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Launching a new Publisher Center

Today we are announcing the launch of Publisher Center to help publishers more easily manage how their content appears across Google products. Publisher Center merges two existing tools, Google News Producer and Google News Publisher Center, improving their user experience and functionality. Publisher Center’s new features include a simpler way…

Becoming an Industry Thought Leader: Advanced Techniques for Finding the Best Places to Pitch Guest Posts

Posted by KristinTynski

If you’re involved in any kind of digital PR — or pitching content to writers to expand your brand awareness and build strong links — then you know how hard it can be to find a good home for your content.

I’m about to share the process you can use to identify the best, highest ROI publishers for building consistent, mutually beneficial guest posting relationships with.

This knowledge has been invaluable in understanding which publications have the best reach and authority to other known vertical/niche experts, allowing you to share your own authority within these readership communities.

Before we get started, there’s a caveat: If you aren’t willing to develop true thought leadership, this process won’t work for you. The prerequisite for success here is having a piece of content that is new, newsworthy, and most likely data-driven.

Now let’s get to the good stuff.

Not all publications are equal

Guest posting can increase awareness of your brand, create link authority, and ultimately generate qualified leads. However, that only happens if you pick publishers that have:

  • The trust of your target audience.
  • Topical relevance and authority.
  • Sufficiently large penetration in readership amongst existing authorities in your niche/vertical.

A big trap many fall into is not properly prioritizing their guest posting strategy along these three important metrics.

To put this strategy into context, I’ll provide a detailed methodology for understanding the “thought leadership” space of two different verticals. I’ll also include actionable tips for developing a prioritized list of targets for winning guest spots or columns with your killer content.

It all starts with BuzzSumo

We use BuzzSumo data as the starting point for developing these interactive elements. For this piece, the focus will be on looking at data pulled from their Influencer and Shared Links APIs.

Let’s begin by looking at the data we’re after in the regular user interface. On the Influencers tab, we start by selecting a keyword most representative of the overall niche/industry/vertical we want to understand. We’ll start with “SEO.”

The list of influencers here should already be sorted, but feel free to narrow it down by applying filters. I recommend making sure your final list has 250-500 influencers as a minimum to be comprehensive.

Next, and most importantly, we want to get the links’ shared data for each of these influencers. This will be the data we use to build our network visualizations to truly understand the publishers in the space that are likely to be the highest ROI places for guest posting.

Below you can see the visual readout for one influencer.

Note the distribution of websites Gianluca Fiorelli (@gfiorelli1) most often links to on Twitter. These sites (and their percentages) will be the data we use for our visualization.

Pulling our data programmatically

Thankfully, BuzzSumo has an excellent and intuitive API, so it’s relatively easy to pull and aggregate all of the data we need. I’ve included a link to my script in Github for those who would like to do it themselves.

In general, it does the following:

  • Generates the first page of influencers for the given keyword, which is about 50. You can either update the script to iterate through pages or just update the page number it pulls from within the script and concatenate the output files after the fact.
  • For each influencer, it makes another API call and gets all of the aggregated Top Domains shared data for each influencer, which is the same as the data you see in the above pie chart visualization.
  • Aggregates all the data and exports to a CSV.

Learning from the data

Once we have our data in the format Gephi prefers for network visualizations (sample edge file), we are ready to start exploring. Let’s start with our data from the “SEO” search, for which I pulled the domain sharing data for the top 400 influencers.

A few notes:

  • The circles are called nodes. All black nodes are the influencer’s Twitter accounts. All other colored nodes are the websites.
  • The size of the nodes is based on Page Rank. This isn’t the Google Page Rank number, but instead the Page Rank within this graph alone. The larger the node, the more authoritative (and popular) that website is within the entire graph.
  • The colors of the nodes are based on a modularity algorithm in Gephi. Nodes with similar link graphs typically have the same color.

What can we learn from the SEO influencer graph?

Well, the graph is relatively evenly distributed and cohesive. This indicates that the websites and blogs that are shared most frequently are well known by the entire community.

Additionally, there are a few examples of clusters outside the primary cluster (the middle of the graph). For instance, we see a Local SEO cluster at the 10 p.m. position on the left hand side. We can also see a National Press cluster at the 6-7 p.m. position on the bottom and a French Language cluster at the 1-2 p.m. position at the top right.

Ultimately, Moz, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land are great bets when developing and fostering guest posting relationships.

