How Fake Business Listings Can Hurt Your Business and What To Do About It

You may have heard of fake news but did you know there are fake Google listings? There are about 150 million Google business listings but there has been a growing number of fake listings being created. According to a June 2019 Wall Street Journal article that investigated the problem, there are about 11 million illegitimate listings.

In a blog post, Google states, “business scammers take advantage of local listings to make a profit. They do things like charge business owners for services that are actually free, defraud customers by posing as real businesses, and impersonate real businesses to secure leads and then sell them.”

Local listings are created through Google My Business and show on maps when people use Google to search for information. For example, a search “campgrounds near Phoenix” brings up a map of Phoenix with points on the map representing area campgrounds. These points are coveted spots because of their visibility which in turn create more website traffic and potential customers.

Google Business Listings Can Hurt Your Business

Why do fake listings matter to your business?

With more competition, it’s harder to get in front of customers searching for your product or service. Your legitimate listing gets pushed down in the search results and reduces your visibility.

It also erodes the trust the potential clients put into Google listings. At MorePro, we’ve talked to our clients about the importance of claiming their listing and keeping it updated. Fake listings undermine the time and effort that legitimate businesses put into building up their listing.

What can be done about fake listings?

There is some controversy over Google’s slow response to the problem, especially since Google profits indirectly from fake listings. If fake listings take all the top-ranking spots – it leaves legitimate businesses little choice but to increase their rankings through advertising. Those advertising dollars go straight to Google.

However, since the Wall Street Journal article published, Google seems to be taking steps to remove illegitimate listings. According to their blog, “We took down more than 3 million fake business profiles––and more than 90 percent of those business profiles were removed before a user could even see the profile.”

But Google also relies on the user community to report fake listings – “More than 250,000 of the fake business profiles we removed were reported to us by users.”

If you see an inaccurate listing, you can suggest an edit to the name, address, marker location (place on the Google map), open hours and other facts. Google reviews the edits then if approved – publishes them. Here are the instructions to suggest an edit:

  1. On your computer, open Google Maps and make sure you’re signed in.
  2. Search for a place or click it on the map.
  3. On the left, scroll down and select Suggest an edit. If you’re using Maps in Lite mode, you can’t suggest edits.
  4. Follow the instructions.
  5. Click Submit.

You can also flag a business that’s permanently closed, is a fake or a duplicate. This is done through the Business Redressal Complaint Form.

Optimizing Your Google Business Listing

You can also combat fake listings by beating them organically. In other words, you need to claim, optimize and maintain your business listing. Once the listing is claimed, be sure your business name, address and phone number are correct. You want to write a good business description with keywords, upload current photos, select your correct business categories, and complete all the information areas available such as open hours. These are the minimum recommendations but there is more you can do! For example, you can post an event or offer – much like you do with Facebook. Because Google is so important to business marketing today, we suggest taking advantage of all the tools offered through your listing.

Need help claiming, optimizing or maintaining your business listing? We do that! MorePro Marketing has a 20-year track record of improving digital marketing efforts for both large and small businesses. Plus, we have extensive experience in the hospitality and franchise space. If you are a franchise with many locations, we have processes and software in place that make maintaining multiple Google My Business listings pain-free.

Use our Contact Us form or call (602) 396-4241 to talk about your needs and how MorePro can help.