My Experience Using the New Google My Business Redressal Complaint Form

* UPDATE – 24th March: it looks as thought 2 of the 3 listings have now come back online, and with their spammy business names (boooo…) *

Delete button (Prismafied)Google Maps has a spam problem. From seemingly randomly-left reviews to businesses spamming their Google My Business (GMB) listings so heavily that there’s even a dedicated hashtag for it (#stopcraponthemap), the situation becomes further frustrating when you realise that Google doesn’t (or can’t) do much about the situation. Sure, you can ‘suggest edits’ on Google Maps, but in my experience the process is largely pointless, and if you really need to contact Google to do something, you have to (ironically) contact them via Twitter or Facebook. Huh…

It’s starting to feel like it’s getting to boiling point, with the ne’er-do-well spammy types getting away with their efforts and reaping the benefits.

So when Google announced its Business Redressal Complaint Form a few weeks ago, I did a little eye-roll, said “yeah, ok” and reluctantly gave it a go on a couple of a client’s competitors who are notorious GMB listing spammers, expecting the usual to happen: something between ‘very little’ and ‘nothing’.

Boy was I in for a shock.

What’s in a (spammy) name?

I’ll keep the example anonymous but let’s say my client is a family-run, independent widget seller with two shops in South Wales. Their main competitors are UK-wide chains with dozens of locations across the country. One of them has two locations in Cardiff, while another has just the one. While my client uses their business name properly in the Name field (e.g. “Bonafide Widgets”), the competitors have gone with a “Business Name Keyword Location” approach, with the competitor with two Cardiff locations going as far as listing the sub-location as well (e.g. “Widgets-R-Us Cheap Widgets Cardiff”, “SuperWidgets Cheap Widgets Cardiff Central” and “SuperWidgets Cheap Widgets Cardiff North”). Ugh. Tacky. And frustratingly, they’d often rank higher in Google Maps for keywords – suggesting that this dodgy practice was working well for them, too. No fair.

Despite this behaviour being against Google My Business’ guidelines (see Name > Learn more > Service or product / Location information on that link), and despite me regularly using the ‘suggest an edit’ feature on the three listings to ‘correct’ the business names to be more guidelines-compliant, very little would happen. Either nothing would happen (and I’d simply have to try again), or the changes would only last for a day or two, with the original spammy versions returning shortly afterwards. I was about to try the contact-via-Twitter/Facebook method with them when the Redressal Form was introduced.

Using the Redressal Form

Using the Redressal Form is a fairly easy process. Joy Hawkins shares some additional FAQ-style info on using the form on Local Search Forum, which acts as a handy guide and I’d recommend you read it before proceeding.

It doesn’t take long to report listings, and so, in no time at all, I’d reported my client’s two competitors and their three dodgy listings. At best I was expecting the name changes to ‘stick’ (finally); at worst I was expecting… well… nothing. I’m kinda used to that y’know?

What I got was much, much better.

“ABSOLUTE POWER!”

A few days ago (a few weeks after using the form), I checked the status of the listings. I hadn’t heard anything from Google (no email notification or anything like that) so I wasn’t really expecting anything.

Things started to get… interesting when I realised: I couldn’t even find the listings.

I did a “widgets cardiff” search first of all and couldn’t find them alongside any of the other listings (including my client’s). Then I moved onto checking the actual brand names: “widgets-r-us cardiff” and “superwidgets cardiff”. The listings were gone. Gone. Removed from Google Maps entirely. Google was even going as far as resorting to showing the companies’ results in Bristol (an hour’s drive away) due to the lack of anything to show in Cardiff. Ahahaha WTactualF?!

Holy moly.

Seriously, my jaw was on the floor at this point.

This is a bloody powerful tool, folks. [Play with sound on for full effect]

At this point I curious to know the experiences of others. A few people have noted on Local Search Forum that this type of punishment can and should be expected (“[Listing removal is] not really too strange, sometimes a violation report can uncover other violations you are not aware of and Google will remove the listing. Very common actually.”) One individual on that thread – who’d initially reported a similar experience to me – had later noted that the listings had returned, but mine are still unaccounted for.

I completely appreciate that a) it’s early days, and b) I’ve only used it once, so I’m not exactly in any position to draw any major conclusions. So I’d be really, really interested to get the opinions and experiences of others who have also used the tool in its infancy – either drop a comment below or tweet me.

In the meantime though I’ll be doing my best Jafar-as-an-evil-genie impression:

* UPDATE – 24th March: it looks as thought 2 of the 3 listings have now come back online, and with their spammy business names (boooo…) *

[Image credits: Ervins Strauhmanis (remixed using Prisma); Disney (hosted by Gfycat)]

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