Contractors say bogus negative Google reviews a big hit to their business | CBC News

Two London gutter contractors say they were targeted for weeks by a series of bogus negative online reviews posted on their Google business accounts, reviews that were pulled down after CBC News placed a call to Google’s public relations department. 

Nicholas Waldram of EaveSafe Gutter Protection and Jackson Mayers of Gutter Guys Plus both say that starting a few weeks ago, negative reviews began to appear on their business pages at the rate of about one a day. 

Both contractors say they immediately compared the names of the posters to their client list and determined that the reviews weren’t written by actual customers. In some cases, they posted replies stating such. 

Mayers said he was notified after getting a one-star review on Google’s five-star scale back in February. But it wasn’t just the low rating that was a problem, it was also the written review. Mayers was suspicious right away because at the time one of the negative reviews appeared, daytime temperatures were still well below freezing. He typically doesn’t install gutters in winter because the caulking used to waterproof seams often won’t seal properly. 

He also said the comments were clearly made up.

“The review said our guys were on the job with alcohol on their breath, throwing cigarettes everywhere, that we didn’t fix leaks — but we hadn’t been even doing work at that time,” said Mayers. 

At first Mayers thought it was an outlier but when the negative, one-star reviews continued to appear, he knew something was up.

“Every second day we were hit with another review,” he said. “They weren’t in our database and they all started with the same intro line. It was obvious that it was someone targeting our business.” 

But it wasn’t just Gutter Guys. Mayers began to compare notes with his friend and competitor Nicholas Waldram of EaveSafe Gutter Protection. 

A sample of one of the reviews that have been pulled down from the Google business page of a London rain gutter contractor.
A sample of one of the reviews that has been pulled down from the Google business page of a London rain gutter contractor. (Google)

Waldram had also been dealing with suspicious one-star reviews posted by accounts with names that didn’t match his client database. He reached out to the posters for clarification, but didn’t get any response back.

He said he had a five-star Google rating prior to the recent string of one-star reviews but the negatives pushed that down considerably.

“These new reviews have dropped us down to a 4.4 star rating,” he said. “It takes an emotional toll. Everyone here takes a lot of pride in what we do.” 

While there are some similarities in the comments, both contractors said the account profiles used in the one-star reviews weren’t identical.

Some of the accounts were new, others had multiple reviews of different businesses from months or years before. One account used a photo lifted from the Facebook page of what appears to be a high school student. 

A few reviews can cause big problems

Both contractors said bogus negative reviews have an immediate and adverse effect on their businesses. 

“Everything is online now. Everyone looks at reviews,” said Mayer. “The amount of times that we go to a customer and they say they chose us because of the reviews, it really does crush us to have fake negative reviews on our account.” 

Lower ratings not only have the potential to cause customers to go elsewhere, they also push down where the businesses appear in search results.

Fake online reviews have become such a prevalent problem, some experts say they they can’t be trusted regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. 

A CBC News investigation in 2021 uncovered an entire industry based on selling fake reviews and charging businesses to remove negative ones. Mayer said he once spoke to a company for some marketing work and was offered services to post negative reviews about competitors. 

“I immediately said I didn’t want to work with them,” said Mayer. 

Both contractors said they encourage their customers to write Google reviews, and will immediately respond if customers have any concern about their service. 

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Waldram said he contacted Google when the negative reviews began to appear but was unable to get a human to handle his complaint.

However, when CBC News reached out to Google for comment on Monday, the company asked for a list of companies who’d been targeted. Google said it would provide CBC with a statement. 

On Tuesday, Waldram called CBC News to say more than a dozen of the suspicious negative reviews on his Google page had sudden been removed. All of Mayer’s bogus one star-reviews were also removed. Unfortunately, so were some of his legitimate five-star reviews. After the changes, Gutter Guys has 90 reviews and a 4.9 star overall rating. 

As of Tuesday, EaveSafe has a 4.4-star rating with 90 reviews posted. 

Meanwhile, both men say they’ll have to continue to build their businesses with hard work to earn legitimate reviews from real customers. 

“It takes a long time to build up that high online review rating,” said Waldram. 

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