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.“
“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:
- Navigate to business.google.com, login and locate your business
- Select Reviews from the left hand menu
- Scroll to the appropriate review and remove any owner response you may have left
- Click on the 3 dots in the upper right of the review and select “Flag as inappropriate”
- You will be presented with a dialog box noting that the review must violate Google’s content policy. Click Continue
- 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
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.
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