In 2019, Google dumped more than 3 million phony business listings, deleted 75 million fake reviews and shut down more than 150,000 user accounts on its popular Google Maps platform.
These actions might seem aggressive, but many users and small business owners say they’re long overdue.
Fake Listings Hurt Legitimate Local Businesses
Fake ratings and accounts can damage your business. Phony, negative reviews can drag down your overall rating.
A common scam is to list a company’s location as being in a certain neighborhood when they’re actually far away. When customers look for a particular service, they’ll see these fake listings instead of nearby, neighborhood businesses. This tends to happen in what the industry calls “distress verticals,” meaning businesses people call when they’re in distress like plumbers, locksmiths and home repair people.
Some even use phony videos and photos depicting their happy “customers.”
Instead of finding legitimate neighborhood businesses, customers are steered to companies far away or outright scammers. Over time, they lose trust in anything listed on the Maps platform.
It’s a Longstanding Problem
The removal of these listings and user accounts is a response to a longstanding problem. Both Amazon and Yelp have been able to crack down on phony business listings, but Maps is lagging in this department.
In 2019, the Wall Street Journal published an investigative report on the problems at Google Maps. The Journal found more than 11 million phony listings and said hundreds of thousands pop up every month.
In 2012, consumer advocates were issuing pointers on spotting fake ratings on the platform. One article warned that up to 90% of Maps listings could be fake, especially “when talking about service-based businesses, specifically locksmiths, garage door repair, towing, taxis, movers, plumbers, electricians, painters, HVAC engineers, bail bonds, personal injury attorneys, escort services and limousine services.”
In 2018, a CNBC news report found that “the service is plagued by fake reviews, ghost listings, lead generation schemes and impersonators. This hurts both honest business owners who don’t use deceptive tactics and consumers who have come to rely on Google Maps to find information about the world around them.”
The report tracked the efforts of volunteer groups who spend their free time tracking down these fakes to get them shut down.
In the article, Maps described being in a “constant race with local business spammers” and claimed it was using all available manual and automated systems to detect fraud.
The volunteer Maps watchers, however, countered that it was easy to spot illegitimate listings and accounts. They called out the tech giant for not doing what a group of volunteers, working in their spare time, had been unable to do.
Are You at Risk? Check Your Google My Business Account
If you have a Google My Business account, you can check for fake ratings or illegitimate accounts in your neighborhood. If you do, report them immediately to Google.
If you don’t have one, contact IntoClicks today and we’d be happy to help. It’s a free service and it will help you create another honest, legitimate business listing in your neighborhood. It’s up to all of us to help customers find trustworthy neighborhood businesses when they need them.