Bill Hartzer

Industry Spam Rings Plague Google Local, Cause Problems

Google Local, now known officially as Google My Business, has to deal with what they call “industry spam rings”, which are plaguing Google’s local listings like a virus. And as a result, they’ve changed their internal policies in order to deal with these industry spam rings. Google is, in some cases, manually going to a location to confirm the NAP data and make sure that they serve customers at that location.

I recently met with an unidentified source who is very familiar with the inner workings at Google Local. He explained to me that Google is ver aware of “industry spam rings”. That’s the exact words that the Google employees have called this issue. The industries involved in the industry spam rings are:

HVAC (Heating and Air Conditioning)
Nail Salons
Hair Salons

There are a few other industries also involved, but typically those are the main industries that have been revealed to me by my source. I would imagine that some other competitive industries, such as carpet cleaning may be involved in this, as well. Essentially, these industry spam rings are involved with setting up multiple locations within a city, typically with more than one business name and phone number, which would be against Google’s guidelines. By setting up more than one location in a city, there is a better chance of a local business ranking in the local search results in Google.

To combat the industry spam rings, Google is doing several things. For example, local listings in these industries are subject to a manual location review. Google will manually go to the location to confirm that the NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) data is correct–and that the business actually serves customers at that location. During a manual review, Google may be looking for suite numbers of other businesses that the company may own, as well.

What You Can Do
There are several things you can do that really appear to help a local website rank better in the Google search results. Here are a few that you probably have not heard about before:

– Add images of the location (photos). Make sure that the longitude and latitude of the location appears in EXIF data.
– Make sure there are branded signs in the images and photos uploaded to Google Local.
– The NAP (Name, Address, Phone) data should appear on the door of the business.

According to my source, “the automated syncers at Google knowingly make mistakes now more than ever with moving location pins and changing data in the local listings.” He claims that he has evidence that automated syncers at Google have moved location pins and changed data in the local listings, and it happens a lot.

Verification Flaw in Google Local
There is also apparently a flaw in the internal Google system that has not been fixed. Apparently Google is aware of the problem, though. Here’s the flaw:

If the local listing on Google is verified, the internal Google system has a flaw that causes the listing to have to be verified again. When Google changes “Suite” or “Unit” – etc., to “#”, the system regards that as changing the address and will require another verification. This seems to happen after logging into the local listing dashboard for Google Local (now called Google MY Business) and the gray box at the top states that Google has gotten other information about the listing and needs you to click the button.

After clicking the button again, the listing will need to be re-verified. According to my source, while talking to a Google representative, he asked that it be manually fixed it so another postcard did not have to be sent. The Google representative explained that “Industry Spam Ring” companies usually will not be allowed to phone verify, even though the option is there to do so. The message will state that phone verification “cannot be done at this time”.

Google’s internally identifying of “industry spam rings” in Google Local (Google My Business) has not been made public before from what I can tell. They certainly are aware of businesses that are spamming Google Local, and perhaps this latest Google Pigeon update has attempted to take care of some of these issues. Google manually verifies some of the listings, especially in certain industries that are in the “industry spam rings”. This can cause a problem for some businesses, however, as there could be landlord issues. Some landlords do not allow tenants to post their signs outside the business.

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