It might be hard to believe, but Google My Business (GMB) spam listings have been affecting search rankings for well over a decade. While some business owners make a few honest mistakes on their GMB profiles, many unscrupulous individuals and marketers are inventing completely fake businesses or editing legitimate business listings as a way to redirect leads.
However earnest Google’s efforts are to rid spam, it still happens and spammy listings acquire valuable ranking spots that take customers away from legitimate businesses. And, when it is your brand’s local listings being impacted, the result may be lost traffic, customers, and revenue as a result.
What can you do to fight spam listings? Here are some common questions and answers our team often receives.
Where are spam listings found the most?
In the U.S., lawyers, locksmiths, and other local services are the most common. In the U.K., personal trainers and plastic surgeons are often flagged for spam.
Why should I report a spam listing?
Spam listings take away valuable search ranking spots from legitimate businesses. Companies lose revenue and visibility, and customers in turn can’t find what they need. When spam listings are removed, everyone benefits.
Reporting is particularly important when your own locations are affected, to prevent suspension issues and protect Google’s trust in your brand.
When should you use “suggest an edit” rather than a redress form?
There are different purposes for “suggest an edit” vs. using the redress form.
Send a suggestion to Google if you believe a business is real but it hasn’t been verified on GMB yet or it’s a small business. Specifically, use the “suggest an edit” feature on a GMB profile when you see the following:
- A business keyword or city used as the business name
- A practice name in a practitioner listing
- An incorrect landing page URL
- An incorrect address or location on the map
- Incorrect business hours
Complete a redress form when you suspect there is misleading information or fraud in a business’s name, phone number, or URL.
How do I know if my business listing has been marked as spam?
You will know if your GMB listing is marked as spam if you see a “Suspended” notification in your GMB dashboard. This is how the notification will appear:
Can you add keywords to your business name?
No, and this is one of the easiest ways to get your account suspended and what local marketers look for when reporting spam listings. According to Google’s guidelines, the listing name should be the real-world name that customers recognize.
What are some best practices for reporting spam listings?
Only report businesses when you can make a very clear case that they’re breaking the rules. When you are reporting it, Google looks to see if the error was intentional or simply a mistake.
How do I know if a listing is legitimate and using spam practices, versus an actual fake listing?
Here are several indicators that a listing may be using spam practices:
- The listing has a modifier
- The listing has no website
- Keyword stuffing in the business name
- No branding/logo on website
- The business address is a personal residence
- For industries that require a license, the business does not have a valid license
- Businesses that aren’t open yet
- Setting up multiple listings for the same business
- The business listing’s reviews appear fake
Where can I report spam listings?
You can submit a redressal form to Google here: https://support.google.com/business/contact/business_redressal_form
What are some tips for drafting a successful redressal?
Try to understand how Google refers to infractions, which is often different from how we normally report things.
For example, keyword stuffing can be framed as “unnecessary descriptors” instead. There’s Google lingo vs. how local SEOs speak, and you’ll see more success by framing it in Google-speak. It typically takes Google around two weeks to address a redressal form.
How do you protect yourself from those you report?
Your name and email address go on redressal forms. Ensure you’re certain about what you’re reporting and how you word it. Prior to reporting, do your due diligence rather than simply assuming something is spam.
What if you work for an agency or an enterprise brand? How should you report spam?
If you work for an agency or enterprise brand, don’t use an email address associated with your GMB account and all your listings. Reporting spam can have a trickle-down effect and impact the listings you manage or even ban your listings.
If you are in charge of a client’s account, will you be spammed?
It’s possible that your client’s listing may get suspended, but the account will still be active. Continued communication with Google should resolve any issues that affect legitimate businesses.
What if a spam listing is ranking well and you report it, but you’re not seeing any movement?
A redress form is the first stop for reporting spam. Once you submit this form, allow about two weeks for Google to address your concern. If that doesn’t work, you can then head over to the GMB forum to get extra eyeballs on it there.
Can you find spam listings at scale?
Unfortunately, spam listings can not be found in bulk. Spam listings can most easily be found by searching for certain keywords in a geographic area near your listing.
What are some resources for learning more about spam fighting?
Follow local SEOs on social media, interact with local search forums, follow the GMB community forum, and attend conferences about local marketing topics. Spam fighting is always evolving so it is crucial to stay in the know.
What is the difference between a hard suspension and a soft suspension?
A hard suspension will result in your business listing not appearing in search or Google Maps when someone searches for your company name. Hard suspensions occur when Google determines your business listing is spam or doesn’t qualify for a listing.
A soft suspension is a less serious offense. Your business’ Knowledge Panel still shows up in search results, but it will look as though your listing hasn’t been verified. You are also unable to manage or update your listing. If a user suggests a wrong edit, you will risk not being able to rectify the issue with a soft suspension.
While GMB spam is an unfortunate reality, there are some easy ways to deal with it. If listings need more than a suggested edit, fill out Google’s redress form to report spam.
You can learn more about listing spam if you are ready to tackle it in small amounts. If you are experiencing a lot of spam listings in your local searches, it may help to enlist the help of an SEO agency to fight those spam listings at scale.
Taking action on GMB spam not only helps your business rank higher in local search, but you’ll also be helping other local businesses thrive and keep customers satisfied. That’s a win-win situation for everyone.