A newly launched Aussie business is helping small business owners remove fake or otherwise negative online reviews, trying to save SMEs from suffering at the hands of dodgy reviewers.
Called Removify, the business is founded by serial entrepreneur Nick Bell and long-time friend Andrew Whitford. Bell is the founder of app development company Appscore, and previously sold his digital marketing business WME Group for $39 million in 2016.
Businesses submit their reviews to Removify, who only charge the business if they are successful in removing the content. Removify boasts it can take down almost any content on the internet, including Google reviews, Glassdoor reviews, Product Review submissions and TripAdvisor ratings.
The company even claims it can remove offending content in ‘revenge porn’ cases.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Whitford says he and Bell’s experience in running digital agencies means they’d seen the effect negative reviews can have on businesses first-hand.
“The whole landscape is mostly weighted against business, they don’t often have ways to fight back against any form of attack,” Whitford says.
“This could be a competitor attacking them, or a customer or alleged customer being completely unreasonable. Usually there’s no professional avenue to take other than getting lawyers in.”
Whitford likens Removify to a law firm in the sense the business has an intimate knowledge of the platforms’ review policies, and knows what does and doesn’t count as a contravention.
“We know the guidelines well, so we know what things to draw to attention,” he says.
Removify also operates on a ‘no win, no fee’ model, and the team typically only takes on cases it thinks it can win.
The business primarily attempts to have the content removed, usually by contacting the business hosting the review, however in cases where it cannot review the material it employs other ‘reputation management’ methods, such as SEO to move positive search results above negative ones.
“Reputation management describes the wider space outside of reviews, such as Google Search results which could be an issue for an individual or a business,” Whitford says.
“There’s a tendency for negative things to rank stronger. There’s a perception that you can go and do 100 good things and no one will notice, but if you make one mistake it’s on the first page of Google.”
Negative press also in crosshairs
The business also offers to attempt to remove negative press about a business, but notes this is particularly difficult due to news publications fighting “tooth and nail to keep it up, under the argument of ‘freedom of speech’.”
“In general, if the content itself is completely fair and/or factually accurate, provided honestly by a real human, and without infringing any locally applicable laws (such as privacy, copyright, etc) then removal is always more difficult (but not impossible),” the site says.
Removify launched in Apri and has already grown its team to 10 employees, which Whitford foresees peaking 30 by the end of the year. The co-founder says they’ve already taken down “thousands” of reviews.
Business owners have told SmartCompany in the past about their troubles with negative and fake reviews, with Quality Inn City Centre in Coffs Harbour owner Michael Dougherty saying he’d been battling them for some time.
“We welcome reviews, that’s how you improve your services and facilities … the inaccurate ones make it tough though,” he said last year.
“It’s near impossible to get them off, no matter how inaccurate they are, which is very frustrating,” he explains.
One cafe owner was delivered a deluge of false reviews after the 2018 VCE English exam featured a cafe with a similar name to hers, saying it had burnt coffee and “tablet-wielding employees”. After the exam got out, hundreds of students flocked to Google, leaving joking, yet negative, reviews.
“We’ve got about five high schools in walking distance of where we are. We didn’t know until one of the students showed us the question and we started getting all these Facebook messages,” the owner told SmartCompany at the time.
“I’m studying for my own uni exams at the moment, I don’t need this shit.”
“I just want to return to business as normal.”