Does Google Look the Other Way When a Local Pack Advertiser Spams the Google Maps Results?

Does Google Look the Other Way When a Local Pack Advertiser Spams the Google Maps Results?

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For better or for worse, you can “buy” your way to the top of Google’s local 3-pack if you have a Google My Business page that already ranks OK, and if you use AdWords, enable location extensions, and meet a few other criteria.

In my observation, that’s how you can also buy wiggle room to spam the Google Maps results.

I say that for a simple reason: I’ve had one hell of a time getting Google to approve edits to Google My Business pages that spam blatantly (by keyword-stuffing their names) and that show in the “paid” 3-pack.  So far, Google has approved my edits much less consistently than when I’ve made the same kind of edits to non-advertisers’ listings.

The two kinds of anti-spam edits Google is most likely to approve are (1) changes to spammy business name, and (2) the removal of listings that use fake addresses or are for fake businesses.  Recently I submitted edits to the keyword-spammy names of 15-20 Google My Business pages that showed up in the paid section right above the local 3-pack.

Google only approved 2 changes, and it approved them instantly.  The other 15-or-so changes it rejected after only a few hours or by the following night, when I checked.  Google usually approves more of my edits to business names  – I’d estimate about 30-40% – and leaves “pending” for days or weeks the changes it may or may not accept.  Google made the wrong decision more decisively than usual.

My “test” (if you can call it than) was anything but scientific.  It’s also a work-in-progress, because I’ll continue to nibble at spammy advertisers and non-advertisers.  If I learn anything new, I’ll update this post, or do a follow-up, or both.  There’s a lot I don’t know yet.  So far, about the only thing I can say with confidence is that Google doesn’t scrutinize local-pack advertisers more than it scrutinizes businesses that don’t run ads.

Maybe the easiest way to wrap up my quick, in-progress observations is with a quick Q&A:

Q: Is there Google Maps spam in the paid 3-pack results?
A: Yes.

Q: Is there more spam or less spam in the advertiser’s slot above the 3-pack?
A: About the same.

Q: Can you get edits approved on AdWords advertisers’ spammy listings?
A: Yes, occasionally.

Q: Is Google as likely to approve an edit to an advertiser’s listing?
A: No, apparently.

Q: If the business stops advertising, is Google more likely to approve the edit?
A: I don’t know.

Q: Does Google hold advertisers to higher standard?
A: Sure doesn’t look that way.

Q: Is Google likely to fix the spam situation in general?
A: No.

I’ve never thought the “paid” slot above the 3-pack is inherently bad – as long as it’s clear to searchers that it’s an ad, and as long as it doesn’t colonize the whole page.  AdWords often is a good way in for businesses that aren’t ranking well, and the free results often are a good way in for businesses that aren’t dominant advertisers.  There’s a balance, and I think it’s generally good.

My concern is businesses can spam their way into the 3-pack, flick on AdWords, and maybe – just maybe – be more likely to get away with that spamming.  The jury’s still out on this, but AdWords shouldn’t make spamming more effective and tempting.

What’s been your experience in dealing with Google My Business spam by businesses in the “ad” section of the 3-pack?

Leave a comment!

Does Google Look the Other Way When a Local Pack Advertiser Spams the Google Maps Results?
Source: Local Visibility System

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