Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

Google uses a five star rating scale to rank businesses based on performance. Consumers are given the opportunity to leave a business review, which includes choosing a grade from one star (poor performance) to five stars (excellent service). Google then uses an algorithm to average the reviews together to determine an overall star rating.These days, most of your customers will check you out online and they read or at least glance at your online reviews. 

Their research will likely not just be on Google. (Although admittedly, Google is the top dog in this area.) They will use Houzz, Angie’s List, Yelp or any of the other numerous sites out there that collect reviews. 

It’s been drilled into us for a while now to get those GOOD REVIEWS and star ratings. Those two things are the first impression most people have of your company or service. I personally don’t usually contact a company for something if they have less than a Four-Star rating. Why chance it?

But what happens when something goes wrong? There you are, all happy with a 4.7 Star rating on Google, just a couple of reviews away from a 4.8 and a ton of good reviews to back it up. You have a 4.8 Star rating on Houzz, an A+ rating with the BBB and a Five-Star rating on Yelp. You are sitting pretty. Then it happens. You get notified that you have received a new Google review. Thinking that you are now that much closer to a 4.8 you open it and find the worst review your company has ever received and you don’t even recognize the reviewer’s name! Confused, you go back through your records until you see the name and realize that you did the job over a year ago for a well-known custom remodeling company. The job was signed off on by the remodeler as good and complete and the job was paid for in a timely manner. You also have notes that indicate you went back to the job several times after completion for “Homeowner Issues”, not remodeler issues. The issues were minor and no one has said anything for over a year. 

You calm down because you realize that one bad review isn’t going to hurt you all that badly. Since most experts advise that companies should respond to bad reviews, you do. You draft a nice, polite response addressing the complaints in the review and post it. Thinking your work here is done, you move on to other things. The next day you have a new notification of a review. You look and discover it’s another bad review by the same person, and that’s not the end of it. Over the following four days, this person leaves 13 bad Google reviews about you. Your star rating is slipping rapidly and your first page reviews are all bad. You are hoping that people realize that all the bad reviews are from the same person but who knows? To make matters worse, the reviewer has branched out from Google and left you a bad review on Houzz.

What can you do? You can fight back. There are things you can do to restore your good name. Google has steps you can take to remove reviews that are against Google policies. They will not remove a review just because it’s bad or you don’t like it. It has to violate Google policies. 

With some exceptions, Google generally allows one review per situation or job. This means the offending reviewer can leave only one review per job, not 13! If you have received a suspect review, you can flag it. Just go to Google Maps and find your business. Search your reviews until you find the suspect one or two or 12. Click on the three dots in the corner and select Flag as Inappropriate.

The only problem with this plan is that you don’t get to say why it is inappropriate. You just have to hope Google can see why. The other thing is that it won’t happen overnight. It could take a while. (Think about how big Google is; how many people worldwide are posting reviews and how many reviews Google has to investigate.)

If you want to check on the status of a flagged review you can ask Google. At the bottom of your Google My Business page click on Support. Then under Contact Us click on Need More Help. After that, click on Customer Reviews. (I know that’s a lot of layers, but keep on clicking.) Then select Manage Customer Reviews. This is where you want to be to request a callback from Google, ask for an e-mail response or ask for a chat. 

If the review is truly false and contains things that are absolutely 100 percent slander, malicious, or violates laws (such as copyright issues) you can request a Google form for legal removal of a review – BUT the standards for this are high, and you might need your lawyer to help you. Decide if the cost is worth it. 

The other thing you might be thinking about is a Cease and Desist letter from your attorney. Think carefully. You are not only paying lawyer fees but you also have to be prepared to truly follow through with legal action if the reviewer calls your bluff and keeps posting. That’s court time and legal fees to do something Google will more than likely do for free, if you give them the chance. 

If it’s one bad review, just make an effort to get several good reviews to push it down. Most people don’t read reviews past the first page and over 96 percent don’t go past the second page. Just let good reviews bury it. 

If it’s an extreme case like the 13 reviews in four days, only you can decide how you want to proceed, but Google did remove 12 of the 13 reviews, leaving just the one the reviewer is entitled to. This is a GOOD RESULT for just time and effort on your part. I suspect that one bad review will be buried in no time.

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