Most of us take out our phones and do a quick Google search to find the best local businesses for food, entertainment, and travel. But not every review we see can be trusted, which is why business owners are curious about how to delete Google reviews.
Removing reviews isn't an attempt to mislead customers—studies show that 82% of customers won‘t patronize a business until they’ve read the reviews. And, since Google is the preferred review site for 64% of consumers, that means just one poor review could determine whether or not you choose to eat at a restaurant.
It‘s your customer service team’s job to keep track of Google reviews and remove the negative comments that are harmful to your business.
In this post, we‘ll break down what a Google review looks like, how to delete them, and what to do if you can’t.
What is a Google review?
A Google review is a customer's opinion of a business that is posted publicly to the business's Google page. Google reviews consist of a star rating, written text, and sometimes images or video. The review is attached to the reviewer's Google account with their name and profile picture so searchers (and businesses) can verify the authenticity of the review.
To identify whether the review you're looking at is a Google review or not, look for the following elements:
- You see the words “Google reviews” at the top of the list of reviews.
- There are no other company names on the review.
- A rating scale numbered from one to five. This won't always be visible, but it can help you recognize a Google review if you see one.
For example, take a look at the Google review page for HubSpot. You‘ll notice each of the elements we listed above. This review appears in Google Maps, so it’s integrated into the Google interface which makes it more clear that it is a Google review.
Can you delete a Google review?
Unfortunately, Google doesn‘t offer a simple "delete" option for its reviews. Instead, there are only two ways that a review can be removed. The person who posted the review can delete it or your business can "flag the review as inappropriate." Flagging the review alerts Google that the review doesn’t comply with Google's review policies.
After that, you‘ll be guided to the landing page below where you’ll need to complete a brief report of the issue and submit your email for follow-up communication.
It's important to note that Google has built-in spam checkers that automatically analyze a review for inappropriate, irrelevant, or misleading content. While this feature is pretty reliable, inaccurate reviews are sometimes overlooked which can lead to negative perceptions of your business.
In this case, you‘ll want to take matters into your own hands and report the review yourself. Here’s how to do that.
How to Delete a Google Review
- Open Google Maps and locate your business.
- Find the review on the Google reviews page.
- Flag the review as inappropriate.
- Select the option Report Review.
- Choose an option for the question: What's wrong with this review?
- Report the Google review.
1. Open Google Maps and locate your business.
2. Find the review on the Google reviews page.
3. Click the three vertical dots to the right of the review and select 'Flag as inappropriate".
4. Choose an option for the question “What's wrong with this review?”.
5. Report the review to Google.
When to Flag a Google Review
According to Google, the topics below are against its user terms and conditions. Therefore, if you notice a review that falls under one of these categories, your team can request to remove that content.
1. Off Topic
Google wants to make sure its users are getting accurate information about your business. So, if you‘re seeing comments that don’t pertain to your organization or a customer's experience, you should flag these reviews for Google to remove.
Some businesses may provide services that are illegal or aren't real at all. Google accounts for this by prohibiting users from posting reviews that contain links to websites or email addresses that meet the criteria for spam. This also includes images that promote products or special offers.
3. Conflicts of Interest
Google wants its reviews to be as unbiased as possible. Therefore, you can‘t post a review of a company that you own or work for. You also can’t post a review of your competitor, as this would allow you to manipulate their rating in your favor.
Google will remove any content that it views as “obscene, profane, or offensive.” It will also remove reviews that are threatening or contain derogatory comments. If you come across any reviews like these, be sure to flag them immediately to protect your brand's image.
5. Bullying or Harassment
Leaving a negative review can be considered bullying or harassment if it includes attacks on a specific individual, such as the business owner, employees, customers, or affiliates. In some cases, these types of reviews can be threatening and lead to serious consequences for the reviewer.
6. Discrimination or hate speech
If the review includes harmful language about an individual or group based on their identity, Google considers this discrimination or hate speech. These types of reviews are grounds for removal by Google or the business owner who reports the review.
7. Personal information
A Google review can be flagged or reported if it includes personal information such as an address or phone number. It doesn't have to be only for employees of that business, but anyone whose information may be included in the review.
As with all reviews, the content in them must serve a purpose—to be helpful to the reader. The review should inform a person‘s decision about whether or not to patronize a business. If the review doesn’t do that, it may be considered “not helpful” and qualify for removal.
