Google is constantly refining and updating its algorithms to generate the most helpful and relevant search results possible for its users. As a business owner in the year 2014, you’re well aware of this. You’ve probably seen firsthand the changes—some more subtle than others—in Google+ Local, Google Places for Business, and even standard Google search pages. But did you know that these algorithm changes have a significant impact on the advertising strategies that businesses are allowed to use? In this post, we’ll detail some previously popular Google hacks that are now prohibited.
1. Creating Multiple Listings
To trick Google into thinking your business and/or physical location was more prominent than it was, you used to be able to create multiple listings with information that was half true and half false. Now, however, this practice would never fly. Google cross-references every piece of information you include to ensure that there’s only one listing for every distinct business location and that all of the information is 100% correct. When we talk about multiple listings, this includes:
- A new listing for every nearby zip code
- Multiple listings with fake addresses for the same business
- Listings with the same address but different, fake business names
For example, we once had a client from Boston who, against our advice, used the same street address in 26 different listings, one for each of the local zip codes. Twenty-six! The party ended quickly, though, when Google yanked all of his listings one day. His average of 40 calls per month plummeted to zero almost immediately. We’ll tell you what we told him: This is a spam tactic, and it is a terrible idea.
2. Leaving Fake Reviews
In the past, you could ask your friends and family all at once to go to your Google Maps listing and leave anonymous reviews of your company. You could even post your own fake reviews. But now, you need to be logged in to a Google account in order to leave a review. Google is also able to detect when multiple reviews are being posted in the same time frame, so having your friends and family blast your listing with reviews will only backfire. Moreover, posting more than one review from the same IP address is a huge red flag to Google, so you also can’t have a computer at your store or repair shop for customers to post reviews before they leave. Now, if you want reviews, you just have to count on real customers to take initiative from the privacy of their own homes.
3. Using P.O. Boxes
In order for Google to consider you a legitimate business, you must have a physical street address. Google must be able to identify your storefront in order to weed out businesses that are lying about their actual location or business name. While Google used to just mail you a postcard with a verification PIN, which meant all you really needed was an accessible mailbox, it will now send its fleet of vehicles to confirm that your business actually exists at the address you listed. If you are being dishonest about your business’s location, the jig will be up before you know it.
4. Remaining Ignorant About Your Online Footprints
Finally, remaining unaware of the condition of your web presence is a huge no-no. While blissful ignorance may not have had a huge impact on your Google rankings a few years ago, the latest algorithms have put a much heavier emphasis on consistency. The result is that any trace of mismatching or inaccurate information could negatively affect your campaign’s performance. Even if you haven’t outwardly deceived Google or falsified information on your listing, you may not realize that there’s inconsistent information out there about your business. Some of the most frequent problems we see are inconsistencies in business names, street addresses, and phone numbers. Sometimes these mistakes happen because you legitimately moved locations but forgot to update the info on one of your accounts. Other times, the info might be 99% matching except for punctuation (for example, “B & B Appliance Repair” on Google+ Local and “B + B Appliance Repair” on Yelp will not necessarily count as matches). While these may be completely honest mistakes, they can cause your performance to slide.
WebFax® and CleanSlate™ to the Rescue!
Whether you’re guilty of intentionally bending the rules or you just aren’t sure whether you’ve committed any of these faux pas in the past, Prospect Genius has the solution. If you want to see what kind of condition your web presence is in, we’ll run a WebFax report. A WebFax report will show all the different phone numbers, company names, addresses, and websites that are out there for your business. This can be the first step in fixing existing problems or it can simply be a measure to help you maintain awareness of your Internet presence. Most people won’t buy a car without a CARFAX report: WebFax is the online advertising equivalent. If your WebFax report shows problems that need to be fixed, our CleanSlate program is the next step toward recovery. CleanSlate will work to clean up past bad behavior, inconsistent info, and other issues that can prevent current and future web advertising from being successful. Because outdated phone numbers, addresses, websites, and company names on the Internet can make you look like a spammer to Google, it’s important to correct them as soon as possible.
Keep It Clean
Google is a multibillion-dollar corporation. It has the resources to catch you in a lie. For that reason, it’s best to avoid these shady Google hacks. While they may have been effective at one point, they are only going to get you into trouble today. To make sure that your web presence is impeccable, get a WebFax report from us and, if necessary, follow it up with our CleanSlate program. Don’t put it off for one more day—call now to get started and ensure your online advertising has the foundation for success.