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review management tips

Fake Negative Reviews: Why and When They Happen

One of the main triggers for local businesses to seek assistance in their brand reputation and review management efforts is often the suspicion that competitors are not playing fair.

In fact, many business owners would carry on without realizing the importance of reviews – until, that is, the fateful day in which they discover a highly suspicious fake negative review. (For example: Chef Writes Fake Reviews to Blemish Competing Restaurants’ Brand Reputation)

In cases like this, know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let’s take a look at a few smart strategies to help you handle – and prevent – suspicious negative reviews.

Prevention: develop brand differentiators

Businesses are more likely to act defensively and feel threatened if they perceive too many similarities among those in their comparative set.

One of the best ways to protect your online brand reputation is to ensure that at all times your offering is unique. A strong brand differentiator will protect your business by communicating to potential competitors that you are not even playing in the same game field.

This is especially important if you are a market entrant in a situation that appears to already be saturated. If this is the case, it would make sense for you to reconsider your business plan, as there are other risks inherent to participating in a market that is already saturated. Among them is the potential of competitive behaviors driving the prices down for everyone, thus reducing margins across the board and placing your business in a vulnerable position.

To put it in simple terms, one of the best strategies to create and maintain a superior online reputation is to be the only one in your category.

Manage reviews and reputation from Day 1

Attacking a business with a strong and vibrant brand reputation is pretty tricky. Which means that if you are managing your online reputation from the start – and that customers are reviewing you well and often – then you are protected against malicious and false reviews by virtue of a strong cumulative score.

In addition, when someone posts something negative about a popular venue on a review site, chances are brand advocates and fans will step up to defend the venue.

Managing your brand reputation is essential to the growth of your business. If done well, it will be self-sustaining and protect itself from anomalies such as malicious, false reviews from competitors, or rants from vindictive customers.

Check out other potential victims

If you suspect another business in your category is out to trash your online profiles, there’s a good chance they are not going exclusively after you.

Spend a little time doing your homework to see if there is a pattern across several competitors. If you spot similar negative reviews within a tight timeframe, then go ahead and take screenshots; you will need them when escalating to the host site.

You may also want to alert the other businesses affected. The chances of false reviews getting removed are higher if multiple businesses escalate in association with a particular user.

Study and compare language and tone 

Fake reviews written by competitors and seeded with the intention of attacking your business often follow a pattern. Spend time studying the language, and look for similarities on the part of the fake profile.

If the user has a highly negative review posted to your profile and several positive reviews posted to the suspect business, take screenshots and highlight language similarities. Having these handy will be helpful when asking the review site moderation team to lend you a hand by rectifying the issue.

Respond to the review politely

False negative reviews should be treated with the same level of care and consideration as real negative reviews. Take it as an opportunity to rise up to the occasion and provide the pseudo-customer with the greatest levels of customer care.

Offer a resolution and encourage the reviewer to give you another chance. Your response will serve as a pre-moderation lifeline aimed at telling other potential customers that even when things go wrong, you are committed to each and every customer.

Flag the review

Once you have posted a response in order to protect your image, go ahead and flag the review for removal. Your escalation should be detail-rich and provide as much evidence as possible to help the moderation team side with you and remove the review or reviews in question.

Get more positive reviews to push fake reviews out of sight 

Like we said before, a strong review profile with high levels of activity is your best weapon, when and if a fake review is posted about your business.

New reviews will supersede the false negative review, and before you know it, it will no longer be visible in the first page of your profile. Even if it is, the information will be drowned out by multiple accolades from your real happy customers.

Not everybody plays fair. If your business is the victim of false reviews from the competition, know that you are neither the first nor the last to be subject to this type of behavior. With the right evidence in hand, the moderation team from the host site will most likely side with you once you have escalated the issue.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.


  1. Jessica

    Thanks for this! I’ve had exactly this issue at one of the locations I work with. We were certain it was a fake review not only because of the language but because one of the employees (one that is referenced in the review actually) worked at the competitor in question and witnessed them creating different accounts to make fake reviews.