Note that part of the complication with this data has to do with publishing volume. The three largest nodes are also some of the most prolific, meaning there are more overall chances for articles to earn Tweets and other social media mentions from industry influencers. You could refining of the data further by normalizing each site by content publishing volume to find publishers who publish much less frequently and still enjoy disproportionate visibility within the industry.

Webmasters.Googleblog.com is a good example of this. They publish 3 to 4 times per month, and yet because of their influence in the industry, they’re still one of the largest and most central nodes. Of course, this makes sense given it is the only public voice of Google for our industry.

Another important thing to notice is the prominence of both YouTube and SlideShare. If you haven’t yet realized the importance and reach of these platforms, perhaps this is the proof you need. Video content and slide decks are highly shared in the SEO community by top influencers.

Differences between SEO and content marketing influencer graphs

What can we learn from the Content Marketing influencer graph?

For starters, it looks somewhat different overall from the SEO influencer graph; it’s much less cohesive and seems to have many more separate clusters. This could indicate that the content publishing sphere for content marketing is perhaps less mature, with more fragmentation and fewer central sources for consuming content marketing related content. It could also be that content marketing is descriptive of more than SEO and that different clusters are publishers that focus more on one type of content marketing vs. another (similar to what we saw with the local SEO cluster in the previous example).

Instead of 3 to 5 similarly sized market leaders, here we see one behemoth, Content Marketing Institute, a testament to both the authority of that brand and the massive amount of content they publish.

We can also see several specific clusters. For instance, the “SEO blogs” cluster in blue at the 8-9 p.m. position and the more general marketing blogs like Hubspot, MarketingProfs, and Social Media Examiner in green and mauve at the 4-5 p.m. position.

The general business top-tier press sites appear quite influential in this space as well, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Adweek, Tech Crunch, Business Insider, Inc., which we didn’t see as much in the SEO example.

YouTube, again, is extremely important, even more so than in the SEO example.

Is it worth it?

If you’re already deep in an industry, the visualization results of this process are unlikely to shock you. As someone who’s been in the SEO/content marketing industry for 10 years, the graphs are roughly what I expected, but there certainly were some surprises.

This process will be most valuable to you when you are new to an industry or are working within a new vertical or niche. Using the python code I linked and BuzzSumo’s fantastic API and data offers the opportunity to gain a deep visual understanding of the favorite places of industry thought leaders. This knowledge acts as a basis for strategic planning toward identifying top publishers with your own guest content.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Content Syndication SEO And Duplicate Content Myth

So this is more a test artcle but it'll also hit on these topics in the title. Duplicate Content is everywhere and its fine...Googles been saying that for years now but some SEOs have this myth in their head that its an issue.  If its such an issue then what about The Associated Press?  The AP syndicates content to almost every local newspaper out there.  Their sites arent penalized for blocks and blocks of duplicate content.  While your chewing on that...

 

What is a unique thing you can do with others content?  The way you arrange it.  What if I setup a site that ingested the RSS feeds of all these political campaigns press releases and used it to create a site that had all the press releases for say US House seats.  That could be of value to someone and provides a research resource for after the election when those sites are down.  Theres an example of providing a useful service with mostly duplicate content.  Its unique that the type of content exists there in one place.

 

So now we see duplicate content isnt bad and in that we know that some authors want publicity but theyve never been heard of ... so they need a platform to gain a following.  Some sites charge for "Ghost Blogging" but thats really not being big picture.  There are sites that want relevant content and there are authors after a site.  

 

Welcome to our syndication site.  You can post an article for free here and you can get articles for free here but we ask you use the RSS feeds and put in a good word back to us somewhere. 

 

Now some filler text...

 

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Mon, Dec 2, 2019 10:51 PM -0800

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Fully Loaded Time

4.1s 

Total Page Size

1.95MB 

Requests

97 

RECOMMENDATION GRADE TYPE PRIORITY
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F (0)

 

IMAGES HIGH
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IMAGES HIGH
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Daily Search Forum Recap: December 6, 2019

Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web...

Google: Not Having A Manual Action Does Not Mean Your Site Is Good

Google's John Mueller said on Twitter "not having a manual action doesn't mean that the website is good overall." Simple but true - there are algorithms that judge the quality of the site and if your site is not ranking well, and you don't have a manual action, that means your site is probably not all that good?

