Google recently published a blog post detailing its efforts to spot and remove fake Google business reviews. As more than one billion people rely on the platform every month, Google must keep its content accurate and trustworthy.
The company has updated its machine learning systems to catch fraudulent content before they get published, as well as hiring expert analysts to monitor for any suspicious activity. With these measures in place, users of Google Maps can rest assured that they are receiving reliable information when searching for businesses they need (or want).
Even then, getting 5-star reviews isn’t impossible. While fake Google reviews might seem like an easy way to boost your business’s visibility online, they could do far more harm than good in the long run.
Contributed Content: How It Works
Google doesn’t only use reviews alone to rank businesses in Google Maps and its search engine. Instead, they use what they call “contributed content” to signal a business’s quality and relevance to what you’re searching for. Contributed content, also known as user-generated content, is everything you’ll see people post about a business through Google services, more specifically:
- Customer reviews: These are reviews left by customers on Google Maps.
- Videos and images: Photos and videos that customers take of your business and post on your Google Business Profile.
- Customer ratings: Stars and thumbs up/down ratings given to your business on Google Maps and other review websites.
While people can easily spot fake reviews on Google, moderating content from across a web of millions of businesses is exceedingly overwhelming, even for a team composed of Googlers.
That’s why they also use machine learning.
Because machine learning tracks patterns and identifies anomalies, it’s the perfect tool for weeding out suspicious activity. Google’s machine learning tools scan reviews for common words and phrases associated with fake reviews, then flag them for removal if need be.
Google’s algorithms look at various angles to determine the authenticity of the review, namely:
- The review content.
- The profile of the person who left the review.
- The business that received the review.
Because they’re so good at identifying patterns, Google’s machine learning algorithms accurately detect fake reviews with minimal false positives. In the rare case that a legitimate review is marked as suspicious, Google’s human moderators intervene and determine whether or not to keep or remove the review.
The Report in Numbers
So, how is Google doing so far? If you plan on using fake Google reviews, we suggest you refrain from doing it.
“It’s a terrible idea to buy fake reviews. Google will punish the business with a suspension or [by] removing [their] GBP account,” said Tim Clarke, Rize’s Senior Reputation Manager.
And that’s not empty fear-mongering, either. Google has made significant strides in helping secure its services from fraudulent Google Business reviews in 2022.
Here are Google’s cold, hard numbers from the report:
- Blocked or removed over 115 million policy-violating Google Maps reviews. Most of these reviews are taken down even before they get published.
- Blocked or removed over 200 million photos that were either blurry, low-quality, or violative of Google review policies.
- Blocked or removed 7 million videos that were either blurry, low-quality, or violative of Google review policies
- Stopped 20 million attempts to create fake Business Profiles
- Protected 185,000 businesses after detecting patterns of abusive behavior and suspicious activity.
Google also filed a lawsuit against a group of fraudsters that posed as Google selling fake reviews through telemarketing calls.
Its active campaign against fake Google reviews has been a success, and the report is an encouraging sign for legitimate businesses. This shows that counterfeit Google business reviews not only hurt your reputation but can also lead to serious legal consequences.
So, Are Fake Google Local Business Reviews a Bad Idea?
Generating quick, fake reviews for your business sounds easy, but with enhanced mechanisms to spot fake reviews, there’s a high chance your business gets into trouble just by having fake reviews on Google.
Here are some reasons why it’s definitely a bad idea.
You Could Lose Credibility With Customers
Reviews are a significant factor in a customer’s decision-making process. When you fake reviews on Google, and someone uncovers the fact, your credibility and reputation take a major hit.
Not only do you damage the trust between you and that customer, but you also lose future business from them and others. Faking Google reviews for business is a shady practice that few customers will forgive, and the risk is just not worth the reward.
Your Competitors Could Out You
Like it or not, your competitors have online review checker platforms and tools to detect fake Google Maps reviews and more.
If they find out you’re gaming the system, it could mean bad press for your business. Competitors will be all too happy to expose you to potential customers as someone untrustworthy. Similarly, customers could also call you out for your fakery, scaring away potential new leads.
