Have you ever read reviews for a business or product, and something just felt off?
Maybe the wording was strange, the vocabulary was wrong, or the reviewer’s name looked weird.
If so, there’s a good chance you stumbled across a fake Google review.
More and more people are turning to online reviews to help them decide on a purchase or a local business.
If reviews are meant to build credibility, how do fake reviews come into play?
Business owners usually have tons of questions when it comes to fake Google reviews, and we’ve done our best to answer the most common questions here.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What Are Fake Google Reviews?
- Can You Buy Fake Google Reviews (and Should You)?
- 4 Consequences of Buying Fake Google Reviews
- How to Recover from a Fake Google Review Attack
- How to Boost Your GMB Rating
What Are Fake Google Reviews?
In a nutshell, a fake Google review is written and posted by someone who didn’t purchase the product or visit the business mentioned in the review.
Fake Google reviews fall into 2 broad categories:
- Positive reviews designed to boost a GMB rating
- Negative reviews designed to harm the business’s online rating
Some businesses just starting out may decide to give themselves a little boost by having their family and friends leave positive reviews (without actually making a purchase).
This is a fake positive review.
Other businesses want to hurt their competition by leaving a few negative reviews on the competition’s GMB page.
This is a fake negative review.
While it may be hard to believe, fake reviews are widespread.
92% of 18-34-year-old consumers have read a fake Google review in the last 12 months!
Keeping your GMB rating up can have a HUGE impact on your search ranking, so you must know how fake reviews can affect your business online.
Can You Buy Fake Google Reviews (and Should You)?
When new business owners are struggling to build momentum through their Google reviews, one of the first questions that might come to mind is, “Can I buy fake Google reviews?”
The short answer is yes — you can buy fake Google reviews.
The long answer addresses a second question as well — should you buy fake Google reviews?
So yes, you CAN buy fake Google reviews, but you shouldn’t.
Let’s take a look at the process of buying fake Google reviews and why it’s an awful idea for your business.
How to Buy Google Reviews
Buying Google reviews is a straightforward process. For example, I searched “buy Google reviews” on Google, and the first result was a site that sells Google reviews.
Notice that this site claims its reviews are “100% safe and permanent, “ and clicking through to the site will allow you to purchase a package of your very own Google reviews.
You’ll be able to select the timeframe of the reviews, how many stars, and you can even choose to include some of your staff’s names in the reviews — they’ve thought of everything, haven’t they?
Next, you provide your Google My Business URL so the review company knows where to leave the reviews.
It’s that easy!
Now you know why there are so many fake reviews floating around the internet.
The simplicity of purchasing fake Google reviews backed by the tempting claim of “100% safe and permanent” appeals to new business owners.
It seems like an easy way to get the wheels of momentum into motion.
How Much Does It Cost to Buy Google Reviews?
Buying reviews from the site above will run you about $5/review.
However, you can buy larger packages at steep discounts for bulk reviews.
Since 87% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, having positive reviews on your GMB profile can make the difference between success and bankruptcy.
So spending a few hundred bucks on reviews could be money well-spent, right?
Keep in mind that although the monetary cost of buying reviews isn’t particularly high, there are plenty of other expenses that potentially come with fake Google reviews.
It could cost you:
- Your customers’ trust
- Your GMB profile
- High fines from the FTC
It’s vital to know that the cost of purchasing fake Google reviews could be MUCH higher than you expected.
Are Fake Google Reviews Illegal?
You may be thinking that fake Google reviews are unethical but they’re not illegal, right?
According to Title 15, paragraph 45 of US law, deceptive business practices are “unlawful.”
And that includes endorsements made by people who haven’t used the product or purchased from the business.
Translation — buying fake reviews is ILLEGAL.
Let’s say you bought some Google reviews before you knew it was against the law.
Will it land you in jail?
You won’t be sent to the slammer for buying fake reviews, but you could face some hefty fines plus a pile of other consequences.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) monitors businesses and ensures they comply with these laws.
Are you thinking about rolling the dice because the FTC probably won’t notice a small business buying a half-dozen reviews online?
In our opinion, it’s not worth the risk.
4 Consequences of Buying Fake Google Reviews
While you won’t end up in an FBI interrogation for buying fake Google reviews, you could face some severe consequences.
There are 4 potential consequences for buying Google reviews:
- GMB profile suspension
- GMB profile removal
- Loss of credibility with your customers
- FTC fines
While you might not face all 4 consequences, you’ll most likely encounter at least 1.
However, these consequences are severe enough that the possibility of getting hit with just 1 of them should be enough to keep you from purchasing fake reviews.
If you think Google can’t tell when you’ve purchased reviews, think again.
Google (and other review sites) are experts at identifying when users are posting fake reviews.
Their primary goal is to keep web content relevant and accurate, so they’re highly motivated to identify and remove fake content, including purchased reviews.
When they identify those reviews on your GMB profile, 2 things will most likely happen immediately.