The Local Algorithm: Relevance, Proximity, and Prominence

Posted by MaryBowling

How does Google decide what goes into the local pack? It doesn't have to be a black box — there's logic behind the order. In this week's Whiteboard Friday, renowned local SEO expert Mary Bowling lays out the three factors that drive Google's local algorithm and local rankings in a simple and concise way anyone can understand.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. This is Mary Bowling from Ignitor Digital, and today I want to talk to you about the local algorithm. I'd like to make this as simple as possible for people to understand, because I think it's a very confusing thing for a lot of SEOs who don't do this every day.

The local algorithm has always been based on relevance, prominence, and proximity

1. Relevance

For relevance, what the algorithm is asking is, "Does this business do or sell or have the attributes that the searcher is looking for?" That's pretty simple. So that gives us all these businesses over here that might be relevant. For prominence, the algorithm is asking, "Which businesses are the most popular and the most well regarded in their local market area?"

2. Proximity

For proximity, the question really is, "Is the business close enough to the searcher to be considered to be a good answer for this query?" This is what trips people up. This is what really defines the local algorithm — proximity. So I'm going to try to explain that in very simple terms here today.

Let's say we have a searcher in a particular location, and she's really hungry today and she wants some egg rolls. So her query is egg rolls. If she were to ask for egg rolls near me, these businesses are the ones that the algorithm would favor.

3. Prominence

They are the closest to her, and Google would rank them most likely by their prominence. If she were to ask for something in a particular place, let's say this is a downtown area and she asked for egg rolls downtown because she didn't want to be away from work too long, then the algorithm is actually going to favor the businesses that sell egg rolls in the downtown area even though that's further away from where the searcher is.

If she were to ask for egg rolls open now, there might be a business here and a business here and a business here that are open now, and they would be the ones that the algorithm would consider. So relevance is kicking in on the query. If she were to ask for the cheapest egg rolls, that might be here and here.

If she were to ask for the best egg rolls, that might be very, very far away, or it could be a combination of all kinds of locations. So you really need to think of proximity as a fluid thing. It's like a rubber band, and depending on... 

  • the query
  • the searcher's location
  • the relevance to the query
  • and the prominence of the business 

....is what Google is going to show in that local pack.

I hope that makes it much clearer to those of you who haven't understood the Local Algorithm. If you have some comments or suggestions, please make them below and thanks for listening.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!

Google: Type Of Page Less Important Than Quality Of The Page

Google's John Mueller was asked if the site should make the meta data of its audio files indexable by Google. In which John responded "Think less about the type of pages, and more about the quality of the pages that you want to have indexed."

Convince Your Boss to Send You to MozCon 2020 (Plus Bonus Letter Template!)

Posted by cheryldraper

It’s that time of year again. Professional development budgets are being distributed and you're daydreaming of Roger hugs and fist bumps. Well, this is a call to arms! It's time to get down to business and convince your boss that you HAVE to go to MozCon 2020.

You're already well acquainted with the benefits of MozCon. Maybe you're a MozCon alumnus. You may have lurked the hashtag once or twice for inside tips and you’ve likely followed the work of some of the speakers for a while. But how are you going to relay that to your boss in a way that sells? Don’t worry, we’ve got a plan.

(And if you want to skip ahead to the letter template, here it is!)

Copy the template

Step #1 - Gather evidence

Alright, so just going in and saying “Rand Fishkin is brilliant and have you seen any of Britney Muller’s Whiteboard Fridays lately?!” probably won’t do the trick — we need some cold hard facts that you can present.

MozCon delivers actionable insights

It’s easy to say that MozCon provides actionable insights, but how do you prove it? A quick scroll through our Facebook Group can prove to anyone that not only is MozCon a gathering of the greatest minds in search, but it also acts as an incubator and facilitator for SEO strategies.

If you can’t get your boss on Facebook, just direct them to the blog post written by Croud: Four things I changed immediately after MozCon. Talk about actionable! A quick Google (or LinkedIn) search will return dozens of similar recaps. Gather a few of these to have in your toolbelt just in case.

Or, if you have the time, pick out some of the event tweets from previous years that relate most to your company. The MozCon hashtag (#MozCon) has plenty of tweets to choose from — things like research findings, workflows, and useful tools are all covered. Some of our favorites from last year are listed below.

Attendees are often given access to exclusive tools and betas by the speakers, and that is something you don’t want to miss!

