Google My Business Spam: What it is and How to Fight Back

Google My Business listing on mobile phone
Photo by henry perks on Unsplash

It can be frustrating and downright infuriating to spend so much time getting your business locations listed on Google’s Local 3 Pack only to get outranked by a spam listing. The goods news is, there are ways you can take control against fake listings and reviews, and other spammy practices that are holding your Google My Business pages back. (The Google 3-Pack is how Google displays the top three results for local SERP results, utilizing the user’s location to ensure the search is relevant to the location.)

Google My Business spam takes many forms. It can include fake GMB listings, which are created to make the business more likely to appear more often in more places in local search results. It can also include GMB listings that are not fake per se but which should be identified as “SABs” (service area businesses), meaning that Google should display them without addresses. It can also include GMB listings that violate Google’s terms of service in a number of ways, such as stuffing the business name with keywords and city or county names.

Examples of Local Listings Spam

There are three main types of spam that affect Google My Business. Once you know the signs of each, you will be better equipped to fight back in the appropriate manner.

  1. Fake listings: These either don’t exist at all or they do exist but there is no actual physical location or service area. They could be using mailboxes or virtual offices to qualify for GMB. However, to qualify, a business has to have an actual location with staff and hours, and they must have complete profiles. Some spammers attempt to use many home addresses to create many false listings; usually, lead-generating companies are the culprits here.
  2. Keyword stuffing: This involves adding a bunch of descriptive keywords into a business name or description which aren’t part of the actual business.
  3. Fake or biased review: While one of the most common spam types in listings, it’s also the most difficult to fix. Shady businesses can purchase fake positive reviews, and at the same time, reputable businesses can suffer from fake negative reviews even if they’ve done nothing wrong.

Fight Back! Here’s How

You don’t have to take Google My Business spam lying down. In fact, you should take the time to address these issues quickly to avoid spoiling your reputation and falling behind in the SERPs. Here are the options available to you:

1. Fill Out Google’s Business Redressal Complaint Form

Fill out this form to report content that may lead to fraudulent activity or that is considered “malicious to be on Google Maps.” Fill it out completely or it may not be processed in a timely manner, if at all. Use this form to any report any GMB spam listings you come across. Just remember that you will have to fill out a new form for every entry that contains an error. Be detailed in your descriptions, as these forms are looked at and determined by humans.

2. Submit Public Edits to the Spam Listings

Underneath each listing, press the “Suggest an edit” button. Here, you can suggest keywords that should be removed from the name, or report that the place listed doesn’t actually exist. If you can, take a photo of the location listed, which, if it’s indeed different from what they claim, can be powerful proof of spam.

3. Ask for Help

Check out the Google My Business Help Community for advice. The people on here are usually just volunteers, so be polite, ask questions, seek advice, but be patient.

4. Report the Spam in Social Media

You can try to grab the attention of Google on Twitter and other socials by making noise about fake listings, but this is hit or miss. At the very least, you can warn other businesses.

5. Report Fake Reviews

Report suspected fake reviews that violate Google’s Prohibited and Restricted Content policies. Their policies prohibit the posting of phony content to manipulate ratings. You can also report reviews that contain swear words, or that have nothing to do with your company, or that have been posted by someone claiming to be someone else. Finally, in an effort to get other readers to know that you think a particular review is fake is to leave a polite comment saying the reviewer is not a customer.

In the end, it’s important to stay diligent about GMB spam. Check every few months and remember that Google is constantly changing its policies as to what they classify as spam. Having a deep knowledge of this is wise. Of course, you can always hire us to keep track of all this for you!

Contact A Servant’s Heart Web Design and Marketing

To keep Google My Business spam at bay, let our team help empower your business. In fact, one of the features in our SEO Service Packages and also in the Pro version of our Digital Marketing Success System service is a monthly “Spam Detection and Removal Service.” To learn more, contact us at 760-227-2720.

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