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