Report fake businesses here: https://support.google.com/business/contact/business_redressal_form
All right. All right everybody. This is Joe Burnich with bigwestmarketing.com. Thanks for checking out another one of our videos. This one’s going to be pretty cool because we’ve got Jason Brown on the line. Now, I’m going to be interviewing Jason. Let me tell you a little bit about him. So a few weeks ago, if you saw my video where I was talking about the NBC News report about fake Google listings, and it featured Jason Brown, well, what was cool was Jason… tell me… Back me up if I’m right here, but you actually searched for that news report, and you saw our video come up above the actual NBC report. Is that right?
Yeah, that’s correct. I was looking for a link to the video, so that I could pitch for a conference. And when I looked for the NBC TODAY Show, I didn’t find it, but I found your video, and then I started watching it, and I was like, “Oh, hey, I know Big West Marketing.” I met one of your employees at an event, and I just thought it was cool that somebody was outranking the TODAY Show, but also talking about it and being an evangelist in fake Google listings and reviews.
Yeah, we’ve been battling this a long time just like you have as far as just all these fake businesses showing up on Google. Can you give everybody like a little rundown of why they’re even… Why are people making these fake businesses on Google? Like what’s that all about even?
Yeah, so it used to be back when Google Local first started, it was the Google Places, and then it became Google My Places and then Google My Business. So basically they used to have like a seven pack, and so you actually had a lot more visibility in your market. Well, as it’s taken off, Google’s had to like make minor tweaks to their algorithms on how they’re showing local businesses, and so now it’s more on proximity, so you need to actually be close to your customers in order to show up. And because of that, now people have decided, “Well, I’m not going to be able to rank very well if I have one listing in one particular part of the area.” So what they want to do, so they can have a bigger shot at getting more attraction and more business, is they started creating listings in different parts of the city.
So let’s say we’ll take like… Los Angeles is a great example. So people will create a listing in Los Angeles, and they’ll create one in the center. They’ll create some in the outskirts. And then what they’ll do is they’ll start creating these listings in different parts of different cities in surrounding areas. Right? So they’ll go Pasadena, Arcadia, Altadena, Monrovia, South Pasadena, et cetera. So what they’re trying to do is, they’re trying to dominate all of that proximity search, so that way you’re going to be getting one of their listings, and then those listings are going to like a call center, or they’re being funneled into like one website. And so this is the way that people can game the system and rank without actually really doing the regular SEO.
And so it’s kind of like they’re pretending to be franchises with all these locations in the different cities in the metro area. And I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it actually work sometimes, but I’ve also had clients that have tried to play that game and had it work for a little while, and then all of a sudden, they all just get shutdown or get suspended all at once. We had one guy that took a year and a half for him to actually get back in Google’s good graces to where he could actually even show up on the map at all.
Right. Right, and that’s the problem. When you’re trying to game the system, and you’re trying to push the envelope, yeah, it’s going to be a quick win. You know? Unfortunately, it does work. It works really, really well. But when you don’t do it the right way, and you don’t do it correctly, and you just make a 100% rookie mistakes… And I see it all the time. Even the people that are selling this stuff make those same rookie mistakes. And I sit there and go, “All right, yeah, you kind of got a little finesse going, but you’ve left some like wide open identifying factors.” And so it’s super easy for me to go in and go, “Okay, this listing is lead gen.” They’ve got a 150 of them. And then I’ll go and just grab and bag and tag a bunch, kick them over to Google, and wait for Google to come in and wipe them out.
But here’s the problem. If it was a legitimate business, and you had that one legitimate listing… Let’s say you’re in San Francisco which was super competitive. Right? Or you’re a locksmith in Boston. Right? Super competitive. Well, if you lose that listing, and you’ve got to wait three days, six months, a year, 18 months, and you can’t get any of that Google traffic, well, all of those efforts were all wasted because now you’re suspended, and you’re not going to be able to get into Google’s good graces. And we’ve actually seen some pretty high profile locations that have screwed around. Not just with the fake listings, but pushing the envelope with Google. And I know a big publisher that’s got about I think 18 listings, and they got completely nuked by Google, and now they’ve got to do like this whole back-and-forth. They’re trying to get themselves back into Google’s good graces.
