FTC Proposes Ban on Fake Reviews

Last month, City Ranked spoke about the importance of Online Reviews. ( And the importance of not buying them ) Well, last week the Federal Trade Commission agreed.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed a new rule aimed at stopping marketers from using illicit review and endorsement practices. These practices include the use of fake reviews, suppressing honest negative reviews, and paying for positive reviews, which can deceive consumers and undercut honest businesses. The proposed rule would trigger civil penalties for violators.

A visual of a shield representing the FTC proposing a ban on fake reviews

The announcement goes on to outline all the black hat strategies that will be banned: 

  • Selling or Obtaining Fake Consumer Reviews and Testimonials
  • Review Hijacking
  • Buying Positive or Negative Reviews
  • Insider Reviews & Consumer Testimonials
  • Company-Controlled Review Sites
  • Illegal Review Suppression
  • Selling Fake Social Media Indicators

The FTC is seeking public comments on these proposed measures. The Commission will review the comments received and decide whether to take the necessary next steps toward issuing a final rule. The proposed rule follows an advance notice of proposed rulemaking the Commission announced last November.

What Can You Do If Someone Has Left A Fake Review?

If someone has left a review that is not authentic and is not a customer, you do have options.
Know that you cannot report any bad reviews. Only report reviews that violate Google’s policies. Don’t report a review just because you disagree with it or don’t like it. Google doesn’t intervene when businesses and customers disagree about facts. For third-party hotel reviews, contact the third-party provider directly.

a visual representation of users leaving reviews on a cell phone - City Ranked
  1. How to ask for review removal: You can report an inappropriate review for removal using Google Maps, Google Search, your account, or the Reviews Management Tool. Removed reviews stop showing on both Google Maps and Google Search.
  2. Flag a review in the Reviews Management Tool:
    Go to the Reviews Management Tool,
    • confirm your email address
    • select your business and “Report a new review for removal”
    • For each review that you want to flag, click “Report
    • Select a category for the review
    • Click Submit.
  3. Check the status of a flagged review in the Reviews Management Tool: Go to the Reviews Management Tool,
    • Confirm your email address
    • select your business
    • Check the status of a review you reported previously
    • Possible statuses are:
      • Decision pending
      • Report reviewed – no policy violation,
      • Escalated – check your email for updates
        • (  Once reviewed & escalated – there can be no further actions available).
  4. Submit a one-time appeal of a review: If you flag a review but the verdict says that it doesn’t violate Google Policies, you can submit a one-time appeal.
    • Go to the Reviews Management Tool
    • Confirm your email address
    • Select your business
    • Check the status of a review you reported previously
    • Select Appeal eligible reviews, and submit an appeal.
      • You’ll receive an email with the verdict about your appeal.

Do note that Google Reviews are monitored by an algorithm. Reviews can be removed by spam detection: Google uses automated spam detection measures to remove reviews that are probably spam. These measures help improve people’s experiences on Google and ensure the reviews they see are authentic, relevant, and useful. Some legitimate reviews may be inadvertently removed.

What to do if a Genuine Review has been Removed

If a genuine review has been removed there is hope!

a visual representation of a missing person to indicate a genuine review  left on Google that is missing - City Ranked

Go to the Google Business Profile help site

  • “Tell us what we can help with”: Type in “Missing Reviews” then hit next
  • Next, the form will prompt: “Choose the best description of this issue”
    • Select “Review Missing”
  • Step 2: Select “Next Step” again
    • When they show the “Understand missing and delayed reviews”
  • Step 3: Select the Contact Option
    • ( Email is the only option I was provided ) 
  • Step 3 Continued: Fill out the provided form
    • We suggest adding your Business Profile ID to help the process along ( Found in the Google Business Profile settings )
  • *get assistance from the customer
    • Only the user who posted the review can see their review at this point – The customer can screenshot their review from their Google Maps App on their Contributor Profile –
    • OR – If you have been pulling reports and you have a list of recent reviews pull the name from there ( The Reviewer Name should match or the process might fail)  
  • Submit!
  • If you get a rejection email, follow up with screenshots of the review to escalate the issue internally, this will greatly increase your odds of getting the review returned to you.

The review reinstatement process can be pretty involved so make sure to stay proactive! Ensure you get reports that show your reviews weekly, track your progress, and follow up if you notice your hard-earned review count has dropped!

Make Reviews A Part of Your Business Culture

Getting reviews was hard before, well now you can lose a review after you have earned them so ensure that your review pipeline is full of new reviews rolling in!

Creating an atmosphere that emphasizes business reviews and their generation is essential for businesses. Encouraging and fostering a culture where both employees and customers are actively engaged in the review process can significantly bolster a business’s online presence and reputation. 

Our Tips For Getting Authentic Reviews Reliably:

  1. Reward your technicians for getting reviews.
    • Give incentives based on the number of reviews, and bonuses if they exceed targets
  2. The magic moment is right after service.
    • Teach your team to ask for reviews on the spot, and guide the customer through the process
  3. Be innovative and look for authentic reviews wherever they apply.
    • For example, if your company does commercial jobs, encourage your techs to seek reviews from building managers and tenants. 
  4. Sales training is crucial.
    • Ensure your team knows the review process inside out and can effectively ‘sell’ the idea of leaving a review to customers. Ensure they do not push too hard but are persistent in gaining reviews
  5. Get Office staff involved!
    • When your phone operators talk to satisfied customers, have them ask for reviews too. Keep in mind, it’s important to maintain courtesy without being overly insistent.

Business Navigating the Battle Against Inauthentic Reviews

As a business owner, it is crucial to be aware of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s proposed rule aimed at curbing the issue of fake reviews. This rule targets dishonest tactics such as creating or purchasing false reviews, manipulating existing reviews, and more. 

In the meantime, you have the power to combat false reviews by reporting them through various Google platforms and retrieving those quality reviews that were accidentally filtered out ( If you’re diligent about it ). 

The most important thing you can do is ensure your review request tactics are above reproach and to ensure a steady flow of authentic customer feedback. It’s important to create a business culture that values and encourages customer reviews. This not only helps protect your business from false reviews but also helps build a strong online reputation, which is vital for the growth and success of your small business.

FTC Proposes Ban on Fake Reviews in Vancouver WA - Portland OR - Nationwide

City Ranked is a Full-Service Digital Marketing Agency with Clients in Oregon, Washington & Select Industries Nationwide:

Portland OR | Gresham | Beaverton | Hillsboro | Tigard

Oregon City | Vancouver WA | Seattle WA | Bend OR

A visual representation of the FTP moving to ban fake reviews and other black hat tactics - City Ranked

FTC Proposes Ban on Fake Reviews

City Ranked - Digital Marketing Agency in Vancouver WA
City Ranked - Digital Marketing Agency in Vancouver WA

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