Tim said that “new businesses like to buy fake reviews to catch up to the older businesses right away.” However, “it’s obvious to the public and Google and it’s risky and against the rules.”
All it takes is one bad review to damage the credibility of your business and risk losing loyal customers.
It Goes Against Google Review Policies
This has been a major point of discussion in this blog post: Google has been cracking down on counterfeit Google local business reviews, and they’re not slowing down any time soon. The search engine’s algorithm punishes businesses that use fake reviews by ranking them lower in search results.
Moreover, Google can even remove your Google reviews for business or take down your listing altogether.
You don’t want to mess with Google – it’s just not worth it.
It’s Just… Unethical
At the end of the day, creating fake reviews is simply unethical. It’s lying to your customers, deceiving them into thinking your business is better than it actually is.
If your business indeed provides excellent services and products, genuine reviews will naturally come in. Focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences, and positive review generation will be a breeze.
The Case for Legitimate, 5 Star Reviews
Now, let’s go to the other side of the coin: legitimate 5-star reviews. We believe that legit reviews are the way to go for any business, big or small.
You Exert the Same Amount of Effort
It’s a myth that legitimate reviews take longer to accumulate than fake ones.
Focusing your efforts on providing excellent customer experiences even when asking for reviews from your website helps you generate a steady stream of 5 star reviews. That’s the same amount (if not less) of effort you would have put in for fake Google local business reviews.
Plus, you don’t have to pay for bots. Instead, you can use review monitoring, response and generation software that helps you get genuine, quality reviews at scale. For instance, Tim said Rize’s managed service solution “cuts down on the time and clicks to leave a positive review” through SMS, email, QR codes and even landing pages. It’s a cost-effective and unique solution that guarantees a high volume of reviews from real people.
They’re a Sign of Real Excellence
Reviews are a reflection of a business’s overall performance.
When customers take the time to write a positive review, it’s a good indication that your business has exceeded their expectations. Legitimate, 5-star reviews are not easy to come by and are considered valuable. These reviews provide social proof of your quality and can be a vital factor in a customer’s buying decision.
You can verify the reviews you receive with an online review checker that easily identifies if a review is real or not, allowing you to protect your business and improve your online reputation management. In fact, subscription services like Rize’s Checker detect false and fishy reviews on top of a full-time staff manually checking these reviews as well.
Long-Term Brand Confidence
Having legitimate reviews goes beyond building trust with potential customers. They also help maintain long-term brand confidence.
Consistently generating genuinely glowing reviews and having a reliable review response system in place shows your customers that you care about them and their experience. Having a solid base of satisfied customers that leave real and honest reviews helps your brand thrive in the long run and keeps your business relevant to future customers.
Authentic Customer Insights
Any honest review gets you into the minds of your customers to understand their needs and pain points and builds a deeper relationship with them. Genuine feedback from happy customers helps you hone in on your business’s strengths and make necessary changes that could further improve your customer’s experience.
This inside information not only helps improve your business processes but also leads to more positive reviews, resulting in more customers for your business.
Google (Maps and Rankings) Will Love You
Google has made customer reviews an integral part of local SEO algorithms. Google Maps and Search results show businesses with higher ratings and more reviews at the top of the page. This means that companies with legitimate Google reviews for business are more likely to appear at the top of their Search results.
Your business is also more likely to show up in Google’s “local pack,” which displays the top three results for a particular search query. The more positive and genuine reviews you have, the more likely you’ll rank higher in SERPs.
Get More Authentic Reviews With Rize
Never underestimate the power of authentic Google Maps reviews. They can make or break your business’s online presence. More importantly, don’t be tempted to take the shortcut – focus instead on providing excellent customer experiences and let legitimate reviews come in naturally.
At Rize, we’ve designed a review generation platform to help businesses generate more real, quality reviews fast and easy. Our automated workflow makes it simple for companies to get the positive reviews they deserve without spending too much time and effort.
We provide a comprehensive list of online reputation management tools and services for your needs, such as:
- Online review checker tool
- Website review widget
- Review monitoring services
- Review response services
- A combination of these services and more
Schedule a demo with us and see how done-for-you reputation management can do wonders for your company!