- The fake reviews will be removed.
- Your GMB account will be suspended.
There’s no way to tell how long your suspension might last.
You have to submit a request through your business profile appealing the suspension and notifying Google that you’ve removed any issues.
A suspension is a temporary setback but can be crippling for a business — especially a young one.
Even 1 purchased review or fake review can cause your account to be suspended.
It only gets worse from here.
Google is perfectly willing to remove GMB profiles that aren’t in compliance with its community guidelines.
For example, you’re struggling to get your first few reviews on Google.
Your business is young, and you just needed a little boost to get off the ground, so you buy three 5-star reviews.
Be aware, if Google flags your new GMB profile as spam, it may skip the suspension and remove it entirely.
Your original goal was to INCREASE visibility, but now you’ve wiped out any chance that someone will find your business on the Local Finder.
Instead of accomplishing your goal and increasing visibility, buying fake Google reviews can demolish your visibility on Google.
Getting your GMB profile removed is the worst thing that can happen to your online presence as a young local business and that’s why we recommend avoiding purchasing fake reviews at all costs.
3. Loss of Credibility
You might not lose your account.
It might not even get suspended.
And if not, does that mean you flew under the radar?
Maybe you were one of the few that bought Google reviews and didn’t have any consequences.
Just because you escaped the wrath of Google doesn’t mean you won’t be hit with other heavy consequences — your customers aren’t stupid, and they can tell when they’re reading fake reviews as opposed to real ones.
About 74% of consumers have identified a fake review in the last year.
If your target audience is young, they’re even better at it.
In other words, your audience will know when you’re trying to hoodwink them, and they won’t appreciate it.
Think about it, how do YOU feel when you think a business is trying to deceive?
Customers who read fake reviews on your profile will:
- Lose trust in your company.
- Take their business elsewhere (probably to your competitors).
- Spread the word to others (and not a good word).
In an attempt to GAIN customers, the tables will turn, and you’ll actively drive them away with fake Google reviews.
There’s one more consequence that may come from buying fake reviews on Google — fines.
The FTC levies a fine of about $10,000 PER FAKE REVIEW purchased if you’re discovered.
Will they discover you if you just buy a couple of fake reviews?
Is that a chance we’re willing to take with our business?
No way — not in a million years.
A couple of years ago, the FTC fined one business owner $12.8 million for purchasing fake reviews on Amazon.
You might not get a $12.8 million fine.
Regardless, it isn’t a good idea to risk your entire business for a handful of fake reviews.
In the end, you’re better off working hard to earn reviews.
Next, we’ll address how to recover from fake Google reviews on your account that you didn’t purchase.
How to Recover from a Fake Google Review Attack
Even if you didn’t purchase fake reviews for your GMB profile, you might still find that you have several false Google reviews on your account.
And unfortunately, they probably don’t include positive feedback about your business.
If you have particularly seedy competitors, you may have fallen prey to a fake review attack.
Competitors sometimes create multiple fake Google accounts so they can leave negative reviews on your profile.
These attacks can have significant impacts like the ones below:
- Reduce consumer confidence in your business.
- Lower your GMB rating and Local Finder rank.
- Increase the chances that customers will choose your competitor over you.
Fake review attacks are a despicable technique, but unfortunately, they do occur.
We’ll show you exactly how to identify fake reviews, how to report them, and how to recover.
How to Identify a Fake Review
First, you have to be able to identify fake reviews.
Not all negative reviews are fake, so learning how to spot fake Google reviews is paramount to protecting your business.
Follow these steps to identify fake reviews:
- Scan the review’s details.
- Analyze the wording of the review.
- Check out the reviewer’s profile.
- Look for reviews with no text.
Let’s walk you through performing each of these steps.
First, thoroughly read the negative review’s complaints.
If you have a storefront, do the details match up with any customer that came in recently?
If not, it might be fake.
If you’re not always in the store, ask a manager or employee to recall difficult customer interactions.
If the review includes details that don’t match up with anything your employees remember, it’s probably fake.
Second, analyze the wording of the review to see if it feels fake to you.
People typically get a “gut feeling” when reading a fake review, but there are several things you can look out for:
- Strange vocabulary or grammar
- Misplaced or excessive periods, commas, or exclamation points
- Competitor endorsements
Third, take a look at the reviewer’s profile.
Is it a brand new profile?
Have they left reviews for other businesses?
Are they leaving positive reviews for your competitors?
Finally, negative reviews with no text are often fake — add them to your list of reviews to dispute.
If you get to the end of your analysis and decide that the review is fake, it’s time to take action.
How to Dispute a Google Review
Now that you’ve identified a fake review, you can dispute the review with Google to have it removed.
Let’s talk about how to report fake Google reviews.
To dispute a Google review, log into your Google My Business account.
Then, navigate to the “Reviews” tab on the toolbar on the left side of the screen.
Once you’re in the reviews tab, click the three dots on the right side of the review. Then, click “Flag as inappropriate.”
