Google Maps:The Authoritative SpamBox?

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Update: 03/04/08 1:30 pm This listing no longer shows on the search.

The Authoritative Onebox when returned on general search phrases is very powerful. The result dominates the page. Google assumes that they know exactly what the searcher wants. We saw last December the impact that this had on a florist in Denver. What happens though when that Authoritative OneBox result is spammy?

An English reader has reported a case where the general search phrase “english language school london” is now returning an Authoritative OneBox on the Google results page that certainly isn’t totally on the up and up.

The address is actually occupied by the Little Italy Restaurant, the photo with the Maps record is bogus, the phone number is used by several businesses but seems to be located at another address, the domain owner has several websites with apparently fabricated adresses. The domain record indicates that the domain holder of record is located in another part of town with the same phone number. It may well be a legitimate business (how legitimate could they be?) that has gotten overly aggressive an getting an address near the center of the city. Maybe they were just following Google’s own ill considered advice and getting a mail location closer to the center of the city.

The problem however is made worse by the fact that Google has returned an Authoritative Onebox for the result, adding legitimacy to the suspect business and denying legitimate exposure to the other businesses providing the service. The problem here is certainly with Mapspam but perhaps even more so with Google’s confidence that they know so surely what the searchers intent is and return such an “indisputable” result.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps:The Authoritative SpamBox? by

18 thoughts on “Google Maps:The Authoritative SpamBox?”

  1. Yikes!

    What can one say to this?

    Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    What an awful mess, Mike.

    A couple of months ago, I wrote about a set of bizarre results we found outranking us for something we’d historically ranked well for locally. As I recall, we were being outranked for web design by a city transit company, a florist , a construction firm and a bunch of other really weird stuff. However, a day after I blogged about the issue, Google completely reordered that set of SERPs putting us back at the top and getting rid of most of the weirdness.

    But, at least none of these strange businesses had been given a 1 box. That really would have staggered us.

    Oh, Google, please hire some staff to moderate maps!
    Miriam

  2. Hi Miriam

    Yes this one points up the power and the pain all in one fell swoop, eh? Marketing in the this new age is very bizarre. I guess we’ll never lack for work. :)

    Mike

  3. I noted the volume of research you did on the English Language School situation.

    Maybe the answer to improving/creating some level of customer service and accuracy at Google Maps is to hire Mike Blumenthal.

    It would be a worthy and noble position. They could give you a uniform, maybe a raincoat, a pipe, and a Sherlock Holmes hat and you could handle all the spam reports and confusion.

    J/K. but seriously….that one is full of holes. And on top of that to get an authoritative one map that grabs all eyeballs on the page.

    Its a detriment to trade.

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  5. Well My Dear Watson….

    If I do get that job I will provide you a finder’s fee. :)

    It was only a matter of time before these two trends ran into each other. I would love to find some more examples of Authoritative Onebox spam…has anyone seen any?

    Mike

  6. Dave-
    Part of me wants Google to hire Mike. But then, I think, he wouldn’t be able to talk to us anymore. He’d be going around saying things like,
    “Well, when it comes to our algo…”

    and it just wouldn’t be as fun anymore.

    I’m conflicted. Should Google hire Mike? Should they not?

    :)
    Miriam

  7. To think I put my name forward as one of those advertised $10 per job local guys that could have eradicated such nonsense searches.

    I see these fake results too often for comfort and really feel that Google should embrace the 1099 local independent rep (or whatever) that I put my name in the hat for a while back

    David
    Charlotte NC
    Torquay UK

  8. Hi Miriam & Dave

    As long as I don’t have to attend any meetings, can telecommute from Olean, they put in a huge pipe for me, refurnish my office with some new computing power and some cool Matt Cutt’s like software tools, give me free reign on my blog and just send a check periodically I might consider it. Otherwise I am pretty happy where I am.

    Mike

  9. Hi David from Charlotte-

    My son also applied for that program and has never heard from Google, either. One never hears about it anymore.

