Fake Online Reviews: How To Win

Online Reviews for Your Business

Imagine: you are sitting down and get a notification that your business has just been reviewed. You get excited! The business has been going well and you have poured your heart and soul into running it ethically and professionally. This review should be an affirmation of hard work and dedication. It will help with word-of-mouth and future business. You can see the dollars coming in!

How to combat fake online reviews

When you log in to view it you see that it is the lowest possible score! At first, your heart sinks. You have a brief moment of despair as you see those dollars flitter away. Your nearly flawless score has been reduced and you don’t know why your product received a negative online review.

That’s when you notice: this ‘client x’ has never done business with you and the comments are outrageous.

You are filled with indignant rage, as you do some research and realize this is ABC Company down the street, which tried to secret shop you last week and were called on it.

“Call the lawyers!” quickly turns into a better idea: I’ll show them!” You furiously pound out a nasty reply on the review site, extolling your virtue and condemning ABC Company. That pointer finger is in mid-flight to pounding the send key when your inner sanity yells…STOP!!!

Ok, you get the idea. Getting a bad review hurts; getting a fake review is even worse. Living in your business every day, it is hard not to take it personally. However, this is an inevitable fact of running a business in the digital age. You will have tremendous exposure online and are bound to accumulate ‘haters’ along the way. Even though you may run your business ethically doesn’t mean your competitors will.

Recently, this has come up with three separate clients of ours. Having a strategy to deal with these situations will help you publicly shine in the face of adversity.

Recognize the issue:

The competitor is displaying unethical and childish behavior. This is a reflection of their immaturity as a leader and personal insecurities not on you or your business. Like toddler’s fighting over a toy, the competitor sees you ‘stealing’ their market share and decides to blame you for filling a gap in the market they cannot service or provide. They are envious of your success and can only respond with anonymity and cowardice. LET THEM. Cooler heads and maturity always prevail in business. Know that their behavior will eventually derail their career and business. You need to take the opposite approach and display calm and true leadership when responding.

Quash your negative bias:

Our brains are wired to prefer control, certainty, and predictability. Without knowing the future our brains attempt to write an ending as a natural, self-preservation method. Many times this ending is a worst case or false scenario in order to dissuade us from potential harm. This may have made sense when there was a predator lurking around every corner ready to hunt and eat us. Today, however, this can lead to poor decisions, fear, and inaction. Take back control of your emotions and recognize that you have no control over others actions and full control over how you react. Don’t let adversity paralyze and derail your core purpose in business.

Next steps to take:

  • Attempt Removal: Work with the review site to get the fake review removed. Typically, they will have a term and condition that covers fake reviews as a breach and will eventually take them down. You will need sufficient evidence to prove the accusation so document the occurrence as best you can. This should always be the first priority. Sometimes the documentation will not suffice or the review site doesn’t remove any reviews. In this case, you will need to respond.
  • Responding: In the public’s eye an unanswered review will be perceived as truth. Additionally, an argumentative response will shake the confidence of a customer. You must defend your business professionally and with a cool head. Point out that there is no record of them, encourage them to contact you directly to resolve the situation, tell your side of the story and subtly suggest that the review is questionable. This mature formula will call into question the authenticity of the review in the mind of a prospective customer.

Winning:

In the future remember, ‘the best defense is a great offense’. Take these steps to ensure that 1 fake negative review will not greatly impact your future business.

  • Monitor your review presence: You cannot stop or respond to fake reviews if you do not know they exist. Set up alerts either through the review sites you are listed on or with Google Notifications to ensure you are seeing every review you get.
  • Strong Reputation: Actively solicit reviews from customers and clients in order to build your reputation. If you are running an ethical and productive business with great customer service, there should be no concerns in asking for these. This is a numbers game, and the more positive reviews from real customers you have the less fake reviews will affect your rating.
  • The Nuclear Option: If all else fails and the competitor/s continually harass your business, now the gloves can come off. Follow all the previous steps and then submit a BBB complaint (and/or other regulatory body within the industry) against the competitor. Publicly and professionally respond notifying them in the review response of this action. If the problem is systemic and they refuse to stop, consult a lawyer on next steps in the form of a cease and desist. In dire situations your attorney will pursue damages.

Joey Martin

Joey is a diverse and comprehensive business professional with over a decade of experience in corporate development and entrepreneurial enterprises. His expertise lies in strategic thinking to develop, plan, implement, and manage projects to achieve desired SMART business goals. His success in this field has specifically been in leadership development of key personnel, marketing strategy, streamlining of operational efficiency, new product conceptions, and financial management.

Joey's mission is to help small business owners realize their vision by filling the gap between their individual expertise and the skill set they need to succeed. For small businesses, the owner is the hero on a journey to succeed in their vision and they need someone to believe in that vision aiding and guiding them along the way. The owner is Don Quixote, Joey is their Sancho. Whether the goal is grow, pivot, or recover the next step is attainable with skilled, targeted, and customized help.

Joey studied Business Administration at Cardinal Stritch University, has certifications from Harvard Business School, and is continuing on to his master’s degree.