Redressal Form Purely Cosmetic?

Pete

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Apr 19, 2019
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In my industry, we have two types of companies who violate the code of conduct for Google My Business Listings. There are the hobby type companies that operate out of someone’s home, also known as a private place. They don’t make a serious attempt to grow their business and it isn’t a priority. These are people who thought it would be a great idea to make a website but didn’t plan on the amount of work it takes to promote a business online. Consequently, they have retained their listing but aren’t much of a competitor. In my experience, these businesses are very easy to get delisted.

The other type of business that violates the terms of Google My Business listings are the businesses that use deceptive unstaffed virtual offices and mailbox rental services and have no local employees. These companies often have profile photos that show the front of a retail store that is the equivalent of a UPS store. Frequently, these businesses create obvious fake reviews too. In many instances, the signage on these stores even shows that they are mailbox rental companies. Some of these companies are a little more sophisticated and use a Regus service that is like a mailbox rental. Sometimes when these companies realize that they are being reported will switch to a service area only listing in order to hide their address. However, they still maintain strong positioning in the pick 3. Others acquire multiple service area only listings within the same city and metropolitan areas. Despite the obvious violations, my experience has been that these listings are very difficult to remove. While I may be speculating, based on my observations, the slightest amount of local advertising can go a long way in protecting a fraudulent listing.

Is anyone else seeing the same thing? Is it just a waste of time to report these violators? Has anyone been successful at getting these listings removed? If so, what did you have to do?
 
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Dan Foland

SEO Director at Postali
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Sep 25, 2018
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The redressal form works OK in my experience. It certainly doesn't work for every listing I report, and it can take more than a month to see results.

When filling out the form I try to be as detailed as possible and make a clear case so that the people evaluating the complaint don't have to do much work. For example, if a business is keyword stuffing their business name I'll include a link to the business information on the Secretary of State website as proof etc.
 

keyserholiday

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Jul 27, 2017
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Document, document and document some more. The more information that you can provide, photos, videos to show that the listing is not legit, the easier it will be to remove it. I too have submit some listings that should have been slammed dunks, but were also denied. I went back and grabbed more photos to take them out.
 

Pete

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Apr 19, 2019
Messages
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I'm finding it impossible to remove a listing with an obvious fake address and


having this profile picture of a mailbox store. The service they promote is not done in this store and there is no signage. This company doesn't even have any employees in the state, but because they do some light Google advertising, everything is fine.
 
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Pete

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Apr 19, 2019
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My team has about a 90% removal success rate, it takes time, and you must be an investigator. Also, you must explain the harm to the consumer.

Submit spreadsheets if reporting 10+ and wait 4 weeks at least.

If the address matches another business, provide a link to the business.
I've done all of that and the first time I reported this business and their other similar locations was back in April. I have been able to get some listings removed, but they weren't serious businesses and never a competitive threat. The listings that get removed tend to be those in houses or apartment buildings (private places), that may or may not have a website and that haven't posted any new pictures, articles or other content in months. While my data points might be limited, it seems like it could be plausible that the listings that have never bought advertising and never will buy advertising that you can get removed, often in a matter of hours.
 
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djbaxter

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It's the listings that have never bought advertising and never will buy advertising that you can get removed, often in a matter of hours.
@Pete That's a pretty strong accusation you're implying there, viz. that Google will overlook and even condone spam and scam as long as you're paying for Google Ads.

If that's indeed what you mean to say, what actual substantiation do you have for such a claim?
 

Pete

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Apr 19, 2019
Messages
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This isn't happening in a vacuum and I'm not the only one seeing this. Some of the larger SEO companies must be seeing the same thing in various niches and at the very minimum getting very suspicious.

Since the redressal form went live, we've seen an increase in new spam listings. Some of the phone numbers ring to phones outside the country. These fake listings are achieving top spots for valuable local GMB placements and it is hurting legitimate local businesses. The problem is that each day there are more and more new spam listings coming online. I noticed at least one new listing today in our markets.

Here is one example and I could list at least 15 more that are equally as bad. I submit this company every few weeks and have been doing so since May. Every listing they have in the U.S. is a mailbox store. I've reported this and sent detailed explanations on the redressal form with links. Of course, the profile pictures on their Google My Business listings confirm that the location is a mailbox rental store. If Google can't find proof to delete this listing, it's because they don't want too. Judging the validity of this listing is a simple as looking at their Google My Business profile.

Dallas: Note this location is pretty funny and I'm surprised Google allowed a customer to upload this photo. The address they list is a PakMail store.

