Are Small Businesses Gaming Google Plus?

Friday, January 15, 2021
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It’s a tough life as a small business. You have to compete with all the people around you, while also trying to not get stepped on by the bigger businesses above you. This is why business owners are willing to try new tricks and techniques wherever possible to get ahead in some places.

Online retail can be thought of as the wild west sometimes. Without realising it you can stroll into the crosshairs of another business that wants your position in marketing rankings such as SEO and PPC. You also don’t know what techniques competitors are using to get ahead of you. It seems that one particular area that has been drawing attention for businesses not always playing it straight on is Google My Business (formerly known as Google Plus).

This article will discuss what Google My Business is and why some companies use it, as well as some of the ways that people have been found to manipulate the algorithm to their advantage.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a service that Google offers. It’s a free and easy to use way for a business to have an online presence and appear in searches and on Google Maps. To use Google My Business, you create a profile with key information about location, product, and services.

Alongside this, GMB is a way to communicate with your customer base. Reviews can be posted and replied to, as well as posts and company updates made to the profile. It’s a powerful marketing tool as a lot of people use Google to search for a product or service in their local area, if you have a good profile you can appear in search results infront of these prospective customers.

Black hat SEO techniques used on Google My Business

Search engine optimisation has come a long way from when it first became a profession. Back when SEO started, it was thought of as ‘the dark arts’ by a lot of digital professionals. Namely, you were utilising all sorts of tricks to manipulate Google search results to appear at the top of search rankings.

As Google’s algorithm became more and more sophisticated, these tricks became harder to implement and Google gave much harsher penalties for any website caught gaming their system. While this has mainly stopped the majority of SEOs utilising ‘blackhat’ techniques in their day to day work, there are still people that employ them.

When Google My Business was first released, it offered a lot of opportunities to businesses. To capitalise on this, SEOs from both white and black hat sides of the table tried to best their competitors. It turns out that some black hat techniques were creating success, below are some of the ways that got quick wins for some businesses.

Fake reviews

This is a common occurrence across multiple platforms. Businesses creating fake reviews to either increase their authenticity and appear more legitimate or to counter bad reviews, as well as improving conversion rate.

Profile takeover

Thankfully, this technique has not been replicable for a number of years. But when GMB first started up, there were some businesses that hadn’t claimed their listing online. These businesses had their listing claimed by a competitor, who could change their opening hours or contact information. As an example, a restaurant could have its opening hours changed to be closed over the weekend, which would be extremely negative for business. For some restaurants it was, they lost customers and went out of business.

Keyword Stuffing

When you are listing a business on GMB, you are told not to stuff keywords into your business title or listing. However in reality, plenty of businesses did this to appear for their priority terms.

Fake locations

Google My Business creates a lot of trade for location based businesses. Some companies that were located in locations that have less local SEO traffic were able to create listings in areas that are more frequently searched for, without their business actually being based there.

Why you shouldn’t manipulate a Google My Business listing

It’s a risk / reward situation. If you are caught blatantly disregarding Google’s terms of service you can be hit with a number of different penalties. These range from having reviews removed, your listing taken down, and your website penalised and not showing up in the search results. Blackhat SEO techniques might offer some short term success, but almost always Google will track you down. The algorithm is constantly updating and learning what is the best content and businesses to give to people for their searches. If you are caught manipulating their service, you can’t expect to be in their favour.