Spam: It’s Bad for Business
In past blog posts, we’ve talked about how Google works: the changes to Google Maps that display search results as a combination of organic rankings and map placement; the Google Spam Department, led by Matt Cutts; etc. But we wanted to talk about all this again because Google’s Spam Department has been stepping up enforcement. They’re taking spam activity on Google Places so seriously that your business may even be banned if caught! The most important thing to understand is that Google will attach any spamming penalties that they dole out to any available pieces of information, including:
- Your business name
- Your URL (http://www.bobsbusiness.com)
- Your phone number
- Your address
In their quest to deter spam activity on Google Places, Google looks for business listings that appear to be for the same business yet contain slight discrepancies in information. For example: Bob wants his appliance company to have a higher ranking in all of the smaller towns surrounding the metropolitan area he serves. So he starts by creating a map listing for his company, including all of the relevant data:
- “Bob’s Appliance” in New York, NY; phone number: 212-555-5555; address: 1234 W Main Street; website: www.bobsappliance.com
However, then he creates more listings, each one with slightly differing information:
- “Bob’s Appliance” in Queens, NY; phone number: 212-555-5555; address: 567 Broadway Ave; website: www.bobsappliance.com
- “Michael’s Appliance” in Bronx, NY; phone number: 212-555-5555; address: 1234 W Main St; website: www.bobsappliance.com
- “Bob’s Appliance” in Brooklyn, NY; phone number: 212-111-1111; address: 1234 W Main St; website: www.bobsappliance.com
If he gets caught, what could happen? The short answer is that all of his information could be flagged and banned. That means any new listing containing a SINGLE piece of the flagged information would be rejected from Google Places. In some extreme cases, that information could be entirely banned from all of Google, in which case your website—and by extension, your company—would essentially cease to exist online. If you get to this point, and all of your information is banned on Google, you really only have two options: grovel at the feet of Google and beg for a reprieve or completely change not only your address, phone number, and website URL, but also your business’s name!
Staying Safe with Google Places
Surprisingly enough, remaining in the good graces of Google is actually a lot easier than it may sound. If you don’t want to get blacklisted or banned from Google, just tell the truth! Follow Google’s guidelines by accurately representing the physical world in your online profiles, and you won’t have to worry about penalties or blacklisting. If your company really has two physical addresses in the real world, feel free to make two listings online, one for each location. If you only have one real location, don’t just make up a second one! And so on and so forth. You can even list your home address if it’s your only place of business. What you don’t want to do is list the address of your auto body shop, your cousin Larry’s house, and then go on to make half a dozen more listings for an empty lot, abandoned church, etc. If you do that, Google will catch you and they will punish you. It could take days, months, or even a year, but Google will eventually catch you and subsequently ban or blacklist all of the addresses—and other information—associated with the spammed business listings. Remember, having an effectively optimized Google Places listing connected with an equally well optimized website is crucial. Together they will work to get you the best overall placement in Google search results.