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Local Search and Google My Business Spam

Local Search and Google My Business Spam

Fake Google My Business (GMB) listings and reviews are well-documented. Just search for “garage door local search scams”, “locksmith local search scams”… there used to be dozens of them here in Frisco and Plano, all from the same companies. Why is this important for SEO? Because much of local search performance is driven by local listings, reviews and maps, and listing spam hurts legitimate businesses.

Being aware of this can help your own performance in local search. Addressing spam is one of the techniques we use and you can too. If you’re showing up fifth in Google and one of the listings that appears before yours isn’t real, tell Google. With any luck, in a couple weeks you’ve moved up a spot!

Old or Duplicate Business Listings

There are different levels of spam fighting. For instance, if you know a company has moved but they have a GMB listing for both old and new locations, you can “Suggest an Edit” on their old listing and have it removed. You can select from a number of reasons, including closing, moving, duplicate listings and more. It’s easy and it helps everybody (including you) by removing inaccurate information.

Spam or Fake GMB Listings

Not all issues are honest mistakes. Some are more nefarious. If you spot a GMB listing that uses a spammy title, or is a fake listing you know points to some other business, a virtual business address or fake phone number for lead generation, you can use the Google My Business Redressal Form. It's a little much to explain here but Bright Local has a good recent blog about how to properly use the redressal form here.

Fake Reviews

If you get a bad review on GMB, you don’t recognize the name, or the person who slammed you has 5 reviews and they are all unrelated businesses in different areas of the state, it could be a fake profile, as well as a fake review. Here's what to do:

  1. The first step is always to respond to the review. Don’t get mad; respond, perhaps saying you have no record of them as a customer (if that’s true) but you encourage them to contact you to discuss the complaint and hopefully come to a resolution. While you battle the issue behind the scenes, your customers will all see you responding professionally.
  2. Report the review to Google by flagging the review on your GMB Review page and telling them why it’s in violation of their guidelines. Give them a week before taking any other action. This works quickly if the listing hasn't been claimed or verified; if it has been you may need to go to step #3.
  3. Google has Facebook and Twitter pages for GMB. Post your situation there, and you should receive a response. Or, you can post on GMB Support, the other alternative. Chances are slim Google will actually remove a review, but you should always try. If you use Support, they may contact you (probably not) and ask for more information. Others in the Support group can sometimes offer good info, especially when Joy Hawkins replies!
  4. Bury it. Ask for some new reviews. Law of averages, eventually that one-star rating won’t count for much.

Google is aware of these issues, as are all the other review and listing platforms. That’s why they came up with “Google Guaranteed” listings (not free, but more reliable). Unfortunately it’s a limited set of business types that are available through the Guaranteed program.

It's unfortunate that Google is somewhat lax in preventing spam, at scale. For the rest of us, all you can do is be vigilant, check your listings and reviews regularly, and take action if you see something wrong with yours or a competitor’s listing. There's plenty of info on the web about this (including outdated and inaccurate info  - check dates) and of course, you can always call us.

Bill tracks news and changes in SEO as it effects site design and content development. Follow this blog if you're a business or agency owner that needs basic info to help with your own projects!