And it’s work. It’s a extremely convoluted process for them [inaudible 00:05:22].
Yeah. And I know that if you’re paying one of these not so ethical SEO companies to setup all these fake listings for you, they’re not cheap either. I mean you can spend thousands and thousands, and then six months later have everything wiped out, and then you’re getting zero calls all of a sudden.
Yeah. Yeah, they’re selling it for like $2,300 for 20 locations. You’re spending about, what? $107, $110 per location to get all these fake listings. And here’s the thing. They’ve got their disclaimers. So they sit there and say, “If you get suspended by Google, and it’s past the two week period, well you’re just out that money.” Well, they’re collecting the money. It doesn’t matter to them. But you paid $2,000, $2,500, and now you’re not getting anything out of that. So you just wasted all that money that could have been used on, I don’t know, paid ads.
Yeah. So anybody who’s watching this that has a service area business, I understand the temptation. Because I used to have a carpet cleaning business, so I understand you want to rank in multiple cities, and you want to get work from everywhere you possibly can. If you’re looking to just make a quick buck and then get out, that’s fine. Then that’s one thing. But most of our client, actually all of our clients right now, are in it for the long game. They want to build a brand over time, and they want to have a really solid business that they can one day pass onto their kids, or they can sell, or just have something really proud of that’s supporting their family.
So playing these games or hiring these companies to play the games, like Jason was saying, is short. You can have some short-term wins, but the long-term is going to probably screw you, just to be blunt. And so just keep that in mind as you’re talking to SEO companies or if you’re looking for ways to kind of cheat the system or pretend that you have more multiple listings, something like that. Just be careful. There are other ways to get into other cities with organic rankings or running ads, paid ads. So there are ways to do it right. And if you’re in it for the long game and if you’re a serious business owner, then that’s the way you really want to do it.
Yeah. And so what I want to talk about real quick is… I know that we have clients who call us up, and they’ll be like, “Hey, Joe. We see this competitor in our city. We don’t think it’s a real business,” and then we go through our own little process of getting these businesses taken down. But I know you said you manage over 900 listings with franchise companies. Is that correct?
Yeah. It sounds like you’re kind of leading the charge in this whole battle of helping Google take down fake businesses. Is that safe to make that statement?
Yeah. I guess I’m one of the most vocal ones out there. There’s a few of us out there, but yeah, I guess I’m the most vocal of like, “Hey, Google, come on, we’ve got to fix this. Real damage is being done. Like one of the franchises that I work with… It’s easy to become a mom and pop shop. Right?
But the problem is, is a lot of these mom and pop shops, they’re not carrying the proper insurance that they have. And there’s also that you run that risk of actually being injured if you use incorrect services. So without going into one of the franchises, so they do lashes. Right? You know eyebrows for any [crosstalk 00:08:58].
Right? Well, you can easily get an an eye infection. Right? Well, if they’re running it out of their house, and they don’t carry that insurance, and you get severely injured, you can’t go after them. Right? Because they’re going to be a mom and pop without insurance to back you up.
Yeah. So one of the things that I have to do is, I have to go and look at these areas where the competitors are keyword stuffing their name. So they’re Eyelash Design by Julie in Fort Lauderdale serving Tampa. Right?
You know as an example. Right? Or 24 Hour, Window, Lock Repair, Garage Door Services, Spring Repair in Marietta, Georgia, Atlanta, Cumming. You name it. They [crosstalk 00:09:47].
And they’re putting that as their business name. Like right in their Google listing. Right?
Right. Actually got one today where I was looking at the business. This was a car wash person. And their address, I kid you not, was Best Rated 1237 Main Street, Highly Voted. Right? I mean they stuffed their keywords into their address. And you’re just like, “Come on.” I mean like really. But this is the things people are trying to do. Like everybody’s trying to come up with some way that they can circumvent the system. So when I start seeing the keyword stuffing, then I’ll go to the Google My Business Redressal Form, and I’ll put a link to their CID number.
