How to Protect Your Online Search Rankings From Spam

You’re likely already competing against enough legitimate companies in your service area for visibility on internet business listings and don’t want your ranking position further hurt by spam. Here’s what you can do about it.

How to Protect Your Online Search Rankings From Spam

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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In most markets, the competition is hot. Even if you’re investing in SEO, PPC, and Local Service Ads (LSAs), it can be hard to get your company in front of potential customers.

What’s worse? We’ve been seeing a lot of what we call “spam bombing,” which could be making it even harder for your potential customers to find you.

Here’s what you can do about spam bombing and how you can improve your chances of getting in front of those searching for your services on Google.

What’s Spam Bombing and How Do You Spot It?

Spam bombing is when:

  • Multiple fake or spammy Google My Business (GMB) listings are created in one metro area in order to take over the Maps feature of Google Search and push legitimate businesses further down.
  • Businesses pay for a ton of good reviews in order to manipulate search results. These reviews make it harder for companies playing by the rules to rank and deceive customers searching for the best business to work with. 

How do you know if it’s happening in your area? Look for these telltale signs in Google Maps:

  • Business listings with simple one-page websites or no website at all
  • Business listings with an unrealistic amount of reviews — many of which were left by people who reviewed multiple other contractors in the area (or even outside of the area)
  • Business listings for companies you’ve never seen around or heard of Multiple business listings with names that don’t make sense (i.e. G&Z Plumber, G&T Plumber, O&X Plumber, etc.)

If you do have a lot of Maps spam in your market, chances are that you — like the rest of us — wish Google would do something about it. Thankfully you don’t have to wait on Google to get its act together. You can fight back and clean up Maps so that legitimate businesses like yours that deserve to be found can be. 

How to Fight Maps Spam in Your Service Area

There are two ways to fight back when you spot spam bombing. 

First, if you work with a marketing agency, you can reach out to them to see if they’ll fight spam on your behalf. If they do, bring the problem to their attention and let them get to work. 

If you don’t work with a marketing agency that fights Maps spam, set aside some time each week to work on it or delegate it to someone in your company. It’s a seriously easy and rewarding win. It just takes some time. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Report review spam with the edit function of GMB. This should be the first thing you try when reporting review spam. Find the GMB profile of the user leaving suspicious reviews and click the three vertical dots on the top right-hand corner of their profile. You should see “Report Abuse” options pop up, and we recommend choosing “Another policy violation.” 
  • Report fake/spammy GMB listings through the edit function. If you’re confident the listing itself is for a fake business, simply click the listing on Maps, scroll down to “Suggest an Edit,” and choose “Mark as closed or removed.” When asked why you’re marking it as closed or removed, click“Spam, fake, or offensive.”
  • Use Google’s redressal form. If you don’t have any luck with the first two options, you may need to submit more information through Google’s redressal form. This form will be reviewed by an actual human, so you can sometimes see better results with spam that’s a little harder to prove. Just keep in mind that this process will take more time because it’s being manually reviewed, and you need to have great documentation and solid proof.

Is Maps Spam Fighting Really Worth It?

After reading that you might be thinking, “No, it’s not hard. But manually going in and reporting Maps spam is definitely time consuming. Is it really worth it?” 

While it does take time to manually go in and report Maps spam — especially if there’s a lot of it — it is indeed worth it. Fake business listings and fake reviews can really hurt your business and your potential customers. You have enough competition from all the legitimate companies vying for your customers’ business. Why should you also have to compete with fake business listings and businesses that didn’t earn all those 5-star reviews? The answer: You shouldn’t. 

So put on your spam-fighting cape and keep your service area clean. Your work may not earn you a key to the city, but it’ll help protect your spot in rankings and make finding and choosing you a whole lot easier for people in your market.

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They're also co-creators of the award-winning app Closing Commander, which helps contractors close more estimates effortlessly, and co-authors of the book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit www.sparkmarketer.comwww.about.closingcommander.comwww.facebook.com/sparkmarketer, or www.facebook.com/closingcommander.



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