01 Jun VIDEO: 3 Things Google Can do to Help the Fake Review Problem
Welcome Web Punch Nation. I am Matt Jones, your host. It might look a little different today because I was out taking some photos in Canada this last weekend and I dropped a lens that broke, and I didn’t want to use that for the video. So I’ve got a different lens on there so things might look a little different. It’s a little more zoomed in so hopefully that doesn’t negatively impact the video, but just know that it might be different. So Toronto was amazing. Quebec was amazing. I highly recommend you go if you are in Canada. Speaking of Toronto, there was a business owner about a month ago who was used to seeing two to three reviews a week from his business, just a few trickling in, but one morning he woke up and he had 50 new reviews. And at first he was excited, until he looked at the reviews and the review pattern was really different than what his customers usually write for his company.
For one, they had names that were kind of weird, like Jacko Mumbai I think was one of them, which, if you’re Jacko and you’re watching, I apologize but that’s not a real common name. It sounds like something that someone made up and another thing is these profiles didn’t have any information that would indicate who this person was. They hadn’t really been reviewing other businesses. It was just this one review. Also, they weren’t putting any test in their reviews. Just empty. I wanted to talk about that a little bit because as a business owner, those can be some of the most difficult reviews to get removed from your profile; those that don’t have any text. Google looks at the reviewer and they can’t see anything that violates their terms and conditions so the reviews are harder to get taken down. So just be aware of that, that those can be tricky but you still should try to get them removed.
We’ve done quite a bit of content about what you can do to get those reviews removed from your listing so go ahead and check out some of the other videos that talk about how to do that. But, again, I think it’s one of those things that can really hurt your business so it’s worth doing. Google doesn’t know who your clients are – you know who your clients are. A lot of times you even know the specific person who left the review or what the instance they might be talking about in the review and what happened there. But Google doesn’t, so they only have a few things to look at. Obviously I’m not Google so I don’t know everything that they look at but it’s been a problem for a lot of companies, these fake reviews so it’s worth trying to get them removed and flagging them down.
I do think that Google has done some things. They’re trying to improve the ecosystem, the review ecosystem. They’ve done the Google Gating, where they don’t allow gated reviews to be posted and there are some consequences to that. We did a video about that so check that out as well. Google is constantly changing their algorithms. There are things I think that they could do that would actually help businesses protect their reputation better, and we’ll talk about that reason, but people use reviews nowadays and they do fake reviews for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes it’s a competitor who’s trying to damage you. Sometimes people use online reviews as a soap box to talk about any political issue that is going on in that day and age that the company might take a stand that is against theirs. For example, there was a cake decorator in Colorado who didn’t want to decorate a cake for a homosexual couple, and I know his business listing got bombarded from both sides. People who supported him and people who thought that what he was doing was wrong. So people do…those aren’t really reviews that reflect a person’s interaction with that business personally. They haven’t really done business so, again, those violate the terms and conditions for leaving a review for a company but, you know, again that’s one reason why people do it.
And I think that there are some things that Google could do to improve the situation, and the first thing is I think they could make it easier for businesses to report a review that they feel is fake. So right now you can flag the review but I think what would be even more helpful is if they had a drop down menu where they had all of their terms and conditions listed and you could select which one or ones that particular review violated. That would save the person who’s evaluating to see if that review is in violation of their terms and conditions and what ground you have to stand on to make that claim. I think it would be really helpful for them to do that.
Another thing I think is if they could make their algorithms more aggressive in identifying reviews that may be fake. Again, I know it’s something that they’ve worked on and I think the pendulum can swing on the other side where you could go to Yelp’s extreme, where they actually filter out a lot of legitimate reviews that are posted but are taken down because they violate Yelp’s algorithm for whatever reason. I don’t know that Google should go that far, but I do think for the example of that Toronto business, where if you’re getting a few reviews a week and all of a sudden you get 50, maybe those reviews are quarantined so someone can look at those before they go live and are evaluated by the public to consume. Something where human interaction can look and maybe see the IP addresses from which the different reviews were being reviewed from. Again, it’s not perfect but maybe they could be a little bit more aggressive about protecting a company who is getting reviews in an irregular pattern from what they normally get from their customers’ reviews.
Another thing I think that would really be helpful is for them to go the route of Yelp, as well, and maybe identify companies that are paying for reviews. Identify companies that are violating the terms and conditions and have done so knowingly. These are companies that are out there like the recent example of a law firm in Canada who was giving out zoo passes, year zoo passes, for anyone who left them a positive review on Google. Again, that violates Google’s terms and conditions, and Google did something about it. They removed the reviews but maybe they could go even a step further and say, “Look, this company has done this so the reviews moving forward should be evaluated on the merits of them breaking the terms and conditions in the past.” I don’t know if that’s too Draconian. Something to think about but maybe some way of identifying companies who have flagrantly violated the rules. I know those companies are sometimes blacklisted and I don’t think that we should punish people forever, but at the same time I think reviews are only as valid as they can be trusted. So making sure that reviews are trusted is a really important part of making sure that people use Google reviews to make business decisions. I’m Matt Jones and we’ll catch you next episode.