DMG

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Hi all, I've noticed another SEO firm editing the title of their dentist's GMB listings. The rankings shoot up (for at least one prominent keyword) in the 3 pak just days after they edit the title.

I worked hard on a number of foundational things for 3 months before the client decided to leave because this SEO company promised them instant results with a "trick" they've found for the GMB.

This is the only change they've made, aside from keyword stuffing the rest of the GMB content.

What would you do in this case? Isn't putting "my smiles dental of [insert city name]" against Google's TOS? Is this ok as long as the GMB title isn't exact match?
 

Eric Rohrback

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It's against the Guidelines, yes. Unfortunately it does work to a certain extent still. If you want a short term win, then yes you could do that and see the page move up. Again, that's a short term win.

Long term, you will get the page flagged for spam and possibly never see a top ranking again. So if that page is important to your business, then I would not violate the guidelines.

You can make the argument, "hey, it's working for them so I should do it to!" To that I'll counter that, "hey, if you found it and are getting mad about them violating the guidelines then what do you think your competitors will think of you doing it?"

Just because it's working today, doesn't mean it works forever. Just because it wasn't flagged when you saw it, doesn't mean it won't be flagged tomorrow. It all depends on your level of risk tolerance. If you can sleep at night knowing there is a possibility that someone will report the page for spam and it could be banned, then... do what you want :p

I'd rather play the long term game for things I care about, so personally I wouldn't do that. Honestly, just report them for spam and they'll get knocked back after Google reviews it. Post in the GMB product forum.

For some people who will say that it's lame to report other companies for getting ahead like that... well... they knew the risks involved with doing that. People shouldn't sit back on their hands and hope revenue comes their way. I'll do whatever it takes to protect market share long term. Why wouldn't you? Holding a spot for a month doesn't matter to me. Holding that spot for years is what the game is all about
 

DMG

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I agree. But here's the problem: pretend you're a dentist and you have two companies who are vying for your trust.

Company A does some quick hacks and gets you ranked int he 3 pak.

Company B tells you to do things according to Google's TOS.

Which one do you trust more?

Company A has the trust right off the bat. And the client is NEVER going to understand that the way they got to the top so quickly is by a means which might (years later, probably) be a problem.

Company B on the other hand, takes longer. They charge more. And they are promising the same thing that Company A (negligently or dishonestly) promises, themselves!

At what point do you fold up your white hat and just admit that we have one responsibility to our clients: to get them tangible results ASAP. And to correct problems as they occur, down the road, preferably with some disclosure of the risks involved, but at the same time realizing that the trusting client who has faith in you as an expert will almost always defer to you for risk assessment.

In short, if you can't beat em' the right way, join em. I mean you can't just be an ideologue in SEO. it's about ROI. And if I have to bend some rules with an intention of playing catch up later, I just don't see how that hurts the client.
 

Linda Buquet

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Yes DMG, I hear you loud and clear and I'm sure this is a question many consultants are having to ask themselves at this point, since KW stuffing title works so well, with few if any negative ramifications.

All I can say, still 1/2 asleep on a Sunday morning is: I'm sure glad I don't work on client accounts any more. Even though I wear a pretty white hat, I have to admit I'd be torn too.

It's kinda like speeding. It's against the law, but everyone does it. And if you are the only one driving the speed limit on an LA freeway, you're likely to get run over! :(

Not saying you should do it because everyone else does, just saying it's a pretty good analogy.
 

JoyHawkins

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If the city is represented in the business signage and logo it's probably fine to include it in the listing and GMB would allow it. I've seen this on several occasions. If it's not, you can edit the listing and change it back. If the SEO company keeps going in and adding the keywords, you can report it on the GMB forum. I've seen Google unverify/suspend tons of listings lately for doing this after they've been reported.

I also had a guy call me last week and it sounded like he was crying on the phone. He literally had all his (non-legit) listings wiped out on Google overnight and this was his main business strategy.

My advice is report the cheaters, don't join them.
 

DMG

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Thank you Linda and Joy for your insights.

Other SEO pros have told me that reporting GMB listings which clearly violate Google's TOS is effective.

In general, when an SEO company is seeing success due to merely this one tactic (the organic rankings are completely unaffected beside getting an EMD), I can see the need for reporting.

However, in specific cases, I want to see the dentist do well. I'm not sure if reporting directly to Google is the right approach, but approaching the offending SEO company is..you guessed it...out of the question.

I often feel a sense of loyalty to my past clients. I have so few clients who leave me that I never forget them when they do. They often return to me after a couple years of what I call "flashy object syndrome."

Assuming they return to you to clean up the mess of this other SEO company, what would you do? Would you report offenses in order to help them avoid any harsher penalties? Or is reporting them early on the worst which might ever occur to them?

