To spare you the suspense, the short answer is you can’t remove bad reviews online. If you know who left the review, then you might be able to remedy their issue and persuade them to remove it. However, this won’t be possible in most cases. What you can do is bury these bad reviews deep enough so that nobody can reasonably view them. Free tools like Untrue Report help you do that. The same strategies apply whether you’re concerned about bad reviews on Yelp.com or Google places.
It never ceases to amaze us how many small businesses continue to dump money into online marketing campaigns while their Google search results still show negative reviews on the first page. The right thing to do is divert your marketing dollars to fixing your bad reviews first.
Luckily, bad reviews are quite easy to fix and don’t take as long as burying negative search results. The reason is you’re not suppressing the review site’s search result, but instead, you’re suppressing the bad review within the review site, which allows Google to pull newer positive reviews into the search result. All that’s needed are newer, more positive reviews created to support your business. Enlisting the support of your existing clients is necessary here. You might have to offer some motivation, in the form of future discounts or free offers, but many would be willing to spend the few minutes online to leave you a review if you just ask–or casually beg.
Google Reviews (maps.google.com)
Google reviews can be viewed on Google search results and map search for businesses. Writing a new review is easy as finding your listing on Google maps and clicking on the “sign in to rate” button. Google will display the most recent review when the business is listed in the search results or map search results. Also, when you click on the red pointer for your business on Google maps, the most recent review will pop-up there too. If one of your happy customers happened to leave the most recent review, then you’re in good shape as far as display text is concerned.
The only other issue is the star rating (out of 5) displayed for your business. Google star ratings are a standard average taken by adding up all of the points given per review and then dividing by the total number of reviews. You might notice a larger number of total reviews (e.g. “13 out of 30 reviews”) printed than what Google will actually show you. This is due to Google’s count of reviews on other sites such as Citysearch, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, and Yelp.
Let’s say you have 2 stars out of 5 for 10 reviewers (or 20 stars if you look at it differently) on Google. To increase your star review score to 4 stars out of 5, you will need 20 new reviews at 5 stars each, assuming your customers are all ecstatic about the product or service you provided them, to end up with a 4 star average. Let’s figure it out by computing it this way: 20 reviews * 5 stars = 100 stars. Add the original 10 reviews * 2 stars = 20 stars. You end up with 120 stars out of 30 reviews. If you divide the number of stars, 120 in this case, by 30 reviewers, you end up with an average of 4 stars.
Yelp Reviews (yelp.com)
Yelp reviews are sorted differently than Google’s. This is straight from the Yelp FAQ under a question about how reviews are displayed…
Yelp’s default sort order takes a number of factors into account and reflects our own attempt to present reviews in a meaningful order.
So, you might not be able to hide any one specific review’s text from displaying on search results or at the top of the Yelp page for that location, but you can still affect the ratings if you encourage more of your customers to leave reviews. Just don’t try to create bogus reviews yourself because, besides being unethical, Yelp filters reviews to promote legitimate entries. See the Yelp Support Center’s answer on why their filtering mechanism exists.