How To Get A (whacko) Google Review Removed

Have you received any reviews like this?

I was denied service because I wouldn’t wear their socialist mask.  I will never ever shop at Menards ever again.

Or this?

Totally against healthy people lowering their immunity and being forced to breath in harmful air wearing mask. This takes away fresh air needed by every living person. Why do scientists wear complete suits with oxygen ports to work with harmful viruses yet a mask that doesn’t keep out any virus. If everyone would just research truth they would see this for what it is. Control and stepping on our constitutional rights.

My recent exploration of Menard’s and the world of Covid reviews reminded me how reviews have become a central forum for folks, rightly or wrongly, to express their politics.

Menards has received this type of review in great numbers. When I pointed a number of them out to Google, they noted that reviews like the above violated their content and review policy that explicitly prohibits “political, social commentary, or personal rants”. The rules indicate that: “Content that does not meet this standard will be removed.” And many of these sorts of reviews were in fact removed from Menards. 

So let’s take a look at how to assess Google reviews like this and the steps you can take to have them looked at and possibly removed.

What Should You Do With A Google Review That Violates Their Policy?

Don’t despair. You will probably need to step back and take a breath. We live in a tumultuous time and folks seem to feel free to express their politics within their online reviews when they should be highlighting your policies and practices. 

By all means keep asking for new reviews, if your plan to get that terrible review removed comes to naught you will have that many more positive reviews for your prospects to look at. 

At least in the case of the political anti-mask type review criticizing your masking policy, recognize that you are on the right side of the business case and on the right side of the consumer case. Having someone criticize you for having too strict of a policy is likely to be a net plus for your overall business on both the income and customer satisfaction fronts. 

Initially, at least, you should NOT respond to the review. Google, if they see you have responded, will assume that the review is legitimate and will ignore future actions you might take. 

Read The Guidelines

Next step is to familiarize yourself with Google Maps’s general user generated content guidelines  as well as the review specific guidelines

Where Should You Flag The Review?

Once you have put everything in perspective your next stop should be to report the review to Google by flagging it within your Google My Business Dashboard. You could flag it within Google Maps but Google Maps gets 20 million edits a day and the flag might get lost in the confusion.

Flagging the review in Google My Business is Google’s recommended best practice path and the choice with the highest likelihood of having the review successfully removed.

How to flag a review for removal

Here are the steps to get the review removed:

  1. Navigate to business.google.com, login and locate your business
  2. Select Reviews from the left hand menu
  3. Scroll to the appropriate review and remove any owner response you may have left
  4. Click on the 3 dots in the upper right of the review and select “Flag as inappropriate”
  5. You will be presented with a dialog box noting that the review must violate Google’s content policy. Click Continue
  6. A final dialog box asking what is wrong with this review will be presented. The choices do not match the stated reasons very well so select “Offensive or sexually explicit” and click Report
The choices do not match the stated reasons very well so select “Offensive or sexually explicit”.

Because these flagged requests are actively reviewed, there is no need to flag the review multiple times.

Google will email the status of your request

One of the significant advantages of reporting your reviews via the Google My Business Dashboard is that you will receive communication from Google as to the status of the request.

Within a few minutes of the request you will receive an acknowledgement from Google My Business indicating that your request is being assessed.

They note in the email that within 3 days you will have your decision from Google.

It often doesn’t take three days and you will often hear back in as little as several hours.

If You Are Turned Down, What’s Next?

Hopefully, the response back will be positive. But if it isn’t you have several choices for your next steps.

One is to respond to the review and move on. 

If you firmly believe after further examination of the Google content guidelines that the review violates one of the stated terms, you can take your case to the Google My Business Forum. Share the review content there and if one of the Google Product Experts there agrees with your assessment, they can escalate the review for a final look. 

Getting reviews removed for any reason other than the stated violations in the guidelines is unlikely to happen. You need to realize that it doesn’t matter to Google whether the person actually did business with you or not. Google’s only criteria are whether that person had some direct interaction with your business and there was an obvious violation of the above reasons. By obvious, I mean that the review content itself indicates the reality.

While it might not seem totally fair, if the reviews do clearly violate one of the stated guidelines Google will in fact remove them. Regardless, if the review is reported via the GMB Dashboard, Google will inform you within that 3 day time frame of their decision to either remove or leave the review up.

About The Author

Mike Blumenthal is a co-founder of GatherUp and helps oversee our research, industry insight and agency offering. Mike has long been regarded as the foremost expert on local search and Google Maps, earning the nickname “Professor Maps”. Mike also co-founded Local University, which provides small business and agency training in sustainable local search marketing. His motto: All Local All the Time.  He writes at his blog and does a twice a week LocalU podcast about Local marketing. 

9 Replies to “How To Get A (whacko) Google Review Removed”

  1. Cheers Mike this has to be a growing problem that many businesses just aren’t setup to deal with… the don’t respond also seems counterintuitive to many folks but makes sense. On a different note I have found the flag “conflict of interest” seems to be completely ignored by Google when trying to get 5 star reviews left by their staff….

    I do agree the best strategy is to keep focusing on driving more amazing reviews to try and bury the crazy/fake reviews is a decent enough strategy. On the topic of this store forced me to wear a mask I’d be more likely to visit that business if I saw it in a review!

    1. @David
      Thanks!

      I personally don’t return to stores that don’t enforce masking and do frequently leave reviews about it… although living in a small town, I use one of my many Google aliases.

    1. Fernando
      Flagging a rating only review is done the exact same way. But the likelihood of google taking it down is virtually zero. This is a significant flaw in their thinking.

  2. >you should NOT respond to the review. Google, if they see you have responded,
    >will assume that the review is legitimate and will ignore future actions you might
    >take.

    What’re your thoughts on legitimate responses along the lines of:

    “Our records do not show any clients with your name having been served by our firm. We also do not have any staff by the name of Allison working here. We believe you left this review for the wrong business.”

    1. @Jay
      As noted in the article, you should only respond in that fashion after all appeals for removal have been exhausted and you have decided to live with it. I am fine with the angle of the response but it could take on a slightly gentler tone…. the goal here is to convince other readers of the review that you are reasonable adults and will care for them if things go wrong.

  3. Thanks Mike for the very informative google review , I will make sure to utilize your advice in my web design company reputation management. Once again, thank you, and keep up the good work.

  4. Hi Mike, thanks for this article. Very helpful.
    And if you have reviews from a competitor. For example, a user who leaves negative reviews for all competitors in the area except one. Can you report to Google in the same way?

    1. @Laura
      Competitor reviews can be reported in the same way but if they do not include language that violates the TOS, they will not come down. So you should, in that case, be prepared to detail all of your research in a Google Doc and share that in the forum to see if you can get it escalated.

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