If you’re a restaurant owner, you have a lot to manage: food deliveries, employees, payroll, the health department, your website, social media, and countless other factors that go into running a restaurant. Recently, a story has gotten media coverage that restaurant owners are all too aware of: 1-star Google reviews of restaurants with no comments and a follow-up email demanding money or a gift card to change or remove the review.
There is no easy way to put it, this is extortion in the online world. As Google reviews of restaurants have no sort of confirmation process or validation, anyone from anywhere at any time can write a review on your restaurant (even if they live on the other side of the planet). It is a glaring flaw in the review landscape that business owners and restaurant owners are all too familiar with. The sad truth is that until the media started covering this Google would be hard to get a hold of and reply with “investigations” stating stock replies like, “the review does not violate our terms of service”. They would leave the reviews up and businesses would suffer the consequences of negative reviews.
What do Negative Reviews Do?
Considering reviews have a pretty strong impact on businesses you would think Google and other outlets would do more to ensure they are real. After all, a company like Google is serving both sides of the equation. Both web searches and the websites they visit are Google customers so it is a wonder that it took media coverage for Google to protect one-half of their business clients.
Negative Google reviews of restaurants can do some serious harm. On the face of it, a 1-star review will likely deter anyone from trusting the business in question. If you are considering dining at a local establishment and you check the reviews to find multiple 1-star reviews, you’ll probably take your businesses elsewhere. But negative reviews go deeper than just the surface. Google search algorithms put a good deal of strength in Google review ratings and Google’s search engine job is to rank websites based on their trust. A lot of 1-star reviews will lower a website’s trust and therefore this will hurt their traffic and finally the number of people visiting their establishment.
Many restaurants just shrug it off as part of the modern era, but when businesses start to take a turn for the worse because of unwarranted negative reviews it can lead to a dark place.
What to Do if You are Being Targeted by Scammers with Bad Reviews
Until recently there wasn’t much you could do to get help from search engines like Google. Previously you were left to fend for yourself and all you could try to do was get as many good reviews as possible to offset the fake bad ones. But that is very limiting, time-consuming, and stressful. Luckily, you can now contact Google:
Contact Google with the 1-star review in question
Send Google the email from the reviewer demanding compensation to remove the 1-star review. Google will then do its investigation and should remove the review for you. It is pretty cut and dry when a restaurant contacts Google and can show them proof of the bad review and proof of the extortion attempt. Do not hesitate to do this if it happens to you.
Restaurant Owners are Resilient and Will Prevail
Scammers can only get so far with their demands. Google is trying to do better and the google algorithm is now searching for things like this, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have to be diligent. Odds are that you’ll receive both 5-star and 1-star reviews from patrons regardless of the quality of your food and service. If someone is having a bad day and had certain expectations when they came in for a meal, no matter of charm and taste may be able to sway their negativity when posting Google reviews of restaurants.
Stay vigilant and contact Google if and when you are targeted. Now that the word is out, we can likely expect this sort of thing to diminish, though we never know how online scammers will attack next. Keep your website secure and your clients happy, that is your best bet for the long term.