[POLL] Is Google My Business Spam a Threat for Local Businesses?
Spam in Google My Business comes in many forms. While we know spam is a big concern of the local SEO elite, we wanted to know how the local marketers using BrightLocal were dealing with spammy GMB listings.
Ahead of our webinar, ‘How to Fight Spam and Influence Rankings‘, we asked BrightLocal users a series of questions around Google spam. Thank you to the 560 marketers who shared their insights.
Note: In February 2019 Google announced they were retiring the Spam & Policy forum, and releasing a new way to report GMB spam. Read more on this here.
Spam is common in local search results, and can risk pushing rule-abiding local businesses out of the 3-pack.
Yet, only 46% of the marketers in this study see spam often or very often.
Just 9% never see spam in local results. While marketers may not be seeing spam frequently, it’s definitely out there. Could those employing spammy tactics be getting more clever about hiding their tactics? Without doing your research into a business, it’s hard to know if they are gaming the system.
Which types of spam have you seen?
The above question was only shown to those who have seen Google My Business spam.
Fake reviews are the most commonly seen type of spam, closely followed by keyword stuffed business names, and multiple listings for the same business.
Fake businesses (businesses that don’t exist, and those created for lead-generation purposes) are also prevalent.
Ineligible listings are also frequently seen, including businesses that aren’t currently in operation, and false addresses that make the business appear in a different location than it really is. While just 27% of marketers reported seeing these, it can be very hard to spot an ineligible business without the facts.
Our Local Citations Trust Report found that 22% of consumers visited the wrong location for a business because the address was incorrect online. And, 80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect or inconsistent contact details or business names online – making it all the more necessary for businesses to provide accurate information.
The majority of marketers believe spam is making it more difficult for local businesses to achieve the top rankings. 77% say Google My Business spam makes their job harder, with 32% from these saying it is much harder.
Interestingly, 6% say spam makes it easier to achieve good rankings. This could be due to the relative simplicity of spam fighting compared to some other more arduous local SEO tactics.
Alternatively, some businesses could be intentionally benefiting from using spammy techniques – after all, 2018’s Local Search Ranking Factors study found product, service, and location keywords in names to be major ranking factors. [To note, we always recommend following Google’s guidelines!]
Sterling Sky’s great case study on keyword stuffing found that keyword stuffing led to a suspension from Google in 40% of cases – so it’s definitely worth following the rules!
How has listings spam grown over the past 12 months?
Spam in Google My Business listings has grown over the last year, with 59% of marketers saying they’ve seen an increase. A further 33% believe it has stayed the same.
Yet, 9% believe spam has decreased. Could this be due to the efforts of spam fighters? Or, could spammers be getting better at hiding fake information in listings and reviews?
With Google My Business spam affecting local businesses’ ranking possibilities, it’s great to see spam fighting becoming a normal part of the local marketing toolset.
66% of the local marketers in this poll are actively fighting spam for their clients or their businesses. 28% are fighting spam for every client.
For top tips on spam fighting from Google Product Experts, Joy Hawkins, Ben Fisher, and Jason Brown, be sure to watch our webinar ‘How to Fight Spam and Influence Rankings‘, and read below to find out poll respondents’ insights into tackling spam in reviews and listings.
Your Thoughts on Spam Fighting
- “I typically just report it to Google as spam. It takes a bit of time but, seems to take care of it in most cases.”
- “I just suggest an edit with Google and change the name to the official business name on the website.”
- “Report problem via Google Maps. This works if the spammy listing owner does not ‘fight back’.”
- “Reporting the listing—and using multiple accounts for this purpose, if necessary—tends to produce the most favorable results in the long run, even if Google declines the initial request.”
- Whenever we find spam listings that are competing with our clients, we always flag them for removal. This can be a tricky process because we may need to flag these listings multiple times before they are removed.” Danielle, Odd Dog Media
- “I usually find the issues when I do a search for a business category, such as personal injury attorney (city name). Then, I go to maps.google.com, enter the business info and then ‘Suggest an edit’. This works sometimes when the spam is egregious.”
- “It’s extremely important to evaluate whether a clients’ competitors are real or not. And even then, sometimes they can be so well presented the average person wouldn’t know what to look for. Start by fully inspecting the leadership and location of the business.”
- “When I see it I have reported it to Google. For one client, their “spammy” competitor” had their address in the middle of a field. I went out and took pictures of the location and sent them to Google showing there wasn’t a business that resided there.”
- “I use a Google account that has Local Guide status. Ever since I earned Level 4, my edits seem to be taken much more seriously. I like to upload a picture of the street view where a fake listing is claiming they are located but are not.” – Christian Rodriguez
- “I always make sure I’m logged into my Local Guide account when hunting down title spam. We like to level the playing field when we first take on a client. 90% of the time one edit to the title will do, if not there are always the GMB message boards.” – D. Fox
- “Using the GMB forums and/or contacting Google support is much more effective than trying to use the “Suggest an Edit” feature in Google Maps.” – Cori Garrod
- “We have found that review spam is most effectively countered with blog posts describing the topic, with review generation campaigns of our own, and by clearly differentiating our client’s web presence. Standing out is still the best defense in our view.”
- “When looking at reviews, one thing to look at is where the reviews are placed on accounts. If someone is writing reviews for a contractor in Los Angeles and New York, you know something is fishy.”
- “With review spam my method is to respond as quickly and professionally as possible, ensuring my customers have more positive reviews than negative.”
Are you fighting Google My Business spam for your clients? Let us know in the comments below!