In June of this year, The Wall Street Journal published an article exposing the runaway problem of fake listings in Google’s search results. The publication’s researchers had discovered nearly 11 million fake business listings on Google Maps, sometimes known as GMB spam.
Following the publication of the article, Google promptly released a statement committing itself to the fight against fake map listings. However, some experts are skeptical that Google’s efforts will produce meaningful results.
It’s estimated that fraudulent listings make up approximately 7% of Google’s more than 150 million map listings. And, despite the fact that Google reportedly eliminated nearly 3 million phony listings last year, it appears the problem is far from solved—and may even be growing.
Why Do Businesses Bother With Fake Google Listings?
There are numerous reasons why a business might choose to intentionally misrepresent its geographic location. Legitimate businesses primarily do this as a way to boost their competitiveness in a specific area. Whereas, illegitimate businesses or scammers may use the fake Google listing tactic as a way to advertise themselves locally .
In the case of competitors, fake Google listings provide potential customers with incorrect location information but other accurate information. This makes it much more likely that a customer in a region where their business does not operate will find out about their brand and potentially even visit their website.
In the case of scammers, phony listings are a way to advertise themselves without actually advertising themselves. In the past, sham listings have been primarily used by service scammers such as fake contractors and painters, among others.
How Is Google Fighting Back Against Fake Google Listings?
One of the ways that Google is fighting back against fraudulent listings is by improving its Google My Business (GMB) program.
GMB is a free tool that allows businesses to provide search viewers with more accurate information about their business including things such as business hours, address information, contact information, and even promotions or events. Newly added features and initiatives are designed to reward accurate and active businesses, while naturally minimizing fraudulent ones.
For starters, Google is rewarding businesses who have submitted accurate NAPWCHD (name, address, phone number, website, categories, hours, and description) information by allowing them to post a logo on their profile. Something that fake and fraudulent listings can’t do.
Google is also giving businesses more flexibility and customizability when it comes to how they present themselves in their GMB profile. At one time, Google took it upon itself to select a cover photo for businesses. However, the latest update gives that power back to the businesses, who will now be able to select their own cover photo once again. Moreover, the platform is also introducing a feature that will prominently display photos uploaded by the business.
And last, but certainly not least, Google is planning on allowing visitors to search for businesses by the ‘short name’ listed in their GMB profile. Claiming your short name before the change is a good way to get a jump on the competition. Click here to find out more about how you can claim your GMB short name right now!
How Can You Take Advantage of Google’s Efforts?
The best way to take advantage of Google’s efforts to fight phony listings is by making the most of the recent GMB updates. Making sure that your dispensary’s GMB profile is fully filled out and accurate should be your first step.
Furthermore, uploading your own profile photo and ensuring that your profile features plenty of photos of your business or brand is an excellent way to set yourself apart from other listings, fake or not.
The more GMB activity and content that your dispensary generates, the easier it will be to separate your business from fraudulent ones. Remember to respond to all of your customer reviews, to utilize Google posts (for events, promotions, updates, etc.), and to participate in Google Q and A’s whenever possible.