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How to Identify & Remove Google My Business Spam

You’re ranking well on Google My Business for your keywords and new business is coming in.

Life is good.

Then, out of nowhere, one of your competitor’s starts outranking you, then 2 new listings show up.

Your phone stops ringing and you start losing business.

You were ranking but now these new listings have overtaken you on the map.

What do you do?

That’s the purpose of this chapter.

Onward.

The Different Types of Google My Business Spam

Keyword stuffing the business name:

A real, local competitor has added keywords or a location modifier to their business name.

Lead gen websites:

Often, these listings will hide their address and the business name is  the main keyword.

PO Boxes:

You can’t use a PO Box for a Google My Business listing.

Virtual Offices:

If you identify a competitor listing that is a virtual office, you MIGHT be able to get it removed. We’ll cover this later.

Fake listings:

If none of the above apply, usually, this is a competitor that has created many listings they do not qualify for. This happens in a lot of industries including but not limited to;

  • Addiction treatment centers
  • HVAC
  • Legal
  • Pest control
  • Locksmiths
  • Garage door repair

These fake listings are usually verified at a residential address.

Fake reviews:

The listing paid a third-party to populate fake, positive reviews to the listing.

How to Identify Google My Business Spam

Let the searching begin.

Open Google Maps.

Google Maps will hone in on your physical location, click on the minus sign (-, bottom-right) to expand out to a greater area.

If you want to find spam in a different area or city, do a search for that city, then expand to a larger area.

We’re going to be using the intitle: search operator to help surface spam faster.

Start your search with intitle:”primary keyword

Using intitle: search operator to find Google My Business spam

In these first 10 results from the image above, there are 2 types of spam occurring, lead gen & keyword stuffing the business name.

The #1 result (A Accredited Alcohol Rehab) doesn’t have a website and only has a phone number. The listing is for lead generation, nothing more.

The rest of the results show businesses using name modifiers, which is against Google My Business Guidelines.

Go through your results to identify potential spam.

Let’s look a bit deeper at a typical lead gen listing

Fake Google My Business listing

From Google Maps, I did a search for the exact business name, then clicked on the result. I zoomed in to the location and we see PDQ, a local restaurant.

I grabbed the little yellow fella in the bottom right to get Google Streetview of the location.

Google Streetview

This doesn’t appear to be an addiction treatment center, it’s a restaurant.

While going through this process you’ll want to document your notes and take screenshots as evidence.

We’ll be covering gathering evidence and how to report spam soon.

Onward.

Identifying fake reviews:

This can be a bit tricky and will take more time. If you do the work and provide enough evidence, you’ll have a higher chance of success.

Fake reviews, fake listing

This is a fake listing, too. It’s a residential address and no business is registered with the state of California with this business name.

The content of the first 3 reviews are suspicious.

Real users don’t include every keyword a listing is trying to rank for in the body of the review.

We need to learn more about these users and the other reviews this listing has received.

Start by clicking on each of these users name in a new tab.

Click on reviews to see the user’s other reviews.

Fake Patty's review profile

All 3 reviews were written one month ago. The area these reviews were written in don’t appear to be too far apart, so not very compelling evidence.

Fake review profile

“Amalia” wrote all her reviews 4 months ago in the LA area. The review for Gingerly Witty is interesting, the review was for a different LA-based business.

As you keep digging further into this location’s review profile you start to see a pattern.

Orville Malone seems to love writing about HVAC companies in LA & the Bay Area. Orville got his dryer fixed in San Jose then got his HVAC fixed by this company in Los Angeles in the same timeframe, fascinating.

Good ol' Orville's fake reviews

Finding the address used to verify the listing when it’s hidden from view:

Let’s jump back to A Accredited Alcohol Rehab.

The address is now shown, so how do we see what address was used to verify the listing?

The answer is in the URL you are on.

Finding the latitude and longitude of a GMB listing

The latitude & longitude are in the URL

highlighted latitude & longitude of a listing

 

The first number 33.7523699 is the latitude and -118.1649285 is the longitude.

We use LatLong.net’s Reverse Geocoding to convert latitude and longitude to an physical address.

Reverse lat long lookup

Seems like a real place to me.

How to Document Evidence & Report Spam

Let’s start with documenting evidence.

Before you even begin you need a template to use to make your work more efficient.

I built a Google Sheet to help you document spam you find. Go ahead and grab yourself a copy.

Google My Business spam reporting template

As you’re going through and filling out the sheet, you’ll want to start documenting your findings.

There are 2 ways to report spam, Suggest an edit or the Business Redressal Form.

You should use Suggest an edit on a competitor that is keyword stuffing their business name.

For all other types of spam, use the Business Redressal Form.

Suggest an edit:

Suggest an edit button

Click on the Suggest an edit button.

Change business name

Click on change name or other details.

Editing a Google My Business name

Make necessary changes to the business name, then click Send.

You’ll receive an email thanking you for your contributions.

Document in the sheet and make a note to check back.

You can view edits you have suggested and their status by going to https://google.com/maps/contrib/. Click on Edits in the left-hand navigation.

If an edit is not applied, try again, and document.

If after multiple attempts your edit is not applied, you can bring all  your documentation to the Product Forum to get help.

Business Redressal Form:

In all other instances of Google My Business spam, the Business Redressal Form is where to report spam.

The Redressal Form provides a lot of helpful information and I’m not going to repurpose it.

Under “Identify the content on Google Maps that you claim might lead to fraudulent activity”, select the appropriate field. For fake listings, you’re usually going to select Address or Title.

Provide as much documentation as you can:

When you’re identifying spam, you’ll need to document the reasons why this listing should not exist.

When looking at a fake listing, look at the Streetview of the location. If there is no signage for the business or another business is located at the address, take a screenshot.

Look at the State’s Secretary of State and do an Entity Search. Does this business exist? Take a screenshot.

If you’re local, drive by and take actual photos. This is beneficial for virtual offices, residential addresses, and PO Boxes.

The more evidence you can provide means the easier it is for Google My Business to remove the listing.

In the File upload section of the Redressal Form, upload all the photos you have collected. You can only add one photo at a time.

Now, you need to write out your findings.

Business Redressal Form description

Be as specific and reference the images you attached. Provide as much information as you can that would make it easy for GMB to remove the listing.

Submit the form.

Now the waiting game. You will not receive any updates on the redressal form you submitted.

Turnaround times vary. We check back on each submission 4 weeks after and see if any action has been taken.

If not, we’ll check back in 4 weeks later. If no action has been taken after 8 weeks since submission, we’ll submit the redressal form again.

If you’re submitting the redressal form again, check the evidence you provided in the first round.

You need to make it as easy as possible for GMB to take action.

The end.