This is more of a moral/ethics question. These dentists have no idea what's being done behind the scenes. Don't ask me how they go from getting 100% of deliverable to purchasing cheap, mystery SEO. I think it has a lot to do with the dentist just wanting to practice dentistry and "outsourcing" SEO as much as possible to someone who shows ultimate (albeit misplaced) confidence.
 

JoyHawkins

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It depends on what is going on.

If the SEO company set up fake listings, 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).

If the listing is just keyword stuffing - this is harder because removing the keywords might have an impact on the ranking of the listing. I would let the business owner know that they're violating the guidelines and let them make the call on whether or not they want to remove them.
 

DMG

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It depends on what is going on.

If the SEO company set up fake listings, 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).

If the listing is just keyword stuffing - this is harder because removing the keywords might have an impact on the ranking of the listing. I would let the business owner know that they're violating the guidelines and let them make the call on whether or not they want to remove them.

In these rare cases where a client leaves me, my gut tells me they've heard enough. Once the trust is lost, they don't want advice. Especially while the GMB is ranking. After it plummets (and it probably will at some point when Google rises to the occasion), I can definitely alert the former client to the clear and present danger they're in.

If I were to say something now, I look like I'm eating a peanut butter and jealous and sandwich lol!

So you'd report this SEO company's GMB violations if keyword stuffing is happening with all their clients?

I hate to feel like a snitch. I think it might be different in your case, Joy. You've got a close working relationship with Google. Reporting GMB violations is what you do. For me, I think I should move on from this. But, I definitely want the optimal results for my clients. So that's of paramount importance.
 

Eric Rohrback

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@DMG - the problem you outlined is two-fold. We've got a SEO company spamming listings which will temporarily put their clients ahead of yours, and then we've also got a bad experience for users. Both of which Google hates.

You've spent a good amount of time on this issue, so it seems like you're a little bothered by it. Report them in the GMB forums, and help clean up the map. Our goal as professionals needs to be to protect our clients. If someone is gaining an advantage by spamming, then you need to do what you can to protect your client's potential revenue.

Don't think of it as snitching, think of it as leveling the playing field for your client.
 
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DMG

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@DMG - the problem you outlined is two-fold. We've got a SEO company spamming listings which will temporarily put their clients ahead of yours, and then we've also got a bad experience for users. Both of which Google hates.

You've spent a good amount of time on this issue, so it seems like you're a little bothered by it. Report them in the GMB forums, and help clean up the map. Our goal as professionals needs to be to protect our clients. If someone is gaining an advantage by spamming, then you need to do what you can to protect your client's potential revenue.

Don't think of it as snitching, think of it as leveling the playing field for your client.


If Google cares enough to take action, then I'd agree with you. Our clients come first. And if that means going beyond optimizing their Google listings, and actually reporting competing offenders, then yes I agree that's a prudent thing for us to do.

That's a BIG "if." I understand Joy and yourself (and a couple other's I've talked to) insist that Google does regularly take action against spam, and that they rely (at least in part) by good-faith reporters like yourself and Joy.

I'll take action on this. Thank you to all of you for explaining this to me!

PS- Is this the URL to the GMB forums? https://www.en.advertisercommunity.com/t5/Google-My-Business/ct-p/GMB#

There are so many sections and places I could click! I feel like a cat chasing 38.2 laser pointers lol!
 

Linda Buquet

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Yep that's it DMG. And if you want to report spam, just scroll down to "Spam & Policy" section.
 

scottclark

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As a consultant to the service franchise industry, I read this thread with interest. Google does not seem to recognize what a locally owned franchise is (it never has.) Its guidelines do not address that scenario directly - rather it discusses company-owned multi-location (e.g. Home Depot) and product name franchisees only "Jim's Tire Co - Your Neighborhood Michelin Dealer."

I'm faced with this...

ACME, Inc. (the franchisor name, US Wide)

I've recommended to these clients that they use "ACME, Inc" in their GMBs franchise wide, but in large metros there's strong pressure to use suburb names in their listings. Alas, there is an argument where I'm looking like the Prudish troublemaker.

They want....

ACME Arlington Heights
ACME Aurora
ACME Palatine
...etc...

The way I interpret the Google guidance is .. if they answer the phone "Thank you for calling ACME"... If their van is wrapped with "ACME, Inc." ... their business cards have "ACME, Inc." etc. and they don't use the city name in those scenarios then using a suburb name in their GMB is a violation. Just using an assumed name/dba with the city name is not enough...

Do I have this correct? I don't consider the city name with the brand "spamming" myself but the guidelines are forcing my hand.
 
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