Today, your online reputation depends on the online reviews posted by your patients. Therefore, your business is impacted by patients’ behavior. This dependency of the practice’s success on patient reviews gives spammers the opportunity to use review platforms for fraudulent activity. So it’s necessary for you to monitor reviews and report fake reviews posted online.
But before repelling such acts, you need to understand what a false review is.
What Is a False Review?
A false review or review spam is any review that creates a wrong perception of the relationship between a reviewer and you or your practice or goes against the guidelines. Major review sites forbid such practices. Below are a few examples of the types of reviews that are categorized as spam, and you might have received or can receive these anytime. These can be reported as spam and removed from review platforms:
- When the reviewer is a competitor, practicing the same services you offer, and writes a negative review to hurt you.
- When the reviewer is the owner or marketing personnel and writes forged reviews about his practice to manipulate potential patients.
- When a reviewer who has never visited your practice but pretends to be one and writes negatively/positively about your business with hidden intentions.
- When a reviewer is your patient but misrepresents events for his profit by stating untrue details of any interaction with your staff.
- When a reviewer has been bribed with a monetary or non-monetary incentive and writes a fake and biased positive review for your competitor or negative review for any practice.
- When a reviewer writes hate speech or makes a personal attack on your practice by violating the policy stated by a review platform.
When Is it Not a False Review?
A review is not considered a false review:
- When it’s posted by a genuine patient who has visited your practice and relates a real experience.
- When it talks about the overall experience of the treatment or service provided.
- When it abides by the rules of the reviewing platform (mentioned below for some popular review sites).
A negative review doesn’t mean a false review. If a patient writes a negative but accurate review for a service he is not satisfied with, it should not be considered spam. A complaint should not be categorized always as a misrepresentation. For instance, if a patient complains about a service, treatment by staff, etc., then it’s a negative review, not a misrepresentation. If you don’t agree with the patient’s review, you need to prove the review is spam to have it removed.
Why Did Spam Reviews Come Into Existence?
The major reason behind review spam is competition. In addition to this, there are numerous other reasons. Let’s discuss some of them.
Blackmail: Any case where a patient visits your practice for a checkup and gets into an intentional fight with your staff with no reason but to give you a negative rating on review sites and hurt your business. After marking 1-star in bulk, the spammer will ask for ransom to change your rating from 1-star to 5-stars.
Revenge: Any former staff member who may have a grudge and write a negative review as a patient. They might find this the best way to express their frustration with any unhappy incident that occurred between them and you.
Competition: If you have a high Google ranking, your competitor can create a fake profile and write a positive review for themselves. They might even ask their employees to do the same to rank higher on Google.
Unawareness: Some small-business owners commit errors by having their family members post a review for their practice because they are unaware of review platforms’ guidelines and negative outcome of fake reviews. In this case, instead of a better online presence, they lose their online reputation.
Review platform’s ignorance: Spammers get a chance to post more such false reviews if the review platform fails to monitor and remove spam reviews. These can be the consequences of insufficient staff, lack of knowledge related to site’s policy, etc.
What Is the Scope of Review Spam?
The scope of review spam is too large. It may be an individual writing false reviews with the help of his family members or a big-business owner who makes his staff fill Google with numerous fake reviews. Review spam space has broadly two categories of people:
- The one who reviews himself for better online visibility or to overcome his competitor
- The one who writes negative reviews just to take revenge on others.
But the motive remains the same, which is to manipulate potential patients’ decisions through unfair reviews.
How to Identify False Reviews
There are some elements that help you identify if the review is spam or not, such as:
Tone: Any review with a 5-star rating that includes the owner’s name and a lot of self-admiration is a red flag.
Trend: When a patient gives your practice 1-star and 5-stars to your competitor, it can be suspicious, if not exactly spam.
Number: Every industry has a trend of receiving approximate numbers of daily reviews. In healthcare, you will not find anyone receiving hundreds of reviews every day. If you see your competitor getting triple the number of reviews you have, then something is fishy.
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
Timing: For a new doctor a sudden elevation in the number of reviews for his practice is normal. But for an existing practitioner, a sudden increase in the number of positive reviews can be suspicious and a planned act of review spam.
Untrue description: If a reviewer mentions misbehavior by your staff, have it verified by your staff member. It could be a fake statement about an event that never happened.
Violation: As a general practice, every review site removes any obscene or hateful comment. If it is still displayed, report the violation to the site instead of being a victim.
Basically, the best way to spot false review is through review monitoring. Here, myPracticeReputation helps you monitor your review status and keenly observes any patterns in competitors’ reviews.
How to Do Review Management
Review management is all about understanding your review patterns and monitoring them. Supposing you receive 5 reviews in a week, this makes approximately 20 reviews a month. This number includes both positive and negative reviews along with any concerns to be addressed or spam reviews.
For spam detection, you need to have the ability to audit the number of reviews you receive. To simplify this task, myPracticeReputation offers easy monitoring of reviews and accurate review verification.
How to Fight Back Against Review Spam
The major review platforms are designed to invite traffic to your practice, but on the flip side, spam reviews can cause a major hit on your business. Many small businesses have deactivated reviews because of spammers ruining their business. So here is what you should do once you have recognized that a review is spam.
- Click on the flag symbol, enter your email ID and choose the radio symbol.
- Use the owner response function to report the review to Google.
- Contact Google My Business (GMB) via Twitter and post the case in the GMB forum.
- Policy: https://support.google.com/business/answer/2622994?hl=en
- Follow guidelines for reporting reviews.
- Respond to the reviews that violate Yelp’s guidelines.
- Policy: https://www.yelp.com/guidelines
Yelp is one of the best review platforms that takes review quality seriously to catch spammers.
- Mention the business on which the spam review is received, date of review and name of the reviewer and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Policy: https://www.citysearch.com/aboutcitysearch/about_us
- Read the instructions to report review spam.
- Only reviews with text can be reported here.
- Reviews can be turned off.
- Policy: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards
On Yellow Pages:
- Click on the flag link.
- Fill in the form, stating the reason for flagging the review.
According to the Federal Trade Communication Act, Section 5(a):
“Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful.”
Under this provision, many fraudulent entities have been sued by competitors and review sites. If you don’t want to create noise, instead of litigating you can simply seek removal of malicious reviews and have your problem addressed.
You need to understand that:
- A false review or review spam is a serious problem that can hit your business badly.
- A spammer could be an individual or a big-business group.
- Review monitoring can save you from spammers, so taking help from reputation management sites such as myPracticeReputation can make your business grow and build a better online presence.
- Review platforms offer spam reporting and removal services, but they might not do it every time. So it’s better to read their policies and obtain support from reputation management sites.
Having spam reviews posted on your practice can be very stressful. So monitor your reviews carefully and fight spammers in order to build a better and lasting online presence.