Which I use the GatherUp app, so you can use that. Go there. Plug the business name in there. They’ll give you the map ID that you need. Plug it into Google and say, “Look, you need to fix this.” And either it’s going to be, let’s update the address. Let’s update the name. Or it’s obviously a spam listing. You know you do a Google Search, and you’re like, “Oh, look, they’re using a PO Box.” You’re like, “Okay, good.” So it’s a PO Box at a UPS Store, so I’ll tag it as the address and say, “Hey, look, you need to remove this. Here’s the link to the UPS Store where they’re renting their mailbox.” And then wait about two to three weeks, and then Google will come in and wipe them out.
And so you’ve gotten a ton of these taken down in your career. If you were going to guess, how many spam listings have you gotten taken off Google, would you say?
6,000 or 7,000 maybe. I think I’ve done more-
Oh, that many.
Oh, it’s in the thousands. Okay. I thought we were talking like a couple hundred. Okay.
Uh-uh (negative). No, I just did a 150 before I went to Vegas, and it was like the fifth time that I’ve reported this knucklehead with his spam listing, so he’s had at least I think 2,000 listings that I personally have reported.
Man. And so let’s give these guys a little more like step-by-step, how-to. If they see somebody in their area that’s ranking, and they know they shouldn’t be. They know they’re a fake business, or somebody that’s trying to play games at least. Can we give everybody like a little step-by-step on how you, the pro, how you go and do that?
Sure. So the quick things that you can do is, you can do a Google Search in your area for your industry. So let’s say you’re a locksmith, so you just type locksmith. You see the Map Pack, and then you can click and see more results. Well, now you can start looking to see, “Okay, are we seeing like a lot of the same naming conventions?” Let’s just say there’s 25 Seven Locksmith. Right?
And you’re in Dallas. So you start seeing 25 Seven Locksmith, Dallas, 25 Seven Locksmith Killeen, Kingwood, Houston, et cetera. So when you start seeing like a lot of the same naming conventions, and then you start noticing that, I don’t know, the website URLs are all going in the same website, and they’re using like the same telephone number, well that’s usually your biggest red flag that they’re going to be lead gen.
And when you go and you actually click on the websites, I start looking to see, “Okay, am I actually finding employees that are listed here, or am I just seeing a bunch of stock photos?” And you’re going to see stock photos on the listing. You’ll see stock photos on the GMB. You’ll look for actual staff members, and they won’t have staff members. Right?
Because they’re just selling those leads to your competitors. And so when I get a bunch of those, then what I’ll do is I’ll do… In the Map Pack search, I’ll go, all in title: 25 Seven Locksmith. And then Google will start showing me all the listings that are in those areas, and then I’ll start clicking them one-by-one and start grabbing the CID numbers. And then I’ll create a whole Google document, so it’ll be, the name, the CID, the map, or the physical address if it’s posted, if it’s not an SAB, the website, and telephone number. And I’ll create a whole document of that one. Like I did for that guy with a 150, and then I’ll go to the Google My Business Redressal Form, and then I’ll just bulk upload that entire sheet that I created in Excel.
So tell people about that form. And what is it called again? It’s called the Redressal. Right?
Am I saying that right? Okay.
Right, so the Google My Business Redressal Form. So if you go to: support.google.com/business/contact/business_redressal_form.
It’s the Business Complaint Form, so you just go directly there. You put your name, your email address, and then the business listing name, and then links to their listings. And if you’re going to do like over six listings, then that’s when I say you want to do the Google Sheets, so that way they can just go and take a look at it. Because you really don’t want to click add a new line, here’s the CID. Add a new line, here’s the CID. Especially if you’ve got like 30 or 40.
I mean look, I literally go all the way from San Diego up to Seattle, over to New York, and back down to Florida.
So I hit everybody in between. Like I’m not just sitting there and just looking at my local area.
When I see that there’s like a major network that have been talked about… like they were talking about it on the… You know in The Wall Street Journal. So like Dog Bite Lawyer. Right?
So I actually went through and actually found a bunch of Dog Bite Lawyers and would turn them in. You know or Sub-Zero Appliance Repair. You’re like, “Okay, yeah, there’s not that many people that are really named Sub-Zero Appliance Repair.” I would go grab those and turn those into Google. Let them clean out.
Yeah. Yeah, so sometimes it’s just an individual that’s trying to play games in a city. Sometimes it’s a big… I wouldn’t say big company, but somebody that’s really figured something out.
And they’ve got hundreds of listings out there across the country.