The networking is unbeatable

The potential knowledge gain doesn’t end with keynote speeches. Many of our speakers stick around for the entire conference and host niche- and vertical-specific Birds of a Feather tables over lunch, in addition to attending the networking events. If you find yourself with questions about their strategies, you'll often have the ability to ask them directly.

But the speakers aren’t the only folks worth networking with. We hand-select industry vendors to attend the conference and showcase their products. These vendors are also available for training and showcases throughout the entire conference.

Lastly, your peers! There's no better way to learn than from those who overcome the same obstacles as you. Opportunities for collaboration and peer-to-peer learning are often invaluable (especially those that happen over yummy snacks) and can lead to better workflows, new business, and even exciting partnerships.

Step #2 - Break down the costs

This is where the majority of the conversation will be focused, but fear not, Roger has already done most of the heavy lifting. So let’s cut to the chase. The goal of MozCon isn’t to make money — the goal is to break even and lift up our friends in search.

Top-of-the-line speakers

Every year we work with our speakers to bring cutting-edge content to the stage. You can be sure that the content you’ll be exposed to will set you up for a year of success.

Videos for everyone

While your coworkers won’t be able to enjoy Top Pot doughnuts or KuKuRuZa popcorn, they will be able to see all of the talks via professional video and audio. Your ticket to MozCon includes a professional video package which allows you (and your whole team) to watch every single talk post-conference, for free. (It's a $350 value for the videos alone!)

Good eats

MozCon doesn’t do anything on-par. We strive to go above and beyond in everything we do, and the food options are no exception. MozCon works with local vendors to ensure there are tasty, sustainable meals for everyone, including those with special diets. From breakfast to lunch and all the snacks in-between, MozCon has you covered (and saves your T&E budget a few bucks, as well).

Swag

Not to brag, but our swag is pretty great. In addition to special MozCon memorabilia, you can look forward to other useful and fun items that vary from year to year. Previous gifts include “conference health” fanny packs (complete with Emergen-C!), moleskin notebooks, reusable water bottles, and phone chargers.

Discounts

This is probably the detail that'll make your boss's ears perk up. There are indeed discounts available for MozCon tickets! If you're buying now through January 31st 2020, Early Bird pricing is in effect, which saves you a cool $200 off regular ticket costs. If you've got a team interested in attending, we offer group discounts for parties of 5+ as well. And my final top-secret tip: if your company already subscribes to a Moz product, you can save even more —up to $700 off per regular-priced ticket if you snag Early Bird pricing, or $500 off after January 31st. That's a real chunk of change!

Step #3 - Be prepared to prove value

It’s important to go into the conference with a plan to bring back value. It’s easy to come to any conference and just enjoy the food and company (especially this one), but it’s harder to take the information gained and implement change.

Make a plan

Before approaching your boss, make sure you have a plan on how you're going to show off all of the insights you gather at MozCon! Obviously, you'll be taking notes — whether it’s to the tune of live tweets, bullet journals, or doodles, those notes are most valuable when they're backed up by action.

Putting it into action

Set expectations with your boss. "After each day, I'll select three takeaways and create a plan on how to execute them." Who could turn down nine potential business-changing strategies?!

And it really isn’t that hard! Especially not with the content that you'll have access to. At the close of each day, we recommend you look back over your notes and do a brain-dump. 

  • How did today's content relate to your business? 
  • Which sessions resonated and would bring the most value to your team? 
  • Which strategies can easily be executed? 
  • Which would make the biggest impact?

After you identify those strategies, create a plan of action that will get you on track for implementing change.

(Fun fact — if you're traveling, this can actually be done on the plane ride home!)

Client briefs

If you have clients on retainer, ongoing training for employees is something those clients should appreciate — it ensures you’re staying ahead of the game. Offer to not only debrief your in-house SEO team, but to also present to your clients. This sort of presentation is a value add that many clients don’t get and can set your business apart.

These presentations can be short blurbs at the beginning of a regular meeting or a chance to gather up all of your clients and enjoy a bit of networking and education.

Still not enough?

Give the boss a taste of MozCon by having them check out some videos from years past to get a taste for the caliber of our speakers. And if you're wanting to break into the speaking circuit, you can also take your shot at securing a community speaker spot onstage. Most years, the call for community speakers opens up in early springtime — keep an eye on the Moz Blog for your chance to pitch!

Lastly, the reviews speak for themselves. MozCon is perfect for SEOs of any level and we even factor in time for you to get a little work done in-between sessions — Vaneese can tell you!