Houston:



New York



Washington DC
2100 M St NW #170, Washington, DC 20037
This was the location of UPS Store #170 until it was forced to move because the building is being torn down. Company A was just too lazy to update the new address of the UPS Store on their GMB profile. You can call the UPS Store at (202) 457-8166 to verify.
 
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djbaxter

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This whole thing makes me recall an interview of a former Google employee that appeared in one of the SEO journals a month or two ago. The person being interviewed claimed there is a wall between search and paid at Google.
What does that even mean?

To be upset about spam listings is understandable. To imply that this is intentional Google policy is quite another thing. Making statements like that leave both you and this forum open to legal action, which of course we cannot permit.

I would like too see a clear statement from you now clarifying that you do NOT mean to accuse Google of deliberate and intentional inaction on spam. Otherwise, I thin we're going to have to remove this entire series of posts by you.
 

Pete

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Apr 19, 2019
Messages
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I've edited some of the wording that I used and apologize for any problems. While, the wording I used has been softened, The Wall Street Journal ran the following article:
Millions of Business Listings on Google Maps Are Fake—and Google Profits
Google Maps is filled with false business addresses created by firms pretending to be nearby


While I don't believe that my views differ widely from those published elsewhere, I guess the Justice Department will settle this in their wide sweeping probe. However, Mike Bluementhal has said that Google "has obviously chosen not to solve the problem". I look forward to hearing his opinion on the redressal form in a few months and seeing if his opinion has changed.
 

Pete

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Apr 19, 2019
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@Pete That's a pretty strong accusation you're implying there, viz. that Google will overlook and even condone spam and scam as long as you're paying for Google Ads.

If that's indeed what you mean to say, what actual substantiation do you have for such a claim?
Here are a couple edits that were made within hours. I do have more examples.
1. Reported and deleted, non-advertiser
Success

Your edit to ---- ------------ has been published. See your change. Note that some changes might take up to 24 hours before appearing on Google.

Thank you for improving Google Maps! Your insights make it a better, more useful map for everyone.

2. Reported and deleted, non-advertiser
Success
Your edit to -------- ----------- -------- has been published. See your change. Note that some changes might take up to 24 hours before appearing on Google.

Thank you for improving Google Maps! Your insights make it a better, more useful map for everyone.

3. Reported and not deleted, advertiser (Reported Dallas, Houston, New York and Washington D.C. locations of company listed in above example). The Washington DC example was refused.

Your edit is being reviewed. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of -------- --------- ---------.

We'll let you know once the changes are published. You can see the status of your edit in -------

I can keep going, but when they won't remove the obvious listings shown above and the only thing that differs are that some companies pay for advertising and others don't, it creates speculation.
 
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djbaxter

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While, the wording I used has been softened, The Wall Street Journal ran the following article:
Millions of Business Listings on Google Maps Are Fake—and Google Profits

...

Mike Bluementhal has said that Google "has obviously chosen not to solve the problem".
I recall reading that article as well but I don't recall them drawing the conclusion that Google was encouraging or accepting the spam listings because they made more advertising by doing so. Nor do I recall Mike Blumenthal drawing that conclusion.

I can keep going, but when they won't remove the obvious listings shown above and the only thing that differs are that some companies pay for advertising and others don't, it creates speculation. (emphasis added)
That may be the only factor that you have noticed or that you can discern. It doesn't mean that is the only factor. And it doesn't mean that it is the defining factor.

Speculation from perceived correlation is a dangerous game at the best of times. It is worse when it leads to potential libel.
 

Tony Wang

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Oct 13, 2014
Messages
130
@Pete people have been speculating for years that buying Ads would help your SEO. I have a client that still insists that is so. If it were true, certainly most of the large marketing agencies would know about it or have long since figured it out. And if the large agencies knew, think about the numerous low level employees that would have leaked that info by now.

In any case, what you have observed is certainly frustrating, but the "correlation does not equal causation" thing certainly applies here. Perhaps the reason you're seeing such quick removal of those "hobby" businesses is that they just don't have a very strong internet presence overall, compared to the successful spammers.

And most of us would definitely agree that Google should be doing a much better job to fight spam.

But as others have noted, fighting spam is hard work and the redressal form is far from perfect, but enough of us have had success that it's worth doing. I have certainly had success with the redressal form for businesses that are also running Google Ads.

So stay after it, keep amassing evidence and keep submitting. Your client will appreciate your efforts eventually!
 
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