An Overlooked Way to Report a Crooked Local Competitor

A recent conversation with my buddy, Darren Shaw of Whitespark.ca, led me to wonder: what is the best way to report a business that’s using a fake address or fake DBA to get ahead in the Google+ Local results?

 

The question came up because of a comment I made in this year’s Local Search Ranking Factors study, about how you’re doing the right thing if you report a competitor who’s using questionable means to eat your lunch in the local results.

(If you want to check out my original comment, it’s the third-from-last one – and my last comment – in the LSRF, down near the bottom of the page.)

Google would have you believe that the only way to report a competitor is to use the “Report a problem” feature.  My experience never has been that “Report a problem” is particularly effective.  But what’s made me lose faith recently is that the competitor of a client of mine has been using a UPS store as his address – and you can clearly see the UPS signage from Street View.  The boneheads at  Google have done nothing.

Which made me think: is Google’s “Report a problem” the only way you can even try to level the playing field?

No: you could also report the offending business on MapMaker.  If your edit comes to the attention of a good Regional Expert Reviewer (RER), you may be in luck.  But MapMaker is still a roll of the dice.

Then it occurred to me: what if you flag down the business at other important sites in the local-search “ecosystem”?

I’m talking about alerting sites like Yelp and YP to the fact that your competitor is using fake info.  That’s the stone I forget to turn over – and that other people probably also forget to turn over.  (If you frequently report crooked competitors this way, I tip my hat to you.)

Which sites should you go to?  By my count, the only important local-search sites with some semblance of a “report inaccurate info” feature are Yelp, YP, SuperPages, InsiderPages, ExpressUpdate, and Yahoo.

 

As for ExpressUpdate.com, I think you just have to contact them personally (from the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of the site).  No idea how helpful they are, though.

What should you put in your reports?

  • You competitor’s real business info;
  • The inaccurate or fake business that your competitor is using instead;
  • How you know the fake info is fake, and how you know the real info is real, and
  • Your contact info, if possible.

I wish I could say exactly how well this type of reporting works.  I don’t know yet.  For whatever reason, unethical competitors usually aren’t a problem for my clients, so I don’t have too many occasions to flag them down.

As far as I can see, there are 3 possible outcomes of flagging down dishonest competitors on sites like the above:

1.  Nothing happens – in which case I suggest trying again in a couple of weeks, and maybe asking other people to flag them down.  I can’t guarantee that grinding will do the trick, but don’t assume it won’t.

2.  One or more of the sites corrects or removes the offending listing, which could hurt not only your competitor’s visibility on that site, but also his/her NAP consistency and possibly Google+ Local rankings.

3.  Enough of the sites start displaying the real info that Google finally realizes the info on your competitor’s Places/Plus page is fake.  As Bill Slawski has written, Google’s patents describe that this is one anti-spam method that Google uses to police Maps.

Don’t confine your efforts to level the playing field.  Keep flagging down those competitors on Google, but also try it on other sites.  Something’s gotta give.

What methods have you tried to report competitors using fake info?  What seems to have worked – or not worked – so far?  Leave a comment!

How to Edit Your Google+Local Page – Step by Step

 Update – 5:33pm, 6/10:

Be sure to read Linda’s super-helpful and clarifying comment at the bottom of this post.  The steps I lay out here may help you, but in a different way from how I thought they would.  Long story short, it seems I got my wired crossed 🙂

The switchover from Google Places to Google+Local pages has probably been pretty hands-free for you: Your Places page automatically became Google+Local page.

Unless you’ve already gone into your new listing, it probably looks a little bare.  Some of the info from your old Places page may be missing on your new page.  But making edits or adding info to your Google+Local page can be confusing – especially if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page yet.  It’s easy to get lost.

I think it’ll once again be easy to make edits to your local listing once Google goes through the next round of changes and switches over completely to “Google+ for Business” pages.

But in the meantime, during the long transition, you need to be able to navigate the confusion.  That’s why I’ve put together this step-by-step walkthrough on how to edit your Google+Local page.

(By the way, I’m assuming you created and claimed your Google Places page some time ago, and that you just want to know how to edit your listing through the new Google+Local interface.)

Follow steps 1-19 if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page, edited it, or added information to it since May 30, 2012.  In other words, if you haven’t done anything with your Google+Local page, follow ALL the below steps, 1 -19.

Follow steps 13-19 if you’ve spent some time in your Google+Local page but simply want to know how to edit it (or forgot how to).  If this describes you, scroll down to step 13.

How to edit your Google+Local page IF you’re logging into it for the first time:

1.  Click the “+You” button in the top-left of Google’s homepage.

2.  Click “Sign In” and sign in with the Google account you used to create your Google Places page.  (If this isn’t possible, it’s still fine if you use a different one.)

 

3.  Fill in your name and click “Upgrade.”

 

4.  Feel free to skip the next few steps – the ones that ask you to find your “friends,” add a profile photo, etc.  You can always loop back to these later.

 

5.  You should now be on your Google+ page.  In the bottom-left corner of the screen, click the “More” button, then click “Pages.”

 

6.  Click “Create new page.”

 

7.  Under “Pick a category,” select “Local Business or Place, enter the phone number of your business on the right, then click “Locate.”

 

8.  Click on your business listing (it should have a red map pin).

 

9.  Select a category from the dropdown menu.  These are only rough categories, so just pick whichever one seems most applicable.

 

10.  Click “Create.”

 

11.  Add a main photo to your Google+Local page, or click “Continue” if you feel like skipping this step.

 

12.  Click “Finish.”

 

How to edit your Google+Local after the initial setup (above):

13.  While logged into your Google+ page, hover over the “Pages” button on the left, and click on your business name when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

IF you don’t see the “Pages” button on the left, hover over the “More” button in the bottom-left, and then select the “Pages” button when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

14.  Your business name should appear.  Click “Switch to this page.”

 

15.  On the left, click “Profile.”

 

16.  Click “Edit profile” (near top of page).

 

17.  You’ll see a menu of info that you can edit (“Introduction,” “Hours,” etc.).  Click once on each area you’d like to edit, make any changes you’d like, and hit “Save.”

(Make sure to use the same info you put on your Google Places page, if it’s not already showing up.)

 

18.  When you’re done editing or adding your info, click “Done editing” (near the top of the page).

 

19.  Grab a cold brew to reward yourself for a job well done.  Then get back to work on the other steps toward more local visibility in Google, getting reviews, etc. 🙂

(In case you weren’t sure, despite the switch to Google+Local, these steps are as applicable and necessary as ever).

Also make sure to request to be notified by Google when the next changes roll out.