Our fingers are crossed!

Alright friend, now is your time to shine. We've equipped you with some super-persuasive tools and we'll be crossing our fingers that the boss gives you the "okay!" Be sure to grab the letter template and make your case the easy way:

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If you can make it, we promise to spoil you to the tune of endless Starbucks coffee, tons of new friends, and an experience that will change your perspective on search. We hope to see your smiling face at MozCon 2020!

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Google: Ads.txt Is For AdSense But Not Needed For Search Or SEO

Google's official webmaster channel on Twitter responded to a question about the ads.txt file. Someone asked if you need it for SEO or search because he sees GoogleBot trying to access it. The answer is no, you don't need it for Google Search or SEO. It is somewhat needed for Google AdSense but not Google Search.

Simple Spam Fighting: The Easiest Local Rankings You’ll Ever Earn

Posted by MiriamEllis

Image credit: Visit Lakeland

Reporting fake and duplicate listings to Google sounds hard. Sometimes it can be. But very often, it’s as easy as falling off a log, takes only a modest session of spam fighting and can yield significant local ranking improvements.

If your local business/the local brands your agency markets aren’t using spam fighting as a ranking tactic because you feel you lack the time or skills, please sit down with me for a sec.

What if I told you I spent about an hour yesterday doing something that moved a Home Depot location up 3 spots in a competitive market in Google’s local rankings less than 24 hours later? What if, for you, moving up a spot or two would get you out of Google’s local finder limbo and into the actual local pack limelight?

Today I’m going to show you exactly what I did to fight spam, how fast and easy it was to sweep out junk listings, and how rewarding it can be to see results transform in favor of the legitimate businesses you market.

Washing up the shady world of window blinds

Image credit: Aqua Mechanical

Who knew that shopping for window coverings would lead me into a den of spammers throwing shade all over Google?

The story of Google My Business spam is now more than a decade in the making, with scandalous examples like fake listings for locksmiths and addiction treatment centers proving how unsafe and unacceptable local business platforms can become when left unguarded.

But even in non-YMYL industries, spam listings deceive the public, waste consumers’ time, inhibit legitimate businesses from being discovered, and erode trust in the spam-hosting platform. I saw all of this in action when I was shopping to replace some broken blinds in my home, and it was such a hassle trying to find an actual vendor amid the chaff of broken, duplicate, and lead gen listings, I decided to do something about it.

I selected an SF Bay area branch of Home Depot as my hypothetical “client.” I knew they had a legitimate location in the city of Vallejo, CA — a place I don’t live but sometimes travel to, thereby excluding the influence of proximity from my study. I knew that they were only earning an 8th place ranking in Google’s Local Finder, pushed down by spam. I wanted to see how quickly I could impact Home Depot’s surprisingly bad ranking.

I took the following steps, and encourage you to take them for any local business you’re marketing, too:

Step 1: Search

While located at the place of business you’re marketing, perform a Google search (or have your client perform it) for the keyword phrase for which you most desire improved local rankings. Of course, if you’re already ranking well as you want to for the searchers nearest you, you can still follow this process for investigating somewhat more distant areas within your potential reach where you want to increase visibility.

In the results from your search, click on the “more businesses” link at the bottom of the local pack, and you’ll be taken to the interface commonly called the “Local Finder.”

The Local Finder isn’t typically 100% identical to the local pack in exact ranking order, but it’s the best place I know of to see how things stand beyond the first 3 results that make up Google’s local packs, telling a business which companies they need to surpass to move up towards local pack inclusion.

Step 2: Copy my spreadsheet

Find yourself in the local finder. In my case, the Home Depot location was at position 8. I hope you’re somewhere within the first set of 20 results Google typically gives, but if you’re not, keep paging through until you locate your listing. If you don’t find yourself at all, you may need to troubleshoot whether an eligibility issue, suspension, or filter is at play. But, hopefully that’s not you today.

Next, create a custom spreadsheet to record your findings. Or, much easier, just make a copy of mine!

Populate the spreadsheet by cutting and pasting the basic NAP (name, address, phone) for every competitor ranking above you, and include your own listing, too, of course! If you work for an agency, you’ll need to get the client to help you with this step by filling the spreadsheet out based on their search from their place of business.

In my case, I recorded everything in the first 20 results of the Local Finder, because I saw spam both above and below my “client,” and wanted to see the total movement resulting from my work in that result set.

