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With the power that Google holds over a person or company’s online reputation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google reviews can prove a significant risk.

How can you handle the risk Google reviews pose to prevent them from having a detrimental effect on your online reputation?

The first page of Google holds a strong significance for your online reputation. The most common method users employ to research you or your company, is to put your industry specific search term into Google.

This means that modern online reputation techniques often hinge on effectively ensuring that the first page of Google for your search term only shows positive content; this is achieved through Search Engine Optimisation; writing your search term naturally into your content.  With SEO, Google recognises your content as relevant to the search term in question.

Google rankings often depend on the authority of the content in question. Google have streamlined their service to ensure that users only see relevant content for the search term in question.  This is why promoting news stories and PR for your search term is particularly effective in online reputation management; the search engine sees them as trusted sources and places them higher up the rankings.

However, authority of content can be an issue too. We see this most effectively through Google reviews. Because these are Google hosted review tools, the search engine naturally trusts them and places them higher up the rankings for your search term. This means that when a negative review comes through, it can prove particularly tenacious for your search term.

A Case for Defamation

If you have reason to believe that the Google review in question is defamatory, one avenue open to you is to take legal action.

In the US state of Oregon, a state appeals court recently ruled that a man who posted a negative Google review of a wedding venue must face defamation claims. Titled, “Disaster!!!! Find a different wedding venue,” the review labelled a night at venue Dancing Deer Mountain “the worst wedding experience of my life.”

Of Carol Neumann, who along with her husband runs the venue, the review said that she was “crooked, two-faced and rude to multiple guests” and “in my opinion, she will find a way to keep your $500 deposit and will try to make you pay even more.”

Stating opinion without supporting facts can be a basis for defamation action. Judge Erin Lagesen alluded to this when writing about the case: saying Neumann is crooked “apart from implying that she is not a wedding vendor who can be trusted, alleges that she is dishonest, and would be defamatory for that reason.”

Google Removals

While this is an avenue you can take, legal action can generate more negative press that could impact your page one. Before you take this step, why not try having the review removed.

Google has a system in place for the reporting of reviews concerned parties wish to be removed. The criteria for this are if the review is: inappropriate content, advertising or spam, off-topic reviews or a conflict of interest.

This means that there are multiple reasons you can use to get a review removed. In the Oregon case, we see there are two reasons. It is inappropriate content because it is defamatory, which is unlawful. According to Google, unlawful content counts as inappropriate.

It also falls under the off-topic category. Under this guideline, Google says that ‘reviews are not a forum for personal rants or crusades.’ Considering the Oregon review veers off topic from the night to the proprietor’s personal character, this could qualify for removal.

Google Reviews hold a significant risk to your online reputation, however this risk can be managed and the review can be removed.