Anyone who has dabbled in the realm of Local SEO by editing company listings in Google My Business (GMB) and Google Maps has probably experienced a good deal of frustration. It’s a strange world where things don’t always make sense. Site Strategics CEO Erin Sparks and Digital Media Director Tom Brodbeck sat down with special guest Joy Hawkins, owner of Sterling Sky, to hear her debunk seven myths about editing Google My Business and Google Maps listings episode 311 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast. Here’s what we learned about her and those myths:
Joy Hawkins: Her Background and Experience
Joy Hawkins owns Sterling Sky Inc and has been working in the Local SEO space since 2006. Her day-to-day work involves troubleshooting ranking issues on Google for the most complicated and difficult accounts, updating her training manual (The Expert’s Guide to Local SEO), consulting on how to use Google products and SEO-related tools and tactics, selling and managing local SEO, social media and AdWords accounts for small business owners, and keeping up with new trends and processes in the local SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) world. She’s a Google Top Contributor and speaks at search conferences like SMX, LocalU and others. Joy recently published a blog post titled 7 Little Known Things About Google Local Guides & Editing Listings on Google Maps, and for those who are into local SEO for community-based businesses, this stuff is pure gold. Understand first that listings on Google Maps which are owner-verified are often called Google My Business listings, so they’re basically the same thing. Here are seven myths Joy debunked for us:
Myth 1: Competitors Can’t Edit Your GMB Listing
Actually, they can! It’s not easy to do, but it does happen, some would say with alarming frequency. It used to be surprisingly easy, and Google has made it harder, but it can still happen. Joy doesn’t like to go into the details of how it happens because she doesn’t like inadvertently teaching people black hat SEO tactics. The worst of all examples is the Los Angeles personal injury lawyer community. You’ll see all kinds of pending edits to those profiles, such as changing their category, their hours, and so on. But it’s also pretty easy to identify those edits as malicious. They’ll often be automatically declined or go into a pending status until a person reviews it and sees it should be rejected. It’s also worth reviewing who has easy access to your GMB profile, making sure to remove those who leave the company.
Myth 2: Local Guide Levels are Meaningful
As people move up the level ladder as a Google Local Guide, many people seem to think that this means their edits will have a greater chance of going through. Or even worse, SEO companies will tout their higher level as some kind of competitive advantage or proof they can get the job done or whatever. Nowadays there appears to be no real meaning to higher levels. It doesn’t guarantee your edits will be accepted. It doesn’t grant you any special magical powers to remove fake listings or do anything else for that matter. Google might view Local Guides at higher levels as more trustworthy, but there’s very little if any practical impact to it. And the number of points you need to get into the highest levels is utterly mind-boggling. You get different amounts of points for various things, like 1 point per rating you give out, 5 points per edit, 10 points per written review (20 if it’s more than 200 characters) and so on. Getting to level 6 is fairly easy, requiring only 1,500 points. But then it gets crazy: Level 7 is 5,000 points, level 8 is 15,000 points, level 9 is 50,000 points and Level 10 takes 100,000 points. And yet there’s virtually no benefit to getting into those higher levels beyond having a badge.
Myth 3: Listing Editing Success Depends on the Editor
These days for Google, the likeliness of getting an edit to be published has virtually nothing to do with the individual editor making the change. It’s all about the listing itself and whether or not Google considers it trustworthy. If it’s a Google verified listing, even if it’s fake it’s going to be extremely difficult to remove it, no matter what level you are. Even when it’s obvious, it’s hard to get rid of. For example, you’ve got people who are good at creating a new listing and getting it verified. They create a company for the sole purpose of generating leads that then sell to other legitimate companies because leads are precious. The listing is essentially fake – there is no website, no citations, no back links, no nothing. And yet it was accepted and is virtually impossible to get rid of! This kind of spam problem is really serious in the Google My Business and Google Maps landscape.
Myth 4: Google My Business Listing Suspensions
If you do things that violate Google’s rules, your listing may be removed or your account may be suspended. If your listing is taken down, then it’s gone and won’t appear anywhere. But if it’s the account suspension variety, your listing stays active, still ranks just like it did before, but you can’t manage it through Google My Business. This is frustrating because when you get suspended, Google doesn’t explain why, so if you don’t know what you did wrong, you can’t correct for it moving forward. Suspensions can be repealed, but it’s not an easy process.
Myth 5: Fake Listings with Reviews are Easy to Remove
A fake listing with lots of reviews is much harder to get rid of because Google considers those reviews as a sign that it’s a legitimate business. But the reviews can all be faked, too! This means fake listers have a way to virtually guarantee their fake listing is protected – by having fake reviews entered on it! It can still be removed, but someone has to take the time to report the listing directly to Google My Business using the Google My Business Redressal Complaint Form, which takes a good two weeks to see results from. It’s not going to happen automatically through the editing process. Even if it’s an unverified listing, if it has lots of reviews, removal is difficult. And just trying to get a single fake review removed is hard. It takes a good 4-8 weeks to make that happen.
Myth 6: Edits are Automatically Dealt with by Machines
Edits are reviewed by both machines and humans. First the machines weigh in on an edit and the edit will either be accepted, rejected, or put into pending status within about 20 minutes. None of those rapid acceptances or rejections were done by people. That’s all machines. A pending status means a human is going to have to review the edit, which can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks depending on what kind of edit it was and how it was reported.
Myth 7: Your Edits to Fake Listings Still Count
If you’ve made edits to a listing and then that listing is removed, the edits you made will disappear out of your edits tab that has your editing history in it. So, if a listing isn’t publicly viewable, any edits you made will not be reflected in your editing history.
Connect with Joy Hawkins and Sterling Sky
Twitter: @JoyanneHawkins (https://twitter.com/joyannehawkins)
Sterling Sky Twitter: @SterlingSkyInc (https://twitter.com/SterlingSkyInc)
Sterling Sky Facebook: @SterlingSkyInc (https://www.facebook.com/sterlingskyinc)
Sterling Sky Web: https://www.sterlingsky.ca
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