Online reviews can make or break a small business. So how do you make sure that the Google reviews you receive are ethical, effective, and helpful? Here are some tips to make sure your reviews are good and legal.

Table of Contents

Can You Get in Trouble for Fake Google Reviews?

Fake reviews are considered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to be false and deceptive advertising, which is illegal. They categorize them as illegal because they aren’t based on a real customer’s experience and they mislead potential customers to spend money on a product or service they might not have purchased if they hadn’t read an online review. So having fake Google reviews is technically against the law. And Google will remove any review they see as unfit or inauthentic. 

But this line between legal and illegal reviews isn’t always so obvious. A false Google review can be from someone trying to quickly boost a business with fake positive reviews. Or it can be from an actual person who leaves a negative review online that may or may not have anything to do with the product or service being sold.  

There will always be some who leave negative reviews on your site for a bunch of different reasons. 

Some of these reasons could be: 

  • Public protest and punishment
  • Blackmail
  • Revenge
  • Businesses sabotaging competitors

And Google’s review policy is clear. As a business owner,  you shouldn’t offer or accept money for online testimonials.

It can be hard to monitor your online reviews depending on the size of your business, and it isn’t a perfect science. But the best way to make sure you get effective online reviews is to provide the best product or service you can and trust your customers to represent you well online.

How Do Negative Google Reviews Affect Your SEO?

One of the ranking factors in SEO is prominence, and this is where reviews fall under. A business should aim to get as many positive and authentic reviews as possible. And a few negative reviews shouldn’t penalize your online reputation. 

But if the scale tips and you are receiving a large amount of negative reviews, it can hurt your SEO including your businesses’ local map pack rankings. In a recent Search Sessions, our SEO professionals talked about how reviews affect local rankings, and how to make sure that your SEO stays successful. 

It’s important to be vigilant about business reviews! If they’re authentic and negative, engage with it and fix the situation with an unsatisfied customer or client. Google wants to see situations rectified. However, if they’re fake google reviews, there are ways to spot them and take action to remove them.

7 Ways on How to Spot Fake Google Reviews

1. Timing

Paying attention to when a review was posted can play an important role in discovering if it is an authentic or fake Google review. Was it posted close to a public protest? Is the public punishing a business for something that they said or did at one point in time? The protest may have nothing to do with the product or service the business is selling, but instead may be a demonstration of some disagreement or public misunderstanding

2. Language

Another way to spot false Google reviews is to pay attention to the type of language the reviewer uses. Does it sound natural or is it robotic? Do they use grammar correctly or is it broken and difficult to understand? This is a simple but effective way to spot fake reviews on Google.

3. Strange patterns

This method is a little more complicated, and will take some more time, but it is a great way to find dishonest or spam-filled Google reviews. For example, does a user leave one business a 5 star review and then gives a direct competitor of that business a 1 star review? If you notice a pattern like this it is obvious that the reviewer is trying to sabotage a competitor.

4. Frequency

Similar to the first tip, the frequency of reviews posted can be an indication of the authenticity of the Google reviews. Are the reviews being posted in a short time frame all at once? This is a good indicator of public protest, punishment, or cancel culture. This can happen when businesses choose not to support a specific cause or person and then their review score is brought down by a large amount of negative reviews around that same time.

5. Anonymous or fake-looking profiles

You can also find fake reviews by paying close attention to the profile the reviewer has set up. If the profiles are anonymous, unfinished, or seem to be filled with fake information it is a big red flag. Also, if they have no profile picture or have a history of leaving bad reviews it would be a good idea to dig a little deeper and make sure that you are dealing with a real consumer and not just a fake account.

6. No purchase history or recollection of the reviewer

Check your database for purchases from someone with that profile name or speak to staff members to see if their review story matches up with anything that the staff members remember about their experience with that customer.

7. Blatantly false information

This is maybe the quickest way to find false Google reviews. When you see a review or testimonial that contains fake facts and doesn’t offer the truth in any way shape or form, you know they are just trying to harm your business and your online reputation.

How to Dispute and Remove a Fake Google Review

Google will remove reviews if they violate their guidelines. But there are also some steps you can take to dispute and remove fake Google reviews.

1. Flag as inappropriate

If you find a review to be inappropriate, meaning it is offensive or contains language which is offensive to you or your customers, you can flag it so Google can investigate further and potentially remove that review. You must be logged into your Google My Business account to access and flag a review.

2. Report a policy violation

Once you flag a review as inappropriate, you’ll be taken to a page that prompts you to report a policy violation. On this page you will be asked to provide your email address and specify why you flagged the review as inappropriate.

3. Contact Google My Business Support

If flagging and reporting a review is proving to be unsuccessful, you can call or email Google My Business Support. You should include screenshots providing information about the situation.

4. Respond to the review

If all other attempts have failed and you cannot remove the review, respond to it in a way that shows you’re trying to rectify the situation. From there, focus on generating authentic, positive reviews!

You Can Overcome False Google Reviews

As a business owner, you believe in your product or service, and you want to provide your customers with the best shopping experience possible. So it can be difficult when you see false or inaccurate reviews online. However, knowing when these reviews are fake and how to report them can help you stay on top of your SEO efforts so you can keep ranking online and finding the customers who are looking for you. And you don’t have to brave it alone. At Boostability we offer affordable local SEO services to help your business grow and succeed online.



Krystin is the Social Media and Brand Management Coordinator at Boostability. Specializing in curating engaging social posts that keep our readers, partners, and clients informed on the latest digital marketing updates, trending news, and best practices to enhance their SEO campaigns. In addition to that, Krystin spearheads the review generation and management initiative throughout the entire company. Outside of work, Krystin loves BTS, baking, Harry Potter, and trying new local restaurants in her community (especially brunch and coffee)!