Google will require you to fill out a form detailing why you’re flagging the review.
It isn’t guaranteed that Google will remove any review that you flag, but it’s your best and only option.
If Google needs more information to take action against a review, they’ll email you.
In your response, make sure you include information on why you believe the review violates Google’s review guidelines.
If Google chooses not to remove the review, it’s time to do damage control.
What to Do if Google Doesn’t Remove the Review
As we said, Google doesn’t always remove the review that you believe is fake.
There are 2 reasons that Google may not remove a review:
- Google believes the review is legitimate.
- There is not sufficient evidence to prove the review is fake.
However, it doesn’t matter WHY Google didn’t remove the review — what matters is what you do next.
At this point, we recommend treating the review as if it were real.
Accusing all negative reviewers of being fake doesn’t make your company look good, so just treat it as an honest review.
- Respond to the review.
- Apologize for the negative experience.
- Try to resolve the customer’s complaint.
- Fix the issue that led to the complaint.
- Move on.
A negative review isn’t the end of the world if you respond to it correctly.
Make a good impression by showing new customers that you own your mistakes and treat your customers well (even when they leave negative reviews).
How to Boost Your GMB Rating
If you can’t buy Google reviews, how can you get your Google My Business rating to go up?
There’s no “quick and easy” trick to attain an overnight 5-star average with 1,000 reviews on Google.
It takes time and work, but, ultimately, it’s worth the effort.
Getting a higher rating on the Local Finder is one of the keys to your local business’s success.
46% of Google searches are for local businesses, so a good GMB profile with high ratings is crucial for your success.
We’ve already mentioned how vital your GMB rating is for your local business rank.
Now let’s cover how to get more positive reviews and boost your rating.
Respond to All Reviews
One of the best things you can do for your Google rating is to respond to every single review left on your profile.
Responding to reviews has 3 benefits:
- Shows that you value your customers.
- Gives you a chance to make a good impression on potential customers.
- Helps you resolve negative reviews (and turn them into positive ones!).
Whenever you’re responding to a review, think about what would positively impact you when searching for a business — what would make you want to visit them?
Typically, we don’t like to read negative, nasty comments from business owners because it makes them look temperamental and mean.
Instead, we like reading helpful, kind, and generous responses.
When someone leaves you a positive review:
- Thank them for their business and their kind words.
- Tell them you’re looking forward to serving them again.
When someone leaves you a negative review:
- Apologize for the negative experience.
- Offer a discount, refund, or some other token.
- Ask how you and your team can avoid the same error in the future.
These types of responses will show your genuine care and concern for your customers and will encourage new visitors to give your business a try.
Ask Customers for Positive Reviews
One of the main issues business owners run into is that most people don’t think to leave a review.
Even if people enjoy a positive, 5-star experience with you, they usually don’t leave Google reviews.
To remedy this, start asking customers to leave you positive reviews on Google.
Most customers will be happy to leave you a review, and it can quickly add up to lots of positive reviews for potential customers to read.
Keep in mind:
- Only ask customers to leave you a review when you’re sure they were happy with your service.
- If a customer had a complaint while working with you, call or email them to ask how you can improve your service in the future.
- Tell customers that you would appreciate a “positive” review. Emphasizing “positive” encourages the customer to contact you directly about complaints instead of leaving them as reviews.
The fortune is in the follow-up.
Following up with your customers is the most crucial step to building your GMB profile with fantastic reviews.
Track Your GMB Rank with ProRankTracker
Finally, you should continuously be tracking your GMB rank with rank-tracking software.
Since your GMB rating has such a profound impact on your rank, keeping track of your rank can alert you whenever there are issues you need to address.
ProRankTracker allows you to keep track of your business’s Local Finder ranking.
We’ve made it easy — all you have to do is:
- Navigate to the Add Wizard in the toolbar.
- Fill in your URL and keywords.
- Select “Also track Google Snack Pack (top 3 maps) and local finder (top 100 maps).”
- Fill in your GMB information for ProRankTracker to track.
After adding your GMB to ProRankTracker, you’ll instantly know how your Google reviews are affecting your rank.
You’ll also know if any fake Google reviews are hurting your business by keeping your rank low.
To check on your rank, go to the URL view.
ProRankTracker will show you if and how your GMB rank has changed recently.
If it’s gone up, don’t change anything.
If it’s gone down, you may want to look for recent negative reviews, and if they’re fake, you can follow the steps in this article to dispute and remove them.
Fake Google reviews are common, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t a sustainable strategy for your business.
You should never buy Google reviews — it’ll only hurt your business in the long run.
If you think you’re being attacked with fake reviews, follow our steps to learn how to identify and report a fake Google review.
Remember — asking for positive reviews and providing a genuinely valuable service are the best ways to improve your GMB profile.
Track your ranks to ensure you’re staying up-to-date on your profile’s health.
What have you done to respond to fake Google reviews?
Let us know how you improve your GMB profile health in the comments below!