How to Report Google My Business Spam [Feb 2019 Update]

How to Report Google My Business Spam [Feb 2019 Update]
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I’ve been working with Google Gold Product Experts (formerly Google Top Contributors) for a year and a half now, and in this time one particular issue has come up probably more than anything else: spam on Google My Business.

Until this week, one of the best recourses to report GMB spam that hurt your local business rankings (alongside contacting the GMB team on Twitter and Facebook, which you can still do) was to post details about it on the official Google My Business forum and hope that one of the many Sheriffs of Spamland would heed your call.

Well, no more!

This week Google finally took a big step towards acknowledging the damage GMB spam does to consumers and businesses alike by announcing a new way to report GMB spam (apart from fake reviews) that gets reviewed by a human at Google:

Introducing the ‘Business Redressal Complaint Form’

*sound of fireworks*

Well, it’s certainly not the sexiest name, but what it does will make things so much easier for local marketers tired of submitting the same spam reports again and again that I’m willing to forgive Google for such a lexical travesty.

If you’ve come across “misleading information or fraudulent activity on Google Maps related to the name, phone number, or URL of a business”, follow the below steps to alert Google to it.

Here’s how to submit a Google My Business spam complaint:

  1. Click here to head to the form (you’ll want to bookmark it as it’ll soon become your best friend)
  2. Read the guidelines linked to in the form’s introduction carefully. This is what the Google staffer reading your form will judge your complaint against, so you need to make sure what you’re claiming is misleading or fraudulent is specifically at odds with something in these guidelines.
  3. Enter your information. Even if you’re a local marketing consultant or agency representing another business, you’ll need to enter your name and email address.
  4. Select the fraudulent content in question (Title, Address, Phone number, or Website) and add the public GMB URL in the field below. (More than one type of content to complain about? Sorry to say this, but it appears that you’ll have to submit multiple forms).
  5. You might want to build a stronger case using multiple URLs. If you have a few (2-10), you can use the ‘Add additional info’ link to add new fields. If you have more than ten (up to 100), you can use the CSV upload feature to submit a spreadsheet.
  6. Now for the fun part: write, in detail, why the content is malicious or fraudulent. I can’t stress enough how important the level of detail is. Google Gold Product Expert Ben Fisher championed those who gave great amounts of detail when submitting spam to the GMB forum in a recent webinar, and we can only assume that Google’s own team require a similar level of detail. Write clearly, professionally and respectfully, and be make sure to refer to how the subject of your complaint is contravening the aforementioned Google guidelines where possible, to make the Google staffer’s job a little easier. If you’re reporting multiple incidents of spam, it makes sense to have those exhibiting the same bogus characteristics (e.g. keyword stuffing in business name) grouped together in one complaint to save you having to submit multiple reports.
  7. Take one last look through the completed form.
  8. Rub a lucky rabbit’s foot.
  9. Click ‘Submit’.

What now for the Sheriffs of Spamland?

While persistent spam-fighters like Joy Hawkins, Jason Brown, Ben Fisher, and Tim Capper won’t exactly be handing in their badges (they’ll still be helping to #StopCrapOnTheMap for their own clients), they’ll no longer be able to help you with spam on the GMB forum, as the Spam & Policy section of the forum will soon be retired.

This admittedly means you won’t get the personal touch you’ve come to love when engaging with the product experts on spam, but it also means they can spend their precious (and, might I add, free) time helping business owners and local marketers with other GMB issues!

Any questions?

I’m happy to answer any questions here the best I can, but I would recommend you first check out this excellent thread on the Local Search Forum, in which Joy Hawkins has done (and I’m sure will continue to do) an excellent job answering frequently asked questions about this new process of submitting GMB spam reports.

If you’ve noticed any changes in the form, or have found new ways to do some of the above, please do let me know and I’ll be happy to amend the post.

In the meantime, happy spam-fighting!

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10 thoughts on “How to Report Google My Business Spam [Feb 2019 Update]”

  1. If a business wanted to make their business-name more acceptable to GMB name guidelines, maybe they should consider doing a DBA (doing business as) in their state, as in “ABC Attorneys” doing business as “ABC Divorce Attorneys San Francisco” ?? Then have a directory-cleanup service make changes to directories and aggregators to reflect that DBA name?

    1. Hi Chris,

      That’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure that would fly with Google unless the DBA name was prominently used throughout website, stationary, signage, that sort of thing. The business name has to be what customers and consumers know the business as. In many cases, the DBA name may apply to this, though!

      Jamie

  2. Thank you for the information. I have also submitted one Spam Business Listing, But till date, I have not got any reply from Google Team. If anybody has done it & got the success please share it here.

    Regards

  3. I saw a listing that said SEO Near Me as their Company Name on their GMB listing. They had changed their website to have that title too. They are not a limited company so… How do you prove that it’s not their business name…

    1. Hi Jo, if they’ve taken steps to change their name on their website, it may well be that they’ve completed or started the process of changing their name to SEO Near Me. As per Google’s guidelines, this could be legitimately used for the Google My Business name (though I’ve no idea how Google would propose to check it against their stationary!):

      “Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your shop front, website, stationery and as known to customers. Accurately representing your business name helps customers find your business online.”

      Thanks

      Jamie

  4. Being one of the above-mentioned Sheriffs of Spamland for GMB, I am not a fan of this update or change. The PE’s are in constant communication with each other on a daily basis. We share and compare notes and have been able to uncover larger spam networks by collaborating together. Google would never have been able to pick up on these patterns without the help and assistance of the PE’s. I am not just talking about lead gen listings, but also different fake review attacks. It was the PE’s that discovered the 3 million fake 4-star only ratings, the-star reviews attacks targeting San Diego, San Francisco, and wedding photographers or the negative review attacks affecting a dozen businesses over the holidays. We also have uncovered lead gen rehab listings that were being used for recruitment for The Church of Scientology.

    Consumers and business owners are no subject to relying on Google to police themselves without the checks and balances of the Sheriffs of Spamland. We fight to keep Google accountable and push back when they tell us no to a spam removal takedown. We are adaptable and will continue to fight to protect consumers and legitimate businesses playing by the rules. I have no plan on turning in my badge and riding off into the sunset as the fighter still remains.

  5. What is classed as misleading information or fraudulent activity? A competitor that we come up against on GMB uses the following as their title:

    Company Name | Keyword | Location

    Is this classed as misleading or against Google’s guidelines?

    Thanks,

    Adam

    1. Hi Adam, yes that is considered misleading as it’s “unnecessary information”.

      Per Google’s guidelines,

      “Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.”

      Thanks

      Jamie

  6. Hey Jamie, if a GMB listing is using keywords in its business name (ie, “Anna James Columbus Wedding Photographer”), which part of the name guidelines would you specify that it’s violating? “Service or product information about your business”?

    1. Hi Sara, if you can prove that that is not the official, registered business name, (e.g. if the business is only registered as ‘Anna James Columbus’), then it qualifies as misleading per Google’s guidelines: “Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.”

      However, it’s really not far off what the business could be registered as, though I would expect that to be ‘Anna James Columbus Wedding Photography’. This certainly isn’t as obviously keyword-stuffing as some other examples so I couldn’t guarantee Google would consider you have a case. They could just ask the business to change the name to ‘Anna James Columbus Wedding Photography’ (if that’s what it’s registered as).

      Hope that helps

      Jamie

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