    I wonder how many folks are still in the program, what successes or failures it experienced, whether the participants made a living or went broke working for Google. If you or anyone knows of people in the program I would love to hear from them.

    I think it would lead to generally more accurate local records but am not sur e, as long as Google offers self provisioning and the Authoritative OneBox, it would have stopped this abuse.

    Mike

  10. It’s gone! If you do the same search you get the old-fashioned #1-10 ranked results with no Local Business results at all, and the same for another search “english course [in] london” where our friends were ranking #3 (behind a golf course at #1 LOL). Mike, Google evidently reads your blog.

  11. I’ve been thinking about how to get accurate, less spammy, less “winner takes all” Local Business results and I’d like to put this to Mike’s readers (including any Google reps that may be lurking).

    I’d like to see a selection of about 5 results that rotates from a pool of verified local businesses. Membership of the pool from which results are taken would depend upon verified, correct business categorisation, not upon being optimised for particular search terms. Rotation would mean that every eligible business would go in front of searchers in turn and spammers would have less to play for.

    When you add or update your own business listing, you would be given a sample list of your local competitors and asked to flag business categorisation, names, addresses, phone numbers that are incorrect; without doing so you could not add or update your own listing. You could not directly change your competitor’s details but they would be flagged for checking; you would be encouraged to talk directly with your competitor and ask them to make the corrections themselves. More than a few false challenges would result in your own listing being flagged for checking. For a less labour-intensive solution, checking could simply mean that your business details are included more frequently on sample lists, including those given to non-competitor businesses that are local but outside your classification pool. Any doubt/dispute could be resolved by defaulting to the business’s details as shown in the Yellow Pages.

    My theory is that legitimate businesses would tend to agree on identifying the spammers, whereas the spammers would find it difficult to sabotage legitimate businesses in a co-ordinated fashion.

    What do readers think?

  12. Jenny

    I think the idea is quite brilliant.

    Google, according to Carter Maslan, is counting on user generated input to achieve greater accuracy in the records but I think your conception of it is incredibly interesting.

    I am not sure that Google perceives the business community as a valuable resource. I think with something like your idea they could get a lot of good editing very inexpensively.

    Mike

  13. Update: On a search for “english language school london”, Google Local Business results are back. 10 results are shown in place of the Authoritative OneBox but with no sign of the spam business. Indeed, even if you enclose the words in quotes and use “Search Businesses” it is not returned, so seems to have been deleted.

    I think Google suspended Local Business results for the particular search then deleted the spammy listing before reinstating Local Business Results. I don’t know how much insight that gives into the workings of the Google machine. It definitely has some sort of manual on/off at the level of particular searches.

  14. Hi Jennifer-

    Thanks for checking back in on this.

    Yes, it appears that the English schools are no longer in the Maps listing. However the fake listing at 100 Regent St for Nails & Beauty Academy is still there and a new beauty salon called Absolute Bliss at 308 Garratt Lane, London, SW18 4EH, United Kingdom‎ – 020 7381 5070. Go figure.

    It is nice to see the 10 pack on this search as it provides meaningful results.

    Mike

  15. I have had a similar situation occur with my A-Z listing. I have occupied position A for 2 years in my local area under ‘Livingston Locksmiths’. There were 10 listings but I have always remained at the top. 2 days ago all listing vanished including my own and now it has been replaced by and Authoritative One Box Listing.

    How can this happen? The person who now has this listing is a competitor who doesn’t offer just locksmiths work but offers various stuff. A bit of a jack of all trades.

    How can google just remove the full 10 listing and have this one person listed. He lives close to where I have my address so why am I not listed?

    Chris

  16. There have been reports of Google increasingly showing the Authoritative OneBox. Given that the system is driven by an algo, one presumes that whatever requirement the algo is looking for has been met to show the single result…either the listing is significantly stronger or Google’s user logs have determined that the listing shown is the one that people want all of the time.

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