Fighting Google My Business spam is one of the most effective ways to climb rankings in local SEO, but is the uptake as common among agencies as local SEO experts?
From just a quick glance at local SEO Twitter, you’d think that spam fighting is what dominates many local SEOs’ working days. But our Local Search Industry Survey showed that, on the contrary, just a third of local marketers offer GMB spam fighting as a service.
Meanwhile, in stark contrast, our Expert Google My Business survey showed that, second only to reviews, spam fighting is one of the most important tasks to prioritize in 2020, with 65% of experts vouching for it, while just 11% of agencies said the same thing.
These two drastically opposing statistics got us thinking: why aren’t more agencies investing in spam removal?
That’s why we took matters into our own hands and polled our trusty audience to find out more.
In total, we looked at the data from 513 respondents – 64% of which manage local SEO for a client’s business, while 36% look after their own local SEO. For the purposes of this poll, we’ll be separating these respondents into agencies and local businesses.
First, we’ll dive into local businesses (but you can skip ahead to agencies here).
Local Businesses and Spam fighting
Do local businesses spend time reporting their competitors’ spam on Google My Business?
The vast majority of local businesses don’t spend time reporting competitors’ spam on Google My Business, with 73% telling us that this wasn’t a tactic they used. Bearing in mind these are BrightLocal users, who might be a little more local SEO-savvy than a typical local business, we were surprised that this tactic wasn’t encompassed by more respondents.
Are local businesses missing a trick by not knowing to look out for (potentially less obvious) types of spam, such as keyword stuffing, fake businesses, and duplicate listings? If you want to start fighting spam, you’ll first want to get familiar with the different types of spam on Google My Business.
What holds local businesses back from providing spam removal services?
When asked what was holding them back from reporting GMB spam, a whopping 54% of respondents claimed that they don’t know how to get spam removed in the first place. Although this number may be surprising, it’s not unexpected that many people don’t know how to remove spam on GMB. After all, the process could certainly be simpler. What kind of spam should you use the redressal form for? Does suggesting an edit count as reporting spam? When should you contact GMB directly? (For those wanting to get more immediate answers to these questions, you may want to check out Joy Hawkins’ Q&A on spam fighting).
Meanwhile, coming in a (not so close) second place, local businesses reported that spam isn’t an issue for their business. But with spam being increasingly prevalent in local searches, it’s hard to believe that so many businesses would not be affected at all. Again, this may come back to the fact that many businesses don’t know what is considered spam. For example, keyword stuffing might be hard to spot as spam, and in fact, some local businesses may even be tempted to incorporate tactics like this themselves.
At the end of the day, unless you’re well versed in the GMB guidelines, it may be hard to identify listings that are benefiting from breaking the rules. And with so many tasks to juggle day-to-day, for many local businesses, it can be challenging to find the time to stay clued up on the guidelines.
Agencies and Spam fighting
Do agencies spend time reporting their competitors’ spam on Google My Business?
Similarly to local businesses, only 35% of agencies are making use of spam removal, and only half of these provide spam fighting for all of their clients.
This near-equal split between the 35% would certainly make sense, as GMB spam affects some industries more than others (just take a look at garage door spam on Twitter for a shining example of this). If you’re not sure whether or not to fight spam for your clients, it’s probably worth taking a look at other industry-related searches to see just how prevalent it is.
Overwhelmingly, though, 64% of agencies are not providing spam fighting services at all. You might think that agencies would be more familiar with the process of spam removal than local businesses, but is that the case? In the next section, we take a look at why agencies aren’t offering spam removal.
What holds agencies back from providing spam removal services?
The primary reason for agencies to not provide spam fighting services is simply that they don’t know how to do it, with 53% of respondents citing this reason.
This is, however, closely followed by not being able to prove value to clients. We know that it can be hard to show clients the benefits of individual local SEO tactics, so endeavor to keep a clear log of your spam fighting efforts, including when you report spam to Google, and when (fingers crossed!) any updates go live. Where possible, try to show clients real-world examples of where fighting spam has positively impacted other businesses.
Naturally, spam fighting can take time, with marketers needing to keep a close eye on their competitors’ listings to spot any changes that may affect customers’ decisions.
In fact, 7% of poll respondents told us that the slow nature of the spam removal process was holding them back from fighting spam. Given that many marketers have just a set number of hours to spend on each client, could this slow process be discouraging some marketers from choosing to tackle spam?
What do agencies find to be the hardest thing about GMB spam removal?
For the 35% that do offer spam removal, we wanted to know what the hardest part of the process is. Here, we’ve grouped together a few of the most common responses by topic:
No feedback from redressals.
Google isn’t clear or consistent about the reasons for the suspensions. It’s a very tedious task to try and understand what they feel is wrong sometimes.
The fact that you don’t get any feedback from Google. You don’t know if a remittance form has been reviewed, if a business has been removed, or why it wasn’t removed.
The time it takes to wait for a reply from Google.
Google’s lack of response.
Obtaining a response from Google.
Tracking Success and Success Rates
The removal rate is low.
It doesn’t take effect that quickly. Lots of my clients’ competitors are spamming the sh*t out of Google and it’s quite frustrating.
Keeping up with it. I can get someone removed or get their name updated to remove spammy keyword stuffing but they can then turn around and either create a new listing or rename after the name has been changed.
Determining What is Spam
Figuring out what category to choose as to why spam should be removed.
Deciding what’s spam and what isn’t.
Knowing how to report different types of spam since Google prefers different methods for different types.
Scaling Spam Removal
Spam removal is very difficult to scale. There are a lot of pieces to spam removal (finding spam, confirming what is spam and what is just a bad UX, documenting cases, reporting to Google, etc.) and almost none of them can be scaled effectively (at least not that I’ve seen).
Fighting spam is a very manual process.
Although spam removal can be a successful ranking tactic, the vast majority of agencies and local businesses don’t know how to report Google My Business spam, and as such do not do it. For those that do take the time to report spam, it can prove a time-intensive and fruitless task.
Regardless, it’s a task that, when undertaken properly, can prove very successful to climb local search rankings.
And while spam fighting won’t be necessary for every business or industry, (so it does make sense that not every business or agency would be doing it), we would expect the numbers to be slightly higher in these results.
In 2020, Google My Business spam seems more present than ever, and online chatter about spam seems to increase day by day. So if we can urge you to do one thing, it would be to invest in learning more about spam removal — types of GMB spam, removing it, and seeing results.