How to Detect & Tell Google about Fake Listings
Google does admit a percentage of business listings on Google Maps are not legit, and provides a few different tools you can use to report problems or recommend Google fix them.
The Google Maps system ebbs and flows with how badly the fraudulent listings fill the map. As well, differing industries seem to be more inclined to large scale maps cheating than others. So if you’re wanting to join the army to help fight spam, we would love to have you on board. Here you’ll find a series of articles, tools, links and more, giving you the resources and guidance to report fake listings on your own.
By reporting fake listings to Google, you’ll be helping your business, your friend’s business, or other customers get accurate information about real businesses in their local area.
Examples of Google My Business Spam
These images show a variety of fake / spammy Google My Business listings.
Our guide takes a different format to a standard blogpost – we’ve created a public Trello board to view or make a copy for yourself. It’s full of hows, where’s and tips for doing the research needed for Google to process your request.
Important Notes about Other Spam Types
Business name keyword stuffing spam
Do not use the business redressal form for reporting keyword name stuffing.
Instead, use the “suggest an edit” button or link directly on the listing.
Suggest an Edit
Before you jump to using the Business Redressal form, you can try reporting the obvious spam listings directly on Google. This may be processed more quickly, and you get full visibility of its processing status.
Go to listing > Suggest an edit > Remove this place > Spam fake or offensive
You’ll get better results if you provide an image of your evidence.
When you suggest edits this way, you can actually check your report’s progress at your leisure. Simply go to Maps, click on the hamburger menu, select “your contributions”, change the tab to edits, and you’ll see the list of all the maps edits you have requested.
Recommended resources helpful for reporting Google spam
Here’s a snapshot of tools I most commonly use when hunting maps spam. For more details and resources, see the trello board (link above).
- A template for reporting spam listings in bulk
- Chrome extension to make filling out the spam template easier
- The Google Business Redressal Complaint Form
- Google My Business guidelines
- Very useful tool to help hunt down spam – Brightlocal’s Local Search Results Checker
On the Business Redressal form, you’ll see a button where you can attach a sheet.
You will need to add one of the listings in the form so that it will validate. But only one – the rest can go in the sheet.
Tips for the GMB Redressal Form
- If you’re reporting listings in bulk using my template or your own variation, you’ll need to attach the spreadsheet in the form.
- The spam reporting form has a wee quirk to work around though – it requires all fields completed. This means you have to report in detail, one specific listing. You can then attach your spreadsheet of all the listings you want Google to review.
- Keep your copy of the bulk reporting sheet.
- There isn’t a specific format for the spreadsheet, that’s why I created the template for you. Yes, it is a lot of info, but I have found the more information you give Google’s team, the better results you get.
- The business redressal form is the same form the Google Product Experts use to escalate spam.
- List all of the listings you want the spam team to review. They very, very rarely investigate anything beyond the specific listings you document on your sheet, even if you state the network is much larger.
Tracking Your Spam Reports
Once your form or reports are sent to Google, you’ll get an email confirmation from Google Support. It will have a subject line: Re: [0-2803000030099] Form Submitted (your number will be different.
The number in brackets is your CaseID – a specific internal tracking number relating to your specific report.
- Here you see the confirmation message goes to my “updates” box, not my inbox. Check your junk or spam folders as well if you’re having trouble finding it.
- Don’t bother trying to short-circuit the Business Redressal Complaint form by emailing directly. The email address you get your confirmation from does not take incoming messages.
You likely won’t get further correspondence from Google about what action is taken (or not), so it will be up to you to check back in a few weeks. Under a normal operating environment give them a minimum of 2 weeks. During the pandemic it will likely take even longer. Use your copy of the sheet to check each listing.
It’s really important to keep track of these case ID’s, if you’re reporting more than once in a blue moon. If you do get correspondence from Google, they do not reference details about your report in the message – the caseID is all you get to tie back to your own info.
If you do a lot of spam reporting like I do, you may find a “spreadsheet of the spreadsheets” a handy way to keep track of them all. Here’s a template for that as well.
If you don’t have sufficient action after a few weeks, report again only the listings needing review. Cite the previous case ID in the redressal form
If you need to follow up with Google on this report again, use the Community Forum to report your situation. Be sure to add your CaseID’s in the text. From there a Product Expert may be able to escalate to Google for further action, or explain why they believe Google didn’t take action.
Tired of fighting the growing battle against maps spam?
We can help.
If you prefer to spend more time on your business and less chasing cheaters, hire us. We are experienced at identifying and reporting spam (remember, only Google can remove it so beware of agencies who guarantee they can).
We have dedicated resources and schedules for following up as long as it takes to get listings actioned.