So you can take them down one-by-one, or you can take them down all at once. You working with franchises, I know you like to take them down all at once. We’ve done the same thing. We’ve also had luck going in and just doing a Suggest an Edit if it’s like a onesie-twosie Suggest an Edit. It takes about a month, but Google actually gets in there, and they end up taking them down. We just did two last month.
Yeah. I was a fan of Suggest an Edit, but I’m not a fan.
So I’ve seen too many issues where… The case in point where you actually have to wait for two weeks.
And I’ve also heard there’s some issues where if you make too many edits, then they don’t respect your account as much. And I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Okay, well once you get to a Level 7, then all your edits automatically get approved.” And I haven’t found any evidence of that. You could be a Level 0 or a Level 1 Local Guide, and they’ll either accept or deny your edits. And I mean I’ve seen countless examples of people that were like, “Really, you didn’t want to accept that Your Mom was a fake listing or [inaudible 00:17:13] Repair was a fake listing.”
Like we all know that, and we suggest it as a spam edit, and it goes as, “Nope denied.”
So Redressal Form is the way to go as opposed to just Suggest an Edit. Okay.
Yeah. Yeah, do that just to keep yourself safe. Because it’s almost like the game of Minesweeper, you never know if you’re going to get your edit approved. Well, if you send it directly to the Redressal Form, then it actually goes to a Google representative to [crosstalk 00:17:43].
So it’s a human being doing this. Not like the algorithm software going in there and trying to figure it out. Okay.
That’s a big deal because it’s hard to get Google to get humans to do things sometimes.
So, guys, pay attention to this. Jason gave you the URL there. I know you can also just type… Just go and google the Redressal Form and find that as well. Now what about these people that just want to take down all their competitors, so they can jump up in the… What if you try to do that to legit businesses? What happens in that case, Jason?
Well, yeah, so if you do a bunch of fraudulent edits, right, or you start reporting a bunch of fraudulent businesses, well then eventually Google’s going to just sit there and just completely ignore your edits. [crosstalk 00:18:29].
Especially with the suggested edits or through redressal. So you want to make sure that you’re not just trying to stick it to your competitors, but you’re actually trying to take out the legitimate bad people, so if your competitors are keyword stuffing, or they’re creating a bunch of listings at their employees’ homes, which is a big thing that people do. Right?
Like, “Okay, well, I’m going to create a service area business.” So if you get John Smith’s Garage Repair, right, and John Smith’s Garage Repair has seven listings in their city and their website only lists one address, well then that one address is the one that’s supposed to be there. And then, yeah, you can go ahead and report the fake listings or the employee listings that are being created because they’re not allowed to have that. So, yeah, go ahead and report those.
The other thing you can do is click on their address and punch that into Google and see, “Okay, what is Google saying that this address belongs to?” Is it a coworking space? Is it a Rent a Desk? Is it a UPS Store? Is it a private residence? If it’s a private residence, and they don’t have signage, and they’re not hiding their address, then Google will go in and actually remove those business listings because they’re not setup properly.
Right. Yeah. And that’s another big thing too. If you do have a residential address, Google does want you to hide it. If somebody reports you, you could be in trouble. So, yeah, that’s all good stuff, man. This is awesome. Thank you for this.
Let’s move on. I know that you are also really big into review spam. So leaving fake Google reviews, that’s a problem, especially for a lot of our clients. Service area businesses, they know that their competitors… Half of their 80 reviews are fake, or even more than half, but they feel like there’s nothing to be done about that. What would you say to that?
Yeah. Okay, so here’s the thing. So consumers are starting to become more savvy when it comes to reading reviews. And I’ve actually seen a lot of businesses get outed by their upset customers, and they’re like, “There’s no way these reviews are legitimate. This is not the experience I had. This company is either buying them or faking them.” Right? If they’re going to go down that route, eventually they’re going to get caught. Right? They’re going to get outed. And I’ve also seen cases. And especially the fact that I own the website Review Fraud where I actually have former employees come to me, and they’re like, “Yeah, my boss paid me to buy fake reviews, or he told all the staff that we had to create multiple accounts to flood the listing with fake reviews.”
