Hello, my name is James Cant and today I am sharing some dark secrets and truths about Google Maps.  As a young digital marketer, I was in a constant state of research. Trying to figure out how to make my clients rank in Google Maps when Google is very secretive was a battle I felt I could never win. The agency I was with would do everything to rank its clients, from the perfect website optimization to making the best content the industry has seen. And yet there were always businesses out doing our clients. It actually didn’t make sense.

I slowly began to discover a dark secret about Google Maps. Google Maps is the lifeblood for every local business in the world but it’s also home to many fake businesses and businesses that blatantly break the rules. Let’s take a look at the image below.

The business 1st in Google Maps in the image below is called Air Tech 24 Heating & Air Conditioning. It is by no means called Air Tech 24 Heating and Air Conditioning: HVAC Contractor, HVAC Repair, HVAC Installation, Home AC Repair, Commercial Air Conditioning Repair in Seal Beach. Why would a business name itself such a silly name? It’s because of the 1st dark secret.

Dark secret #1 while Google has many rules, it struggles to enforce the rules. As per  Googles Terms of Service “Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.” 

So how is such a silly name allowed to bypass Googles algorithms?

Let’s take a look at the 2nd listing as seen below. There is no website, no business hours, an address that if you search for it, points to a random house, and a phone number that goes to a call center or a person that sells you as a lead to another business. 

Dark secret #2, There is a whole world of people who make fake listings like this one to drown out legitimate businesses in Google Maps. 

They intercept the calls and sell them back to the real business. How does Google trillion dollars system allow for people to make fake businesses?

Dark secret #3, Google doesn’t allow it but Google also can’t stop it.
 
The community behind making fake listings hammers Google Maps looking for loopholes. When Google tries and patches the hole, another exploit is discovered.

Here is the 3rd listing, same deal. The only difference is it has a single review. While reviews are a bit harder to prove if they are fake or not, the odds of a real genuine review appearing on a fake business is quite low.

Ok so what is the big deal? I will tell you this much, clearing out Google Maps of all the spam and manipulative listings is more powerful than any local SEO campaign. Why? 

Dark Secret #4. Google Maps is very sensitive to exact match searches. 

So if your business is Bobs Heat and Cooling Repair Service, and you are trying to rank for the keyword “Air Conditioning Repair”, well good luck outranking the listing named Air Conditioning Repair & Services. Even if you have multiple services, the business named Air Tech 24 Heating and Air Conditioning: HVAC Contractor, HVAC Repair, HVAC Installation, Home AC Repair, Commercial Air Conditioning Repair in Seal Beach. is exact matching its name to the common services you provide.  

You now have 2 choices. 
Choice 1: Spend the time and money to outrank the listings. This is a common choice as most businesses and agencies don’t know how to handle all the fake listings.  BrightLocal actually released a very interesting article showing how few people even have a grasp on how damaging fake businesses listings truly are.

Choice 2: Remove or edit the listings. You have 2 options to remove fake listings or to correct manipulative name listings. 1st, you can make a suggest edit by clicking the link seen below.  For fake listings, you can mark them as fake or, for manipulative names, you can tell Google what the name really should be.

You also want to fill out the Business Redressal Complaint Form . Simple enough right?  

Dark Secret #5. Despite the listing being so obviously fake with the most insane name, and a tree as a storefront, Google doesn’t have a great success rate with its algorithm detecting fake listings.

One hopes that after filling out the business redressal complaint form it’s handed to a human to check. It took me months of constantly reporting listings and contacting Google before I was able to take down a massive web of fake listings in Texas. They were so obvious. All of them were random word+car accident attorney+group.  

Dark Secret #6. Even if Google patches the exploit….given time the fake listings will be brought back by new exploits found in Google Maps. The battle is an endless one, is it worth it? Look at the video below

This video is a timeline of a business that hired us to remove fake listings. They had no marketing campaign running at the time. In just 77 days we removed 15 listings. Look what removing those listings did for this business ranks.

Keep in mind, as per a study done by BrightLocal:
1st in maps = about 17% of search traffic
2nd in maps = about 12% of search traffic
3rd in maps = about 3% of search traffic
Notice how the study stops after 3rd? That’s because at 4th and below you essentially don’t exist. Those 3 businesses we saw above are blocking out legitimate businesses that follow Google’s terms of service from existing.  You want to know how much of an increase in potential traffic our client saw in 77 days? 1030%. Most Local SEO campaigns can not see such potential growth in the same amount of time.  

Well if Google Maps is so bad, why don’t businesses just use another map platform.

Dark Secret #7: Google dominates the market to such an extreme, local businesses have to use Google Maps or essentially not exist on the internet. 

Search Engine Watch
came out with a study showing as of June 2020, Google tops the charts for search engine market share boasting 86% of desktop and 95% of total mobile searches.  
Google = 95.01%
Baidu = 1.22%
Yandex = 1.11%
Yahoo = 0.9%
Bing= 0.53%
DuckDuckGo = 0.38%

So a business can choose another search engine or map platform, but in doing so it will lose 86% of desktop and 95% of mobile traffic searches.

Dark Secret #8. Despite all efforts to remove the fake listings, they will return.

It is a never-ending cycle of watching your ranks for fake listings and fighting with Google to have them removed or you risk a loss of business as well as a loss of an effect with your marketing campaign.

Are fake listings really all that serious? Actually yes, there are fake listings that are doorways to crime. For example, you hire a plumber from Fake Plummers Near You. The plumber comes over and asks for $400 for a part to buy. You hand him the money and never hear from him again. You call up the listing again to find it was just a call center that sold you off to a random plumber.

Your friend has a drug problem that they want to conquer. They look into drug rehab businesses in the area but the top results are all fake listings that point him to a less than ideal facility. 

What types of businesses are at risk? Every single business that has a presence in Google Maps. Doesn’t matter if your a small flower shop or McDonalds. You are at risk.

Great! If you read this far, I want to thank you. I want to say that I am the furthest thing from a writer but I hope I was able to get the point across. Our company have refined the process of reporting fake listings to Google and have demonstrated time and time again how powerful removing false competition can be. I know it’s a bold claim but I promise there isn’t an agency in the world who fights false competition to the extreme we do. If you believe you do, please contact me, I would love to learn how they do it and achieve even more powerful results. 

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