How to Identify Spam in GMB Listings

Magnifying glass over Google My Business logo

Local SEO is all the rage, and for good reason. The number of mobile-based searches using the term “where to buy” has surged some 85 percent since 2015, and 82 percent of smartphone owners turn to their mobile browsers when it’s time to hunt down a local brick-and-mortar business. Our busy lifestyles and a collective desire to find the best businesses in the most convenient locations have helped turned Google My Business into an asset for consumers and brands alike.

When customers use Google to search for certain type of business — or to look for your company specifically — they’ll encounter a dedicated listing thanks to a handy algorithm designed by Google’s impressive legion of minions. Within these listings, there is endless potential for marketing genius and promotional greatness, but one thing hangs over the entire enterprise like a dark cloud: GMB spam.

Listing spam is the worm in the GMB apple. Here’s how you can identify the problem and take care of it before it threatens your brand’s future.

What Does GMB Spam Look Like?

GMB listings are only as strong as their weakest link; if the quality of the listings goes down, the public at large will lose faith in the accuracy of the system, and that’s no good for anyone. To help maintain the integrity of GMB and protect your own standing, watch for the following:

  • Keyword Stuffing. Some unscrupulous business owners attempt to stack the decks in their favor by inserting an abundance of high-value search terms into their GMB listing name. Another naughty tactic involves editing your business name to include other businesses’ key terms, so that anyone searching for the secondary business finds the first company’s listing instead. Lastly, a business can insert references to a popular business in its own listing to artificially juice their ranking.
  • Ineligible Businesses. Businesses that aren’t yet open, properties listed for sale or rent, and meetings, classes, and ongoing services are all business types considered ineligible for a GMB listing.
  • Duplicate Listings. Setting up multiple listings for the same business is a major no-no.
  • Incorrect Addresses. As Google listings are targeted by geographic location, some businesses try to pull in patrons by using a false address. Others use a PO box or other third-party address, neither of which are permitted.

How to Review GMB Listings

Here’s what you should be looking for when you review your GMB listing and other entries for accuracy and evidence of competitor spam:

  • Compare the listed address with the signage visible via Google Street View
  • Google the listed address to see if it returns the name of a different business
  • Call the listed phone number and see who answers and what business they purport to represent
  • Verify a business’s legitimacy by looking up licensure information and other government-issued documentation
  • Compare the information on the GMB listing with the information on the business’s website
  • Look for multiple businesses all sharing the same location information and/or phone number
  • Read through the listing’s reviews to see if they seem fake — repeated verbiage on multiple reviews for the same business, similar reviews on multiple listings, and single reviews from brand new accounts are all suspect

Any of these red flags could indicate a spam listing or a genuine mistake; the more red flags you see, the more likely it is that something’s amiss.

Leading the Anti-Spam Brigade

If your spidey sense is telling you that something is off about GMB listing, check your suspicions against the Google My Business Help Guide. There you’ll find information on things like which businesses are eligible or ineligible for a GMB, who can be an authorized representative, what to include and omit from business descriptions, and more.

If your suspicions are correct, it’s time to take action. Your first step is to attempt an edit:

  1. Go to the listing on Google Maps
  2. Click on the “Suggest an edit” link under the business’s phone number
  3. Edit the field containing the incorrect information
  4. If applicable, select the reason for the edit
  5. Wait

All edits are reviewed by Google’s team. Whether or not your edit will be accepted depends on a number of factors, including your own profile and Google reputation. Much like Yelp or TripAdvisor, the more active you are — assuming your edits are on point, of course — the more credibility you’ll have. Still, even completely valid edits are sometimes rejected. In that case, you’ll want to escalate from an edit to a report.

To report GMB spam, you’ll need to head over to Google’s Spam & Policy forum. Once there, create a new thread dedicated to the issue you’ve spotted and include a link to the listing itself, the issue you’re reporting, the corrected details, and whatever evidence you have proving a violation has taken place. Incomplete posts or posts containing jumbled information are typically skipped over, so proper form is imperative. Using the “share” feature on the listing itself to access the short URL and then pasting that version of the link in your post will go a long way towards streamlining the review process.

Google is notoriously lax about fixing spammed listings, but they say they’re actively working to improve response time, and there are also new measures in place that may help prevent spammers from gaining traction in the first place. In the meantime, it may take multiple reports before listing spam gets removed, and even then, the violator can simply re-edit the listing and you’re back at square one.

It’s a frustrating process and it can sometimes feel downright futile, but persistence is important. The better we all work to maintain the Google listing landscape, the harder it will be for competitor spam to clutter up the works, and that’s enough to make legitimate businesses everywhere jump for joy.

Lead to Conversion is a proven local SEO marketing company that can help you maintain your local listings and help your customers find important information about your business. Call us at 855-473-6582 today and request your free quote. We look forward to working with you.

By |2018-07-17T13:35:50+00:00May 30th, 2018|

About the Author:

Kevin Dockman is Vice President of Creative here at LTC and brings 10+ years of experience in web development, graphic design and branding. His background also includes experience in logo design, digital & print advertising, email marketing.Known as the “Wordpress Ninja,” Dockman manages Responsive Web Design and development projects for LTC clients, oversees LTC’s team of designers and developers, and manages LTC's website support & maintenance programs. He also leads creative on other teams at LTC including conversion optimization, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and pay-per-click advertising.

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