The short answer is “yes.” You can have a Google review removed. However, not just any review. The review has to meet Google’s guidelines for a fake one. If it doesn’t, the review stays. This includes reviews that may not necessarily be “fair” or negative from the patient’s point of view. Because fake reviews are common, Google (and other review sources) have come up with some easy-to-understand and execute guidelines.

We’ve had instances where the review met the ‘fake guidelines’ but was still not removed. We’ll go over how to deal with this too.

bad review, one star on phone with a sad faceGoogle’s Review Policy

Google’s review policy is relatively straightforward. Here is a list of situations where you can have a review removed.

  • Spam and fake content: No one can intentionally manipulate your ratings. They can’t post anything untruthful, multiple times from one account or multiple times from different accounts.
  • Off-topic: The only content that is allowed is specifically about your business. No rants, no politics, and no advertising.
  • Restricted content: No one can post about or advertise restricted goods or services.
  • Illegal content: Anything that violates someone else or a business is restricted.
  • Terrorist content
  • Sexually explicit content
  • Offensive content: You can have it removed if you get a review with profanity.
  • Dangerous & Derogatory Content: No threats, harassment, or discriminatory reviews.
  • Impersonation: No one can leave a review pretending to be someone else. For example, if a patient has a bad experience, their friend can not leave a review pretending to be the patient.
  • Conflict of Interest: Reviewing your own business, posting content about a current or former employment experience, or content from a competitor manipulating their ratings are all conflicts of interest and are not allowed.

If the review in question meets any of these situations, you can flag it for removal.

Fake Reviews vs. Negative Reviews

Sometimes, a dentist might get a review that isn’t necessarily reflective of how they viewed the situation. Or they might get a negative review for a problem that the patient didn’t understand or couldn’t be helped. These types of reviews are just negative. They are not fake in Google’s eyes. Here’s why.

Google won’t remove it if the review content does not explicitly meet the criteria above. Let’s go over a few fairly common scenarios.

A new patient comes into your dental office for a routine cleaning, and you find that they have advancing periodontal disease. You let the patient know that they have a severe infection and that you recommend treatment. They agree to treatment. You perform the service. But when they get to your front desk, they’re confused, frustrated, and mad about the extra charges. Your front desk explains why it’s more expensive than expected, but they’re still angry and leave a negative review.

“Dr. So & So is a scam and runs an unethical practice. I went in for a routine cleaning, and they charged me up the yazoo for services I didn’t ask for. Don’t go here!!!”

Google won’t remove the above situation. Even though they agreed to treatment, the review is truthful from the patient’s point of view and won’t be removed. Here is another scenario.

An existing patient comes because their dental implant is loose after only a year. You examine the implant and find they have peri-implantitis. You let them know that their implant is infected and is being rejected by their body. The patient is mad, thinks it’s your fault because the implant is relatively new, and leaves a negative review.

“Dr. So & So is horrible, and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. They are incompetent with implant dentistry. Stay away!”

Google won’t remove this review either. You know that the patient simply does not understand or want to understand that they were likely the cause of their peri-implantitis, but that doesn’t mean it’s grounds for removal. Here is an example of a review that Google would remove.

“Dr. So & So charges people for services they don’t need. I know because I’m a hygienist and used to work there. Go to Jane Doe Dentistry instead!”

This is an example of a review that meets grounds for removal since it’s a conflict of interest in two ways. 1. It’s from a former team member. 2. It advertises for another dental office.

How to Respond to a Negative Review

It’s easy to get worked up about negative reviews! Especially when they don’t seem fair. But always take the high road. You don’t need to admit to whatever the reviewer is claiming, but acknowledge their dissatisfaction, state your best practice, and recommend they call your office. In some cases, it’s okay to explain your side, but many times it’s not worth it.

Responding to negative reviews is for Google and the others that will potentially see the review. You want Google to know you’re active, so it recommends you more often, and others to know that if there is an issue, you’ll solve it and work to make them happy. Here is an example response to the first review scenario above.

“[Patient Name], thank you for your feedback. Sometimes, when there is an issue during a cleaning, we’ll add on an agreed-upon service to ensure that your smile is clean and healthy. If you have any questions, please call us at (xxx)xxx-xxxx.”

Here is a response to the second situation:

“[Patient Name], we’re sad to hear your experience wasn’t top-notch. We provide accurate and responsible treatment for all our patients. Please call us at (xxx)xxx-xxxx to discuss your services.”

In some cases, it’s okay not to respond at all or to professionally recommend that they go to another office for treatment. Contact your account manager for guidance if you’re unsure about these scenarios. Reputation management is part of our process for all our clients, so we’ve gotten pretty good at it.

How to Report a Fake Review

There are a few ways to report fake reviews.

  1. If there is a review that violates Google’s guidelines, Google gives you the power to report it and have it removed. Flag the review and select why it’s fake, and a team of actual humans will review your request and delete the review if they feel it’s fake.
  2. You can also report a user in the Google Maps app. Find the review in question, click on the reviewer’s username, flag them, and report why their review is inappropriate.
  3. Finally, you can get in contact with Google. This option is the hardest and most time-consuming, but you can do this by asking for help on the Google Community Forum. If no other users from the community can help, it’ll go to Google Support.

This process takes some time, so don’t expect it to be removed immediately.

How to Respond to a Fake Review

Sometimes, a review that you believe should be removed won’t be. In this instance, the best thing to do is to respond to the review, letting the reviewer and others know that you don’t see them as a patient of record in your system and that perhaps they have the wrong dental office or business.

“[Review Name], we don’t see you as a patient of record in our system. However, if you’d like to contact our office regarding an appointment and your dental concern, call us at (xxx)xxx-xxxx.”

Do You Need Help Managing Your Online Reputation?

If managing your online reputation sounds daunting, you’re not alone. It can be a tedious process. At Pro Impressions, we take the burden off your shoulders. If you’re a dentist looking for a comprehensive marketing plan, contact us today.