So you’re going to get outed if you do that. Now, if they have fake reviews, what I always say to do is to contact Google My Business support directly on Twitter, twitter.com/googlemybiz. So what you want to do is the same thing that I said with my Excel form is, create a sheet with the person’s name. And then you’ll have say like 50 reviews, so you have John Smith, Joe Blow, Bob Green, Jason Brown. And then the next column’s going to be the link to their Google Profile that shows all the reviews that they’ve done. And then the next few columns is going to be some of the shared reviews that they’re doing.
So say they’ve reviewed like 17 garage door repair companies all throughout the United States. Well, then as soon as I can show examples of like four or five businesses that are being reviewed on a [inaudible 00:22:11] basis by these people, then I’ll actually put the links to that share review there in that document. Then, I’ll tweet to Google My Business support and say, “Hey, came across this company with suspicious reviews,” and then I’ll send them the DM message. You have to be following Google My Business on Twitter for them to send you the DM.
So you send them a DM with the business name and a link to your Google Sheet, and then Google support will go ahead and take it, and then they’ll send that over to the powers that be to go in and review it and come in and determine if they need to wipe out all those reviews.
If they’re doing like a, “Hey, enter this raffle drawing to get reviews.” If you can find evidence of that, and a lot of people will post it on Facebook. There are raffles in this feed.
[inaudible 00:23:00] want to take out. So you just get the link to that Facebook post where they’re like, “Yeah, leave us a five star review, and you’re going to win an iPad.” Well, once you are able to provide them with that document, Google goes in and wipes out anything that they deem-
[crosstalk 00:23:16] that. [crosstalk 00:23:17].
Oh, so they are cracking down on incentives for reviews. I know Yelp was huge on that. I didn’t think Google. I know Google talks about it in their guidelines, but I didn’t know that you could actually get them to take action on it, so that’s cool. That’s awesome.
Well, yes, because reviews are actually regulated by the FTC. So because of the fact that they say that you cannot incentivize… because if you’re going to… So in order to incentivize or give like a discount, the reviewer actually has to say, “I was incentivized to leave this review.” Well, since they don’t do it, they’ve broken the FTC’s rules governing the reviews. And so since it’s illegal with the FTC, then Google follows suit and says, “Okay, it violates our terms of service.” And so we’ve actually seen a lot of cases where Google will just come in and wipe out all the reviews because it was obviously a solicited review through a contest.
Same goes with like review gating. So if you’re using a review gating service where they sit there and say, “Okay, if you leave a four or five star review, then we’re going to go ahead and encourage you to leave a review on Google, but if you leave a three stars or lower, then we’re going to ask for direct feedback.” All it takes is one person to report that email over to Google, and then they’ll go in and start wiping out any reviews that they feel are violating of their review gating [crosstalk 00:24:32].
So, yeah, sounds like Google’s finally putting some effort in. And I know they started doing the whole Google Guide thing. I just got my Level 5. I’m super proud of myself. And I know that all the reviews I’ve left have stuck, and a lot of times they’re right at the very top. So I think it’s cool that Google’s finally putting some time, effort, and resources into the reviews. Getting rid of fake reviews and getting rid of these fake businesses too.
But that’s pretty cool that Twitter is the way to go to report that. That’s some like inside information. Everybody pay attention to that. Yeah, and I remember we were at one of the SEO conferences, and one of the Google reps was there, and he was like, “If you want to talk to the real people, get on Twitter.” Okay? Go do support through Twitter. And that’s what we’ve been doing lately, and it’s been great. So I appreciate that feedback.
I know that your time is valuable here, Jason. One more thing. I just kind of want to wrap this up with… Since you’re on the inside, you’re dealing with the inside scoop. NBC featured you when it comes to this fake stuff. You said you know some of the people that were dealing with The Wall Street Journal little expose thing. What’s going on behind the scenes as far as like the government, and how they’re getting involved with this kind of stuff?
Yes. So I think the public pressure… Are we frozen? I couldn’t tell.
Not on my end, no.
Okay. Yes. So [inaudible 00:26:06] rephrase that. So I think all the public pressure of the daily articles in the news about fake listings, fake reviews, Amazon scams. I think that pressure is finally starting to mount, and I think consumers are starting to get fed up with it. And I think now it’s starting to trickle its way into the local governments where now state AGs are sitting there going, “Okay, we need to start handling this.” They had the antitrust hearing, and The Wall Street Journal article was brought up by Bathmat from Georgia.
