Apologies for the rude headline. I am hoping somebody at Google Maps will be offended enough to actually read this post. And maybe then, Google will finally do something about all the spam infecting Google Maps and Google Local Business listings.
On one hand, Google Maps is a great tool. Remember MapQuest? Not so much. That’s because Google came along with a superior mapping application. And then they opened their map API, which introduced the world to the idea of mash-ups. And let’s not forget Google Local and Google Local Business Center, two ways of integrating real-world locations into Google Map results.
So far, so good. Google makes a kick-ass product (maps) and dominates the world (again).
So why I am so pissed off?
Sometimes I laugh when I read about spammers abusing the Google Local results; here’s a funny one, do a search on “new york locksmith” and have a look at the map results (or click here if you’re lazy). Notice anything fishy? Do you really think there are 73,000+ locksmiths in New York? Probably not. Dig into the results more, there are some funny listings here, you’ll see what I mean.
I never thought too much about it, and then I read (props for the link, Suzann) about a guy who’s making a business as a Google Local spammer. It’s an interesting article, and a scary one.
Why scary? Because he’s basically given out the secret for spamming Google’s map results. Not just a little spamming, a lot of spamming! As in, do you want to own the #1 spot for “payday loans” in every city in America??? Well, now you can. Just click and he’ll tell you how.
I don’t mind spam as long as it’s limited to casinos, payday loans, porn, Viagara, pet food, and lists of local dentists. But when I see spam hitting close to home, I get pissed. And here’s the example that drove me over the edge. Funny enough, they’re using the Mail Boxes Etc strategy outlined above.
Google Maps Spam: I hate it
Do a search on “san diego tours” and this is what you see:
I’m not going to honor the spammer with a link, even a no-follow link, but you can tell what site I’m talking about. They’re a competitor to us (which is fine, competition is a good thing) who is abusing Google Local Business listings to get included at the top of natural search results (not OK).
How do I know this is spam? Well, I know these people don’t have an office in San Diego. Travel is a small world, and you get to know the main players. And trust me, I know they don’t have a real office in San Diego.
Can I prove it? Why yes, I can! Simply take the address (listed in both their paid ad and in the Google Map result) and enter that address into Google Maps itself. Want to guess what you’ll find?
Imagine that. The address matches a Mailboxes Etc. in San Diego. Am I surprised? Not really. This company owns about 1,200 domains and uses a similar strategy in cities across the United States.
Oh well, I guess all is fair in love, war, and travel. I can’t blame these people for trying. It’s Google Maps that ought to be ashamed. If there are entire industries out there dedicated to abusing Google Maps this way, why isn’t Google doing anything about it?
If they don’t deal with this, people will lose faith in the integrity of their search results. And for a company like Google, that’s not a happy prospect. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
PS: I can’t help myself, once you start looking for Google Map spam it’s kind of fun and addictive (like crystal meth, presumably, with similar long-term affects on my mood and facial features). Here’s one. Do a search on “new york helicopter tours” and enjoy these fantastically crappy Google Local results.