Step 3: Identify obvious spam

We want to catch the easy fish today. You can go down rabbit holes another day, trying to ferret out weirdly woven webs of lead gen sites spanning the nation, but today, we’re just looking to weed out listings that clearly, blatantly don’t belong in the Local Finder. 

Go through these five easy steps:

  1. Look at the Google Streetview image for each business outranking you.
    Do you see a business with signage that matches the name on the listing? Move on. But if you see a house, an empty parking lot, or Google is marking the listing as “location approximate”, jot that down in the Notes section of your spreadsheet. For example, I saw a supposed window coverings showroom that Streetview was locating in an empty lot on a military base. Big red flag there.
  2. Make note of any businesses that share an address, phone number, or very similar name.
    Make note of anything with an overly long name that seems more like a string of keywords than a brand. For example, a listing in my set was called: Custom Window Treatments in Fairfield, CA Hunter Douglas Dealer.
  3. For every business you noted down in steps one and two, get on the phone.
    Is the number a working number? If someone answers, do they answer with the name of the business? Note it down. Say, “Hi, where is your shop located?” If the answer is that it’s not a shop, it’s a mobile business, note that down. Finally, If anything seems off, check the Guidelines for representing your business on Google to see what’s allowed in the industry you’re investigating. For example, it’s perfectly okay for a window blinds dealer to operate out of their home, but if they’re operating out of 5 homes in the same city, it’s likely a violation. In my case, just a couple of minutes on the phone identified multiple listings with phone numbers that were no longer in service.
  4. Visit the iffy websites. 
    Now that you’re narrowing your spreadsheet down to a set of businesses that are either obviously legitimate or “iffy,” visit the websites of the iffy ones. Does the name on the listing match the name on the website? Does anything else look odd? Note it down.
  5. Highlight businesses that are clearly spammy.
    Your dive hasn’t been deep, but by now, it may have identified one or more listings that you strongly believe don’t belong because they have spammy names, fake addresses, or out-of-service phone numbers. My lightning-quick pass through my data set showed that six of the twenty listings were clearly junk. That’s 30% of Google’s info being worthless! I suggest marking these in red text in your spreadsheet to make the next step fast and easy.

Step 4: Report it!

If you want to become a spam-fighting ace later, you’ll need to become familiar with Google’s Business Redressal Complaint Form which gives you lots of room for sharing your documentation of why a listing should be removed. In fact, if an aggravating spammer remains in the Local Finder despite what we’re doing in this session, this form is where you’d head next for a more concerted effort.

But, today, I promised the easiness of falling off a log, so our first effort at impacting the results will simply focus on the “suggest an edit” function you’ll see on each listing you’re trying to get rid of. This is how you do it:

After you click the “suggest an edit” button on the listing, a popup will appear. If you’re reporting something like a spammy name, click the “change name or other details” option and fill out the form. If you’ve determined a listing represents a non-existent, closed, unreachable, or duplicate entity, choose the “remove this place” option and then select the dropdown entry that most closely matches the problem. You can add a screenshot or other image if you like, but in my quick pass through the data, I didn’t bother.

Record the exact action you took for each spam listing in the “Actions” column of the spreadsheet. In my case, I was reporting a mixture or non-existent buildings, out-of-service phone numbers, and one duplicate listing with a spammy name.

Finally, hit the “send” button and you’re done.

Step 5: Record the results

Within an hour of filing my reports with Google, I received an email like this for 5 of the 6 entries I had flagged:

The only entry I received no email for was the duplicate listing with the spammy name. But I didn’t let this worry me. I went about the rest of my day and checked back in the morning.

I’m not fond of calling out businesses in public. Sometimes, there are good folks who are honestly confused about what’s allowed and what isn’t. Also, I sometimes find screenshots of the local finder overwhelmingly cluttered and endlessly long to look at. Instead, I created a bare-bones representational schematic of the total outcome of my hour of spam-fighting work.

The red markers are legit businesses. The grey ones are spam. The green one is the Home Depot I was trying to positively impact. I attributed a letter of the alphabet to each listing, to better help me see how the order changed from day one to day two. The lines show the movement over the course of the 24 hours.

