should I Report?

We certainly understand why you are looking to weed out the nonsense. Online reviews are extremely valuable: 77% of shoppers say they 'regularly' read them when browsing for local businesses (up from 60% in 2020). This means great reviews can help bring customers through your door without you ever having to lift a finger. 

Since Google has the most monthly traffic of all leading review sites, it might be the most important record of social proof for your business. Be that as it may, attempting to remove or delete Google reviews should be done sparingly. It’s best to focus on monitoring and responding to all of them instead. Critical reviews, although frustrating, are actually the most important to answer. 

By prioritizing responses to critical or negative reviews, you get to explain your side of the story and earn a chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of current and future consumers. Better yet, by continuing the conversation with the customer offline, you might inspire them to update their review. 

In spite of our best efforts in regards to response management, sometimes negative feedback just takes things too far, thus breaching Google's policies for reviews. These reviews can be addressed - whether they’re from an angry customer, previous employee, competing business, or a good, old-fashioned online troll. You have options, and Google’s Review Policy explains what content is not allowed and deserves to be reported.

How to Remove a Google Review

1. Understanding Google's Review Policy

Google’s policy on reviews is a set of guidelines meant to ensure reviews posted to Google Business Profiles are authentic personal experiences, relevant to the business and appropriate for all viewers. When a review’s content breaks these rules, Google's review removal policy allows businesses to report the review and (hopefully) have it deleted.

Businesses must be mindful of these policies when responding to - or asking for - reviews. Google’s ground rules are updated often, so businesses must be diligent in keeping up to stay in compliance with the current guidelines. Below are some of the top reasons you should report a Google review for removal.

Inappropriate review content according to Google's Review Policies:
  1. Civil Discourse: Reviews should never include examples of harassment, hate speech, offensive content or the sharing of personal information.

  2. Deceptive Content: Reviews from fake accounts that impersonate an individual or provide misinformation/misrepresentation will not be tolerated.

  3. Mature Content: Obscenity, profanity, violent, adult-themed or sexually explicit content is not allowed.

  4. Regulated, Dangerous and Illegal: In addition, terrorist organizations are not allowed to use Google’s review service. Shocking, we know.

  5. Information Quality: Reviews that are off-topic related to a business, feature advertising/solicitation or contain "gibberish" may be reported.

  6. Conflict of interest: Content should be unbiased. For example, business owners should not review their own business.


Google provides a long list of review content that violates their policy. To make it easier to digest, we grouped their list into three “content” categories: deceptive content, harmful content, and spam content. Click here to read Google’s full review policy. 

Deceptive Content:
  • Reviews that contain fake engagement, purposely include misinformation or misrepresentation of your business, or impersonate other individuals or groups.
Harmful Content:
  • Reviews that contain harmful or threatening content such as hate speech or harassment.
  • Reviews that include mature or offensive content such as obscenity and profanity, adult themed content, dangerous or illegal content, or even terrorist content.
Spam Content:
  • Reviews that are off topic, don’t pertain to your business, or are posted for advertising or solicitation.
  • Reviews that are unintelligible, repetitive, or obvious forms of mischief.

2. How to Spot a Suspicious Review

While some suspicious reviews will be glaring, others might take a little longer to catch. Below are some tell-tale signs of a suspicious Google review, and how to confirm you are dealing with a disreputable reviewer. 

Aggressive Language: 

Reviews may immediately stand out as suspicious because they use inappropriate language, excessive punctuation, or are written in all caps.

Deceptive Stories: 

Other suspicious reviews will try to fly under the radar by appearing like a real review, but including deceptive content. Reviews like these often use the same tactics. They may include a long-winded story of the customer’s “negative experience,” but fail to provide any specific details a real customer would remember. They also may comment on aspects of your businesses that plainly do not exist. The vague nature of these reviews, along with their lack of detail, allows them to be spam posted across many accounts. 

Next Step: Investigate the Reviewer 
  • Review History: Check if the reviewer has a pattern of negative reviews. If their profile only includes 1 star reviews, or ones with low ratings but no written review, you may be dealing with a suspicious review.
  • Customer Legitimacy: Check the reviewer’s name in your customer database to see if they actually had an experience with your business. If you can’t find a record of the customer in your database, it is possible their experience and negative review are completely fabricated. 
Google Review Troll Meme

After investigating the reviewer, you may find you're officially dealing with one of those fabled online "trolls". 

While most trolls deserve to be left under the bridge, our advice below suggests a step-by-step process of dealing with questionable reviews. And there are benefits to responding to them prior to reporting their nonsense to Google.

 

3. How to Report / Delete a Google Review

The process of reporting a Google review for removal, which includes a few short steps,  is outlined below. 

  1. Before reporting a review, make sure it violates Google’s policy on inappropriate reviews. Remember that Google will only remove reviews that violate its policy. 
  2. Whether or not you decide to report the review for removal, the best next step is always to respond to the review. Politely and professionally acknowledging negative reviews in a timely fashion proves you value customer feedback and monitor your online presence. Check out Widewail’s Advice on How to Respond to a Negative Review below. 
  3. After posting a response, it’s time to report the review. Whether you are accessing the review on Google’s search engine, Google Maps, or your Business Profile Page, the steps for reporting the review look pretty similar. 
  4. In all three platforms, head to your “Business Profile”. Next, click “Google Reviews”, “Reviews”, or “Manage Reviews”, depending on the site you are on. 
  5. From there, you should now have access to all of your reviews. When you find the review you would like to report, click the three dots in the top right corner of the review. 
  6. Either click “Report Review” or “Flag as Inappropriate”, depending on which option is available to you or most appropriate. 
  7. From here, you will be presented with a list of possible reasons you believe the review violates Google’s policy, including options such as “conflict of interest, off-topic, illegal content", etc. Click the reason that is relevant to your review. 
  8. Your review is now reported and it may take up to 5 days for Google to review.