So government’s now starting to see this, and they’re starting to get upset about it. And so now as everybody’s looking at the tech companies, now the time is right for the government to come in and start cracking down. I think we’re going to start seeing some businesses are going to get torched in the next few months and next few years for spamming Google. And I think the pressure’s going to be on the search engines to clean house, and if they can’t clean house, then I think the government’s going to come in and do it for them, and then they’re going to be embarrassed.
Yeah. And so kind of the moral of the story here is, if you’re playing games or if you’re doing this lead gen fake business stuff, fake reviews, all this stuff, you’re probably going to have a much harder time in the future. If you’re legit, and you’re doing everything right, and you’ve got all your ducks in a row, it’s probably going to get easier and easier, and you’re going to have a better chance to rank in the coming months, coming years. Is that safe to say that?
Yeah, I think it is. Like one of the issues I see with working with franchises is, they’re always trying to figure out where their leads are coming from. They’re like, “Okay, are my leads coming from Google or is it coming from the Google My Business? Is it coming from the website? Is it coming from Facebook, from Yelp? Is it paid ads? Is it a social posting?” And I think the one area that most businesses forget about is referrals.
Right? Look, if you are treating your customers like they are gold, and they are the best thing ever, and they know that you care about them, and you’re always there for them, and you’re providing that high level of service, you’re going to get so many more referrals out of that than just, “Okay, well how am I performing on Google?” Right?
Look, customers are always going to be golden as long as you are doing the best thing that you can. Right? And I’ll use the analogy of like a fence. Right? So if you put in a brand new wooden fence, well what are you going to do before you put in the fence? Well, one, you’re going to stain the wood. Right? Why are you going to stain the wood? Because you don’t want to see the wood rot. Right? You’re going to go, and you’re going to dig your trenches. You’re going to put cement down, so that way it’s not directly on the ground, so that way it’s not soaking up all the moisture and water. There’s going to be a gap between your concrete wall. Right? So if you’re treating your business the same way that you would deal with a home repair project and making sure that everything is done above board and looking great, well it’s going to last. Right?
For the long-term. Yeah. And set it up for the long-term.
Yeah. If you want to really do well on Google or in business in general, then be legit, do a good job, treat your customers right, and build a brand. Build something that you can sell or that you can pass onto your kids. You know?
Yeah. So cool man. Is there anything else? Anything else you want to leave us with today? I really appreciate you joining us here.
Yeah, sure. So here’s my thing. So if you get a review on Google, and it’s a positive one, thank that customer. Tell them how awesome they are for leaving you that review and how much it means to you. Right?
Look, I use this example all the time. For my wife’s 40th birthday, I bought her a gift certificate for a massage. She went. She had a great time. Because it was her birthday, they treated her really special. They gave her an extra 10 minutes. She came home so happy, so I left a review. Right? On Facebook, Google, and Yelp.
The business owner responded to each and every single review saying it was so wonderful for me to send my wife there, and that she… They enjoyed the fact that they were able to pamper her. Right? So then, a few months later, somebody was asking, “Hey, we’re looking for a local masseuse in our area. Any recommendations?” Well, myself and a couple other people all recommended the same place. They got two new customers out of our recommendations. Look, it’s going to have those wonderful, great ripple effects when you are making your customers your brand ambassadors. And I think we kind of like gloss over that. We’re like, “Well, I just needed to get more clicks and impressions on Google.” Well, yeah, you do, but for the right reasons.
If you’re having a bad experience, and people are clicking to your listing to see that you’re having a… They’re having bad experiences. Well, then they’re going to go elsewhere.
Yeah. That’s great. I love that. Respond to every review but don’t just respond and say, “Thanks.” Show genuine appreciation, and it’ll pay off. Yeah, I love that. Cool. All right, Jason, I will let you get back to work. I got to get back to work. Thanks. Thank everybody that’s watching this video. I’m going to put all this… I’ll put notes below the video, so that you guys have all… You know can get over to the links. You can get over to Twitter, and you can do all this stuff that we talked about. Thanks for the actionable advice, Jason. And, yeah, just have a good day.
Yeah, you too. Thank you so much for having me.
All right. Thanks.