Skip to main content

Digital marketing provides the best opportunity today for physicians to attract new patients. However, one of the hassles that unfortunately pop up from time to time is negative Google reviews, or even worse, negative reviews that are fake.

One of my private clients recently had a fake review posted to his Google My Business profile. We knew instantly that it was fake. One, he had no patients that matched the description of the complications they claimed to have. Secondly, they listed him as performing the surgery at a hospital he is not at all affiliated with.

Could this fake review have come from a competing doctor or practice? Possibly. Fake reviews are a problem that has plagued Google for a long time.

In any case, these fake reviews can be extremely frustrating, and that frustration is amplified by the fact that you can’t just pick up the phone with someone at Google and explain your side. However, while it feels like there is little recourse a doctor can do to combat a fake review, there are a few steps that can be taken to have the fake review removed.

Flag Fake Google Review From Google My Business

If you have Google My Business configured properly, you should receive an email when someone leaves a review.

fake google review doctor

In your Google My Business, navigate to Manage Reviews. When you see the fake review, click on the three dots and click Flag as inappropriate.

flag fake doctor google review

Google will then present you with several options:

  • Off topic
  • Spam
  • Conflict of interest
  • Profanity
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Discrimination or hate speech
  • Personal information
flag fake google review

I recommend having a tiered strategy when it comes to flagging the fake review.

1). Start With Off Topic

Google defines off topic reviews as, ”Review doesn’t pertain to an experience at or with this business.” For a fake review, this is a good place to begin.

Select the off topic reason and then submit

off topic review
off topic review submit

After submitting, you should receive an email from Google My Business stating that the removal request is being assessed. When reporting a policy violation to Google, they tell you it can take up to three business days to process the request.

Google also states that you will receive a follow-up email once they have reached a decision. However, in my experience, this rarely happens. So I recommend using a task manager or a reminder to recheck the review in three business days.

Note: Submitting multiple removal requests within three business days will not help you get this removed.

2). Report Conflict of Interest (If Necessary)

Hopefully, Google will remove the review upon the first request, but sometimes they don’t. They may feel that while the review is negative, it fits within their content guidelines. And, in fairness to them, it’s very difficult for them to know whether the review is fake or not. In the example listed above with my private client, how would Google know they’re not actually a patient or that the doctor was not affiliated with the hospital they mentioned in the review?

Because the fake review could be generated by a competitor, I recommended reporting a conflict of interest as the second step.

To do this, you’ll follow the same procedure as the off topic submission, but this time, you’ll choose conflict of interest.

conflict of interest google review
conflict of interest google review submit

Once again, you’ll want to wait three business days and check if the review has been removed.

3). Contact Google Support (If Necessary)

Hopefully, the fake review has been removed by one of the first steps above. If not, you’ll need to visit Google support and navigate to Google My Business.

google review support
contact google support

First, you’ll want to select your business in the Get Started section. Then, in the box labeled, Tell us what you need help with: type in, “I need to remove a fake review.” Then hit the Next Step button.

google support contact

Google will then try to provide recommendations. Ignore their suggested categories and select Other and click the Next Step button.

google review support other

Once again, ignore the recommended resources, and then click the Next Step button.

Google will then list contact options, which will likely only be email.

google review support email

Click on email, and then complete the information they request.

In the Describe your issue box, you’ll want to provide as much information as possible, proving the review is fake (without violating HIPAA, of course).

describe google fake review

Once you have completed all of the information, click Submit and wait for someone at Google to respond.

Hopefully, this will get to the bottom of the issue, and the review will be removed.

4). Respond to the Fake Review (If Necessary)

If all else fails, and Google still refuses to remove the review, the final step you can take would be to reply to the fake review. The reason you would reply is for the benefit of other patients, letting them know this one is not true.

reply to fake review

The most important thing to keep in mind if things come to this step is to avoid being contentious. Trust me; this is easier said than done. Emotions can and will run high when you feel you’ve been wronged, and Google has done nothing about it.

That’s why it’s best to have a prepared response ahead of time, before a fake review ever happens.

Below is an example template, which you can feel free to use and customize for yourself.

Hello, I’m afraid you have mistakenly confused me with someone else. {list evidence(s) here}. Because this review does not pertain to me, I respectfully request that you remove this review immediately. Thank you in advance, Dr. _.

Important note: Don’t violate any patient privacy information, or assume the person’s name online is their actual name.

In a perfect world, doctors would not suffer from fake reviews. However, if you do happen to have this problem, the steps above should help resolve the issue.

Author Travis Mark

More posts by Travis Mark