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Hey Everybody!
I've worked in 3 different fora over the years, and particularly respect the Local Search Forum for the very high quality of the discussions here. Today, I'd like to ask about a difficult but common issue.

You're participating/modding a forum thread (or even taking a call from a prospective client) and you realize that the business in question has created a string of spam GMB listings for ineligible locations. Their aunt's house, their brother-in-law's-apartment, a P.O. box. You know how this goes.

If you weren't dealing directly with this person, trying to help them, you'd be doing something like this:

  • Find the listing in Google Maps
  • Click the ?suggest an edit? link
  • Toggle the yes/no toggle to ?yes?
  • Choose the radio button for ?spam?
  • Google will typically email you if/when your edit is accepted

But, because this person is coming to you for help, you're not going to tell them to report themselves as spammers. I mean, who is going to take action to get themselves in hot water?

I've encountered so many threads like this over the past few years, and I'm wondering, what can you do in this specific scenario when the business clearly needs to do away with their ineligible listings, but you don't want to advise them to do something that could end up getting their business in trouble with Google? Do you have a set of steps for this that is working for you? Something that doesn't end up with "closed" on the listings, which could then be detrimental to the core, eligible listing?

I've come to see a line that separates unethical spammers from businesses that simply don't know better. I want to educate and help - not punish - these folks. I thought I had once read some steps for this scenario, but I'm unable to surface them. I'd so value hearing how forum staff/community members/local SEOs here are handling this.
 

JoyHawkins

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I've definitely run into this before. If it's a business I'm working with, I refuse to work on listings that are against the guidelines. I advise the person to unverify the listings first. If they are a direct threat to the main listing, I would also tell the person to contact GMB support and ask them to be removed/merged (depending on the scenario).
 
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Thank you very much for the answer, Joy. Follow-up questions:

1) Do you think it's better to try to get these "accidental" spam listing removed or merged?
2) Have you ever seen Google act punitively against a business that self-reports these type of spam listings?
 

JoyHawkins

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1. Google generally can't merge listings if the addresses are different. They might be able to move the reviews if they are genuine and not spammy.

2. I've never seen them act against a business for self-reporting. They seem to be pretty forgiving
 
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