The results were that:

  • A stayed the same, and B and C swapping positions was unlikely due to my work; local rankings can fluctuate like this from hour to hour.
  • Five out of six spam listings I reported disappeared. The keyword-stuffed duplicate listing which was initially at position K was replaced by the brand’s legitimate listing one spot lower than it had been.
  • The majority of the legitimate businesses enjoyed upward movement, with the exception of position I which went down, and M and R which disappeared. Perhaps new businesses moving into the Local Finder triggered a filter, or perhaps it was just the endless tide of position changes and they’ll be back tomorrow.
  • Seven new listings made it into the top 20. Unfortunately, at a glance, it looked to me like 3 of these new listings were new spam. Dang, Google!
  • Most rewardingly, my hypothetical client, Home Depot, moved up 3 spots. What a super easy win!

Fill out the final column in your spreadsheet with your results.

What we’ve learned

You battle upstream every day for your business or clients. You twist yourself like a paperclip complying with Google’s guidelines, seeking new link and unstructured citation opportunities, straining your brain to shake out new content, monitoring reviews like a chef trying to keep a cream sauce from separating. You do all this in the struggle for better, broader visibility, hoping that each effort will incrementally improve reputation, rankings, traffic, and conversions.

Catch your breath. Not everything in life has to be so hard. The river of work ahead is always wide, but don’t overlook the simplest stepping stones. Saunter past the spam listings without breaking a sweat and enjoy the easy upward progress!

I’d like to close today with three meditations:

1. Google is in over their heads with spam

Google is in over their heads with spam. My single local search for a single keyword phrase yielded 30% worthless data in their top local results. Google says they process 63,000 searches per second and that as much as 50% of mobile queries have a local intent. I don’t know any other way to look at Google than as having become an under-regulated public utility at this point.

Expert local SEOs can spot spam listings in query after query, industry after industry, but Google has yet to staff a workforce or design an algorithm sufficient to address bad data that has direct, real-world impacts on businesses and customers. I don’t know if they lack the skills or the will to take responsibility for this enormous problem they’ve created, but the problem is plain. Until Google steps up, my best advice is to do the smart and civic work of watchdogging the results that most affect the local community you serve. It’s a positive not just for your brand, but for every legitimate business and every neighbor near you.

2. You may get in over your head with spam

You may get in over your head with spam. Today’s session was as simple as possible, but GMB spam can stem from complex, global networks. The Home Depot location I randomly rewarded with a 3-place jump in Local Finder rankings clearly isn’t dedicating sufficient resources to spam fighting or they would’ve done this work themselves.

But the extent of spam is severe. If your market is one that’s heavily spammed, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the problem. In such cases, I recommend that you:

  • Read this excellent recent article by Jessie Low on the many forms spam can take, plus some great tips for more strenuous fighting than we’ve covered today.
  • Follow Joy Hawkins, Mike Blumenthal, and Jason Brown, all of whom publish ongoing information on this subject. If you wade into a spam network, I recommend reporting it to one or more of these experts on Twitter, and, if you wish to become a skilled spam fighter yourself, you will learn a lot from what these three have published.
  • If you don’t want to fight spam yourself, hire an agency that has the smarts to be offering this as a service.
  • You can also report listing spam to the Google My Business Community Forum, but it’s a crowded place and it can sometimes be hard to get your issue seen.
  • Finally, if the effect of spam in your market is egregious enough, your ability to publicize it may be your greatest hope. Major media have now repeatedly featured broadcasts and stories on this topic, and shame will sometimes move Google to action when no other motivation appears to.

3. Try to build a local anti-spam movement

What if you built a local movement? What if you and your friendlier competitors joined forces to knock spam out of Google together? Imagine all of the florists, hair salons, or medical practitioners in a town coming together to watch the local SERPs in shifts so that everyone in their market could benefit from bad actors being reported.

Maybe you’re already in a local business association with many hands that could lighten the work of protecting a whole community from unethical business practices. Maybe your town could then join up with the nearest major city, and that city could begin putting pressure on legislators. Maybe legislators would begin to realize the extent of the impacts when legitimate businesses face competition from fake entities and illegal practices. Maybe new anti-trust and communications regulations would ensue.

Now, I promised you “simple,” and this isn’t it, is it? But every time I see a fake listing, I know I’m looking at a single pebble and I’m beginning to think it may take an avalanche to bring about change great enough to protect both local brands and consumers. Google is now 15 years into this dynamic with no serious commitment in sight to resolve it.

At least in your own backyard, in your own community, you can be one small part of the solution with the easy tactics I’ve shared today, but maybe it’s time for local commerce to begin both doing more and expecting more in the way of protections. 

I’m ready for that. And you?

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