4. What Happens When You Report a Google Review?

When you report a Google Review, the reviewer will not be notified. If the review violates Google’s policy, however, the customer - real or fake -may notice that it has been removed from your page. 

After reporting your review, it can take Google up to 5 days to determine whether it will be removed. To check the status of your review during this time, you can visit Google’s  Reviews Management Tool. When you get to the webpage, make sure that the email on the page matches the email of your business profile before clicking “Confirm”.

After selecting your business, you will be able to see the status of your review by clicking “Check the status of a review I reported previously and appeals options.” There are three possible statuses you could receive. 

  • Decision pending: Google has not reviewed it yet 
  • Report Reviewed- no policy violation: Google reviewed it and determined it did not violate their policy. You can submit a one-time appeal to have it re-checked. 
  • Escalated-check your email for updates: An appeal has been submitted and you will receive the final decision by email. 

To appeal a review Google decided did not violate their policy, head back to the home page of the Reviews Management Tool. From here, navigate to the “Check the status of a review I reported previously and appeals options” page and click “Appeal Eligible Reviews” at the bottom of the page. You will be able to select up to 10 reviews that you would like to appeal. Then hit “Continue” and “Submit an Appeal.” With the review appealed, you will have to wait for Google to review it for a second time. The final decision regarding your review will be emailed to you.

5. Responding to Negatives: Removal Best Practices

Unfortunately, receiving a negative review on your profile is sometimes inevitable, no matter how much hard work goes into fostering a positive experience for your customers. Don’t worry, a negative review isn’t the end of the world. How you respond to the review is an incredible opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Your response can establish your business's online authenticity and build trust between you and your customers. A negative review, while frustrating, is a chance to display empathy and prove to all customers, current and future, your commitment to customer service and satisfaction. 

  • Respond Quickly 

Whether or not the negative review is a scam, make sure you respond to the review within a few days. If you are dealing with an unhappy customer, a timely response will make it more likely you can regain their trust. If you are dealing with a scam reviewer, your response will set the tone for the public’s perception of their narrative. 

  • Acknowledge and Apologize 

Within your response, acknowledge exactly what the customer is frustrated with, and apologize for their negative experience. This personalized approach will confirm that your response is coming from a human, not a robot. Thank the customer for sharing their feedback with you. Establish with the customer that their experience does not align with the values and standards that your business strives for. 

  • State the Facts 

If you are dealing with a fake review that you are going to report to Google, be sure to state the facts in a calm, and neutral manner. Without accusing the reviewer, you can counter their claims, such as saying that you do not have their name on customer records, or that the aspect of your company they are complaining about is made up. By keeping your response professional and calm, you prove to onlookers that the review is a scam. 

  • Encourage Further Conversation 

Lastly, always offer to talk about the situation offline, by providing your contact information and encouraging the customer to reach out to you for further conversation. This outreach may give you the chance to clear the air with the unhappy customer, and may even lead them to update their negative review.

6. Align Engagement Efforts with Google’s Review Policy

Aligning your online engagement efforts with Google’s policies can help enhance your digital marketing and reputation management strategies. By accurately understanding and interpreting the rules, you can develop constructive ways to increase reviews and improve your star rating.

One tactic is to encourage clients to leave honest reviews about their personal experiences with your business, regardless if it was a positive or negative interaction. Understanding the importance of Google reviews, while adhering to their guidelines on review solicitation, is key to a successful online presence. 

Another option would be to partner with an online reputation management company that will keep your review response strategy in peak condition, in compliance, and impressing potential customers from the get-go. At Widewail, we respond to Google reviews along with consumer feedback on other popular and industry-specific sites such as Yelp, Facebook, CarGurus, DealerRater, ApartmentRatings, Apartments.com, etc.

Key Takeaways 
  • Your business’s Google reviews are incredibly valuable.
  • Google’s review policy does not allow inappropriate content, such as harassment, misinformation, or mature content.
  • Suspicious reviews may contain aggressive language or tone, or could include a deceptive story of a fake customer’s experience. Check the reviewer’s account to see if they have a pattern of negative reviews.
  • Reporting a Google review takes a few simple steps, and the review process can take up to 5 days to be complete. 
  • The Reviews Management Tool will show you the updated status of your review. 
  • Widewail suggests you to always respond to negative reviews, whether they violate Google’s policy or not.
Conclusion

Managing your Google reviews is the most important way you can foster a positive reputation for your business online.

Through understanding how reviews violate Google’s policy, identifying suspicious feedback and reporting said reviews, you can (somewhat) control online sentiment so that it best represents your business.

Remember the importance of responding to all reviews, regardless of whether they are negative or positive, and doing so in a timely fashion.

Partnering with a reputation management expert like Widewail can further enhance your review management strategy and ensure that your reviews align with Google’s policies.

We invite you to reach out with questions or request a demo here.

What's Widewail?

Widewail is a reputation management software and services company based in Burlington, VT. We help hundreds of small local businesses and national brands like Lexus and BH Property Management generate and respond to reviews.

Learn more about our Trust Marketing Platform.

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Jane Garfinkel

I’m a New Jersey native who joined the Widewail team during my brief stint in Burlington. Now living in Jersey City, I currently serve as the Response Team Lead and Content Specialist. My background is in writing and my work has been published by Thrillist, Reductress, McSweeneys, The Rumpus, and more. I occasionally update my own blog No Meat, Some Potatoes, and in my free time I hang out with my dog Jake.

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