Disadvantages of Reporting a Google Review
As you can imagine, this process is slow and doesn‘t guarantee that your review will be removed. And, even if Google does decide to remove it, there’s no telling when it will actually be taken down. In that time, your business could lose thousands of customers if you wait for Google to handle the issue.
The other major setback is that Google won‘t remove a review just because it’s negative. The point of Google reviews is to provide users with unbiased feedback from other customers‘ experiences. If those experiences are poor, Google wants its users to be aware of them. So, if you’re upset with a customer‘s opinion, the odds aren’t in your favor for a removal.
Instead, your customer service team needs to take action if you want to remove a negative Google review.
Ways to Handle Google Reviews
1. Respond to the customer's review.
The most effective way to handle a negative customer review is to respond to it. If your team made a mistake that inspired a negative review, a genuine apology can go a long way in changing the perception a potential customer has of your brand. If it‘s a positive review, an appreciative response makes an impact, too. Remember, these reviews are public for the customer as well as your business, and customers don’t want to look like the villain when your team responds underneath with a polite message.
See this tip in action:
Here's a great example of a restaurant responding to a positive, yet critical, Google review. They not only thank the customer for the feedback, but they welcome them back in the future for the same great experience.
2. Ask the customer to delete it.
In the case that your team handles a negative review well and makes it right with the customer, they may choose to leave the review up anyway. Afterall, the matter is closed and other users will see the review as an example of your great customer service.
While the sentiment is nice, there may still be a chance to have the review removed if you approach the customer in a civil way and ask them to delete it.
See this tip in action:
If possible, message them on a private platform like email, so the customer doesn‘t feel pressured by your request. Thank them for reading your reply and ask them if they will consider the removal of the review in light of their recent experiences with your company. Be sure to remain patient and don’t make any demands of the customer. Ultimately, the choice to remove the review is up to them.
3. Solve the customer's problem.
This one may seem obvious, but customers often leave negative reviews because their original need from your business was never fulfilled. For example, you may enjoy the customer service at a restaurant but hate the food they serve you. Even though your beef — pun intended—isn‘t with the restaurant’s staff, your review still gets counted all the same.
See this tip in action:
It‘s important to recognize the problems that customers are reporting in your negative reviews and take action to correct them. Once you do, follow up with the customers who left poor reviews and see if they’re willing to try your product or service again. Make it clear that you have taken steps to correct your past mistakes and you still value their relationship with your business. While you may not win every customer over, this promotes a customer-centric culture for your brand's reputation.
Here's an example of how a restaurant handled a negative review well by offering to make it right for the customer. Notice the tone is neutral and the business takes accountability for the bad experience.
4. Follow up with customers.
One common statistic that customer service experts like to point out is that 85% of customers believe reviews older than three months are irrelevant. However, this stat neglects that these older reviews still count towards your business's overall rating on Google. That rating is extremely important because 52% of customers will not buy from a business if it has less than a 4-star rating.
See this tip in action:
Additionally, a lot can change with your business as you grow and develop over time. A Google review that was posted two years ago may not be as accurate today. If the user is still active, try to contact them via the review and see if they would be willing to edit their post. Or, invite them to try your product or service again.
5. Confirm the review is for your business.
It‘s easy to mix up a business name, click the wrong link, or simply forget the name of the business you’re leaving a review for. But that means it's up to the business owner to verify that the review is actually on topic for their company.
See this tip in action:
Take this example for instance. A customer left a review for what can be assumed to be a restaurant on the Google My Business page of a nearby hair salon. Luckily, the owner caught the customer's mistake and politely informed them that their review was misplaced. The owner also invited the customer to book an appointment for a new hairstyle.
This is a great example of having the ability to remove an irrelevant review, but choosing to use it as a marketing opportunity and bring in new customers.
6. Authenticate the review.
Some people will unfortunately write fake reviews to sabotage their competitors' business. It's hard to spot, and even harder to prove, but if you have a history of dealing with an unfriendly competitor you may be able to take action and flag the review.
See this tip in action:
If you‘re dubious of a review’s authenticity, look for signs that would confirm it is a fake. Fake reviews often lack details and seem like they could apply to almost any business. Check to see if the reviewer has left any other reviews and if they have a picture listed with their account. Then respond to the review. If you don't get a response, flag the post as inappropriate and wait for Google to review your report.
The Power of Google Reviews is in Your Hands
Waiting for Google to remove a review from its search engine can be time-consuming and tedious. However, the steps listed above should help your customer service team quickly address negative Google reviews and improve your relationship with new and existing customers.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.