** Update ** Just in the past week or so, Google has been ramping up listing suspensions and account suspensions – and their support teams are backlogged for weeks. Ugh.

These days the unfortunate truth is that it’s easy to cheat your way to the top of Google. Spam is rampant, there is little enforcement of guidelines, and Google seems not to care. In fact, I believe that this is fully intentional on Google’s part – to drive more businesses to PAY FOR ADVERTISING ON GOOGLE to rise above the garbage listings in the local pack.

#1 Way to Cheat – CREATE A FAKE BUSINESS NAME

Fake names are everywhere. There are no character limits or restrictions on symbols – you can just make up whatever business name you want. Of course you are supposed to keep a clear and consistent business name online for good Branding, right? Well, not if you want to rank at the top. Just search for your “keyword + city” and see what comes up in the 3-pack. Do you see business names stuffed with keyword bullshit? There’s a good chance you do.

Right now, the Business Name has WAY too much ranking potency. It’s been obvious for several months and Google has done nothing about it. It’s not as if they don’t know. It is the #1 problem issue in Local SEO at this time.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS:

1) Any Google User can “suggest an edit” to a business listing to report spammy listings. Some edits will get published, others will not. Unfortunately, if you successfully edit a business name, Google will send an email to the business owner alerting them to this change. And they will simply change their name back to the spammy name.

2) You can also FILL OUT THIS FORM HERE to report a spammy business (or businesses) and this process can take a few weeks and we are seeing about a 50% success rate with this form. Honestly it makes no sense.

3) If these two methods don’t work you can get vocal on Twitter about your issues and send messages to @Google and @Googlemybusiness to complain about your situation to get agents to bump your complaint up the chain of command.

At some point, a human with a brain, and a conscience, may see the problems and do something about it.

Should you yourself create a fake business name?
You should not engage in spammy business practices. The risk is just too high. If you get reported and get marked as spam you run the risk of having your Google listing suspended and also having your Google account suspended. That would be a problem.

Would it hurt to “slightly tweak” your business name?
I just don’t know. You can contact us for more of a conversation & research about this.

#2 Way to Cheat – PAY FOR FAKE GOOGLE REVIEWS

In some industries, fake reviews are the norm. And Google is doing literally nothing about this problem. Spammers are very sophisticated and Google just can’t keep up. Quantity of reviews is potentially the #2 ranking factor for Local SEO at the moment, so this is a very big problem.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS:
If it’s super clear and obvious that a competitor has fake reviews, you can get active on Twitter to communicate your grievances to Google @GoogleMyBiz. You can also flag reviews as fake – but this is a manual effort and will take a lot of your time.
Keep on focusing on getting more Google reviews so you can keep up. Steady and consistent wins the race. Hopefully Google will someday catch up to the spammers and the good guys will win. Cross your fingers.

Are SEO “Best Practices” still worth following?

YES, Absolutely!!
The world of Google and the internet is changing & evolving so quickly it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up – and problems like business name spam and review spam come & go. The fundamentals always still apply. But it’s imperative that you work with and SEO professional that is up-to-speed with all current developments and knows how navigate them.
Getting links to your website and new Google reviews will always be important. Having an optimized website with pages full of powerful keyword optimized content is vital to your long-term success. In some cases in 2019, the most critical task we do is to pursue spammy competitors to report fake business names, addresses and fake reviews to clear out the cheaters.

If you have questions about any of this – please reach out to see how we can help.

Jeffrey Magner

Jeffrey Magner

Local SEO Strategist

Jeffrey Magner has been focused on Local SEO since 2008 and has worked directly with thousands of small business clients. Bighorn Local SEO has offices in Portland and Sisters, Oregon and offers affordable monthly packages focusing on marketing strategy for local business owners. Our actual testimonials show how some of our clients feel about working with us.

If you are looking for a trustworthy Local SEO professional, you must do your research first! Take a peek at who we are and what we've been up to. We're based in Portland, Oregon but work with clients from around the country. We're good at getting Google to trust your business and understand precisely what you offer and where you offer it. Then it's up to you to simply be awesome with all your new customers.