    In their case they would use their smart phones and coffee shops to deal with IP issues and any identification issues.

    Fortunately they used completely false information in their post, claiming that a store in our area was closed when it isn’t and never has been. It allowed us to question the credibility of their review and then of course offer to help with the issue if they were certain that they were talking about the correct stores.

    It’s really annoying that a competitor will spend this much time posting fake reviews of other stores but they’re doing it because their real reviews were not good and of course they’re using these same accounts to post good reviews of their store.

    Needless to say I’m looking forward to seeing what Google does in the future to ferret out these fake reviews. I know they are working hard on the issue and I personally couldn’t be happier about that. I suspect businesses engaging in this practice will suffer greatly once consumers know what they have been up to. Such a stupid way to get your ranking up but the only way if you’re not actually willing to give good customer service, service, or a good product.

  2. Ann

    “Respond to the review politely”…this brings to mind the small restaurant that was featured on a TV show (can’t remember the name), the business owners went and started a war (so to speak) with the ones who left a bad review…..not advisable at all. In this aspect, a bad review is NOT good for business. But you also have to question some reviews that seem to…..have such glowing reviews. (I’ve noticed it with a few small local businesses around us that are run by Asians….) I have left good reviews on businesses that I go to, but I’ve also left reviews at places that I’ve been cheated out of certain items, whether it be product, pricing, customer service. All I know is we do not go back once we get this kind of treatment.

  3. MartinjukM

    Have you guys ever had an experience with reoccurring fake reviews? I actually know for a fact that there are people paid to post fake reviews on competition’s sites. I was wondering how bad can the situation get before one decides to act, I mean, one bad review is not a big deal, but what happens if the reviewer is persistent?

  4. Nicholas Oli

    It’s no science rocket to detect fake reviews. They are all missing facts!

  5. F2Xsites

    Fake reviews can be recognized by not having a single positive aspect about the restaurant/business. The world is really not that black and white: when you study the positive reviews, they always have a note that says “hey, everything was great, but they could work on this and that..” and the negative ones are never only negative; they usually say “this was bad, that was bad, but the thing that was good was this and that…”

    Black and white reviews are usually a good indication of a fake review.

  6. FirenzeZ

    There will always be fake reviews. Even if you spot the fake reviews and flag them, not all of them will be removed. No matter how hard you try, there will always be haters. Try to deal with them with replies, if flagging don’t work.

  7. Doyle

    I have replied and flagged some spam reviews on my Yelp profile, but they replied that the reviews are authentic and not fake. Even when 3 reviews came from users presented as Andy00125, Andy11055 and Andy55012….how obvious is that these are fake. On top of it all, the reviews were posted inside an hour on the same day. Buy according to Yelp they are authentic and will not be reviewed. Even the comments were the same things told in different ways. I applied another ticked for removal of these reviews and if this time they don’t remove them I will close my Yelp account. You can’t fight the system, the system always win.

  8. Alan Alan

    I guess it really is true, high school never ends.

  9. Gabby Dell from SC

    Not only competitor is writing negative reviews, but also ex-employee…I think is no solution to ignore that … you need to treat that such as real reviews. I agree with the article.

  10. Austin

    Just flag negative review!

  11. Nikki Stewart

    Crystal Shuller, open your bag and share your tricks with us!

  12. Mel Salada

    I fired an SEO company back in February 2017 for completely messing up my Google Listing. They called themselves Our Local Advantage. My google listing was so messed up that “locals” could no longer find me. In fact after I brought that to their attention, my Google listing disappeared completely. After a month of this, I wanted a refund and I would fix the problem myself. They refused. What? Take money for a service and make things worse for your business is how they operate? I left them a detailed Yelp review with names, dates and the whole experience.
    Immediately after that posted, fake profiles and fake reviews started popping up about me all over the internet from people I have never heard of. I’ve been flagging, rebutting, for months. Disappointing that most sights do not verify reviewers, just businesses.

  13. IamPooja

    Super Blog! It give more information about techniques of Online Reputation. I have query, what if some one give negative review not belongs to that location ?