Google’s Stance on Fake Reviews
Google claims that they have “no tolerance” for fake reviews, that inaccurate reviews will be removed, and that there is no place for spam in their reviews.
That all sounds great—but is it true? Are Google reviews reliable?
We can’t forget that Google, a seemingly innocuous search-engine, is at heart company with its own interests in mind. More activity on Google is good for Google—regardless of whether or not that content is genuine.
Great news for Google: the number of customer reviews on their site has risen exponentially in the past several years. In 2014, reviews spiked by 80% from the previous year. The following year, they increased by 114%. And in 2016, they grew by 278%.
Who Can We Trust?
Despite all these reviews—or perhaps because of them—the ratings on Google simply aren’t reliable.
This can be frustrating for small business owners who suffer from phony reviews. And it misleads consumers into making purchases based on recommendations that aren’t based on facts or even opinions.
Sadly, you can’t always trust what you see on the internet. Here’s why.
Google Does a Bad Job at Filtering Phony Reviews
Google’s got strong search-engine algorithms. That’s why they’re so successful. But their algorithmic skill isn’t strong in every aspect.
Google is terrible at spotting fake reviews: and they’re pretty obvious. Strange, jumbled names who leave a generic comment and positive review are clearly fake accounts. Often, similar accounts like these appear for the same company around the same time. This is how you know a business paid for reviews (which we’ll get into later).
Or, you’ll see someone leaving negative reviews for multiple similar businesses around the same time. Do you believe that anyone would purchase (and review) eight mattress companies within the same month? And only those companies? Seems fishy, right? That’s a review paid for by the competition.
So, you might be thinking, Google doesn’t filter out fake customer reviews. Isn’t that the responsibility of the business owner? Maybe.
But, it gets worse.
Reported Reviews Don’t Always Get Removed
Countless business owners have complained time and time again that they struggle to get reviews removed.
For obvious reasons, Google doesn’t share data with the public about how many of these reports they receive (or how many are removed). But personal accounts claim that even after reporting the same comment several times for months, they hear nothing back.
As mentioned, Google is interested in its own growth. More comments mean more traffic, more advertising, and more money. Thinking like a big business: why ruin a good thing—even it costs the online reputation and integrity of small businesses?
Unlike Amazon—which began suing fake reviewers in 2015—Google seems content to let them slide.
People Buy and Sell Reviews with No Remorse
We can’t pin it all on Google, though. Untrustworthy businesses buy fake customer reviews like there’s no tomorrow.
There’s a black market online where people offer to write fake reviews for as little as $5. Disguised as freelancers or marketing websites, these fake reviews taint the integrity of many businesses Google listing.
Whether they leave a positive or negative review, these spammers don’t operate on a business model of conscience.
The Moral of The Story: Read the Ratings
If you’re an honest business owner, there’s not much you can do about fake reviews except expose them as fake on the comments.
As a consumer, do yourself (and your local businesses) a favor by reading through the reviews instead of relying on their star rating.
You might discover one of your favorite spots isn’t as honest as you’d hoped. Be a part of the solution—not the problem.