We love ’em and we hate ’em. Today, we hate ’em. Warning: Bitch Session
When one third of your clients are locksmiths, you learn to defend against negative SEO, spam and hackers. My clients and I have been fighting it for many years and have come to accept it as part of the business, though that doesn’t make it any less frustrating, especially when it seems Google does little to help.
We’ve seen a steady increase in local listings that ignore Google’s quality guidelines yet manage to rank at the top of search results. How are they doing it?
Their method is remarkably simple and unsophisticated and actually gives us some insight as to what Google’s local algorithm considers important, namely company name and url. In fact, it appears the listings are getting top visibility with little else on the page, making factors like company description, category selection and reviews glaringly unimportant.
At the time this post was made, a search for?Brooklyn locksmith?will render a useful example. Depending on your location, a company named?BROOKLYN LOCKSMITH?will show in either the first or second position within those results. The profile has no website association, no description, no images, no customer reviews and the owner chose not to show the location so no address is visible. Even more striking is that I monitor this market closely and just a few weeks ago this listing did not exist. It’s brand new, yet seems to have shot right to the top.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that this business profile is a terrible user experience, yet it continues to remain prominent. Considering all the updates in the search algorithm over the past few years, I’m left scratching my head that such a clear case of “gaming the system” has been neglected. So how is this listing doing it?
We can’t see everything within their profile, but we know that their company name matches exactly with the search term – a major ranking factor, though the listing will show very near the top for similar searches such as?locksmiths in Brooklyn?and?locksmith Brooklyn. Since the listing added no url, the category links to the locksmith category page within Google Local. I find it hard to believe that Google would allow their own locksmith category page to pass authority onto Google My Business profiles, but that appears to be exactly what is happening. If so, why then, would I link to my business website?
The listing also blatantly violates quality guidelines. The most obvious is the name of the business. Having called the phone number several times, the greeting I received was, “Locksmith Services.” It’s clearly a call center reminiscent of?Run Local Locksmith. As a national call center, the business does not qualify for a local page on Google. The name is in all Caps and includes a location modifier. Since it’s hidden, I cannot verify if the address is a real location, but if it isn’t, it violates the guidelines as well.
Brooklyn isn’t the only place this is taking place. I found similar cases in almost every major market I checked including Philadelphia, Manhattan, Atlanta, LA and San Francisco. To see for yourself, search a major city modifier followed by the word?locksmith. In the case of Philadelphia, the listing included an actual url, but the url was the?Yelp business page for one of my clients. In most cities, the spammers were linking to high authority pages such as Yelp, Google and even some Angie’s List profile pages. Mostly, however, it appears the local listing is using the url of Yelp’s local locksmith category page to give it the juice it needs to shoot to the top.
Having so many clients who are locksmiths, I fully expect to deal with all this, but if this spammer is a reincarnated version of Run Local Locksmith, then not only does it hurt locksmith business owners across the nation – who happen to be real salt-of-the-earth people, by the way – but many consumers are going to get scammed as well. Here we go again.