Changes to Google Maps and Business Profiles
With a climate that changes as rapidly as SEO, it’s nice to have some direction. In a post on March 24th of this year, Google discussed its spam-fighting efforts on Google Maps. In addition, this post included details on its policy regarding Google Business Profile abuses. These efforts are geared toward providing accurate, up-to-date information about real-world businesses. After all, if your business seems to be open on Google Maps but is closed, it might not look so good for you.
Providing accurate information about what users see on maps is a huge one. This is why Google turns to crowdsourced labor – Or contributed content, as they describe it. Users submit updated business schedules, addresses, phone numbers, and reviews. Some even contribute photos of the business. However, not every user does so with good intentions. Some take to spamming, astroturfing, or outright malicious vandalism.
In response, Google says it has blocked a significant number of abusive acts. For example, it says it has caught over 100 million malicious edits to Business Profiles. The company also says it has prevented over 100 thousand unauthorized access attempts.
How Google Maps Keeps Information Accurate
In addition to combating malicious content, Google promotes and celebrates its contributing userbase. For example, throughout the pandemic, Google updated policies to ensure there was accurate information about new hours, temporary closures, and health policies. This information is placed on Google’s new Business Profiles and presented clearly to users.
However, because the content is user-driven, there is potential for abuse. One of the ways Google protects content is through machine learning. Malicious edits tend to follow a trend or have similar appearances. Bot activity and suspicious behavior are more visible than ever, thanks to AI. There is also a platform for users to make reports about fraudulent activity. Google received over half a million – 630,000 – Of these reports from users.
The machine learning tools also allowed Google to stop over 12,000,000 (twelve million!) fake profiles from being made. Beyond automatic methods, Google also helps protect businesses directly. The tech giant recognizes that fake reviews and “mob activity” can hurt businesses. In response, it applied protections to over 100,000 companies after detecting this activity. They removed over a hundred million fake reviews reported to the company.
Why Google Cares
More businesses are likely to use Google services if Google provides a good service. That’s just basic business. Google enacts these policies on a human level because it’s good for the community. Google refers to its Maps service as “more than a navigation tool.” It’s a way for businesses to connect and advertise to their customers. It provides a way for customers to protect themselves and find the things they need rapidly. Accuracy is a big part of these efforts and may be the most important aspect of the Maps service.
What are Google Business Profiles?
For SEO professionals, you probably remember the Google My Business service. This was previously a separate app that businesses would have to interact with. Google has decided to retire this service. In its place is the Google Business Profile, which allows users to manage their business information through Search or Maps directly. All you have to do is search your business name in either service and click to verify your Business profile.
This is also how you access the profile to resolve things like suspensions of the profile. You can also edit your address, phone number, and hours. This will allow you to respond to reviews, too.
Why Would a Google Business Profile Get Suspended?
For some businesses, a Google Business profile is their only SEO engagement. If they log into the Business Profile Manager and see the account is suspended, they might understandably worry. This can happen even if you’ve had your Google My Business profile for years without issue. Because the suspension notification is often very vague, some business owners panic. What’s going on here?
The biggest reason is that something on the profile – Intentionally or not – Violated Google’s Business Profile guidelines. The policy can be vague or subtle, so understanding these rules is essential. In addition, if you use a Google Business Profile, you should perform a monthly check to ensure your profile is compliant with any new policies. The updates can come frequently.
Go through your profile line by line to see if anything violates any policies. If you’ve made any recent edits before the suspension, this edit may have resulted in a suspension. Sometimes you haven’t done anything wrong. Google, as mentioned, regularly and automatically removes content that looks like spam. So the algorithm might have flagged you that way.
High-risk service industries are hit more often. Lawyers, plumbers, landscapers, insurance, and other trade jobs get hit for even tiny infractions. This is to protect consumers. Stuffing keywords into your business name can also get it suspended. For example, if your business is named “John Doe Pruning LLC,” your Business Profile name should be “John Doe Pruning LLC.” Some users will add keywords to the Business Profile name… It might look like “John Doe Pruning LLC Tree Pruning Shearing Hedge Service Anytown USA.” This is a big no-no.
You also need to have a physical address listed, not a PO Box or other virtual space. Those addresses aren’t eligible for a Google Business Profile. Read through the policies, change anything that seems problematic, and fill out the Reinstatement Form.
Hopefully, that will protect your business from Google’s aggressive (and helpful!) spam-fighting practices. If you need more information about similar topics, review our website.