Google My Business can be a very useful channel to give visibility to local businesses and over the last 12 months or so there have been some solid Google My Business developments including; video additions, business opening dates, service categories, posts and CTA buttons, offers, and also improved insights and dashboard developments for agencies.
With all these developments Google My Business has of course gotten more attention. This increased attention has attracted many spammers who want to manipulate and take full advantage of any loopholes that Google has not thought about.
This GMB spam is nothing new though, and after Google's announcement, back in April last year, that 70% of fake Google Maps listings had been eradicated (suggesting there was a growing focus on this Google product area), it's quite disheartening to learn that Google My Business spam is still on the rise 2 years on!
It's being talked about regularly on Twitter where you only have to do a quick search on the hashtag #stopcraponthemap to see the kinds of things coming through, and it seems to be ever-increasing.
BrightLocal produced quite an in-depth study asking 560 marketers their thoughts about Google My Business spam. In one part of the study it showed that 45% of respondents felt that Google My Business spam made it 'slightly harder' to deliver good rankings for their clients or own businesses and 32% felt it has been made 'much harder'.
In terms of the types of spam (which is interesting to consider what is being manipulated), the BrightLocal study showed that 47% of those (who had seen what was deemed fake) witnessed fake reviews, 46% witnessed keyword-stuffed business names. Google My Business spam is therefore not just about fake businesses but spammy activity and over-optimisation on legitimate business listings.
From those who took part in the study, there was a collective 59% who believe Google My Business spam has increased of the past 12 months, where 25% of those thought the increase was 'significant'.
- There is lost faith in Google My Business as a strong channel to help local businesses
- There is clear fake and spammy activity across several industries
- This activity has no sign of slowing down
Jamie Pitman, Head of Content at BrightLocal covered this topic recently stating "GMB spam isn’t just unfair, it risks damaging the reputations of Google My Business as a trustworthy source of information as well as the many industries which seem to be more likely to take part in GMB".
He goes on to reference that a dedicated Google My Business spam forum to help tackle this problem has been closed and it seems this wasn't because a newer more effective method was to be introduced.
Is There Hope?
Some SEOs are not giving up and continually trying to identify GMB spam, because well, someone has to.\n
Great little tip: Looking for spam listings on Maps? Use the search operator 'allintitle' to find them easily Ex: 'allintitle:car accident lawyer' https://t.co/gbsTt4i9jt This will find GMB listings with 'car accident lawyer' in the title - which we know, are most likely spam pic.twitter.com/gYcvM9Mby7 — Dave DiGregorio (@deegs20) 13 March 2019
Google My Business spam should not deter marketers from using it as a marketing channel to help improve a brand's visibility in search results and connect with their customers, especially with the developments Google has been making. It's important to stick to Google's guidelines, make use of all the applicable features but not over-optimise and always remember to keep consistency with business details. Google My Business insights are useful but can also be made to be much more powerful through tagging techniques to better interpret data in Google Analytics.
Like all good marketers know, Google My Business is just one of several channels to help achieve marketing success. It is just one weapon in the digital marketer's arsenal and should be used as part of a marketing ecosystem, developed in a carefully planned out digital marketing strategy.
For help with Google My Business or developing a carefully crafted digital marketing strategy get in touch with Wildfire Digital.