The Longtail of Local Search Mapspam

Update 05/13/08 Google has removed some but apparently not all of the examples below.

In the conversation about Lawyers’ mapspam EarlPearl and Stephan Espinosa both wondered what type of spam panzermike and other lawyers were placing into Maps. I decided to delve into the moshpit that is the proxy for on-line legal marketing in LA and see what was up. It certainly has all the making for a new lawyer joke.  

I started my search looking at the links that panzemike had posted:

dog bite lawyers near Los Angeles, CA
car accident lawyers near Los Angeles, CA
wrongful death lawyers near Los Angeles, CA

It was not at first clear from the above links whether there was abuse or just some creative title optimization and lots of remote offices:

 

This firm, apparently has 24 offices throughout the greater LA area, San Jose and San Diego. It was conceivable to me that they had optimized each title like the above for each office. I decided to focus my research in the city of Pasadena to check for multiple listings per location but got a little nervous when Google indicated that it had 54,208 lawyer listings in Pasadena. Here is what I found just in Pasadena:


 

Each listing found in Maps below contains:  
• Main Search One Box (if available)
• Local Listing Graphic from Maps
• Search Phrase
• URL of mirror site
• site:URL in Maps to approximate number of listings per domain in maps
     
Search phrase: pasadena ca dog bite lawyer            

Mirror Site:  www.dogbiteattorneys.biz  

Google Maps Site Search (11 results): Site:dogbiteattorneys.biz

Wrongful death mapspam       

wrongful death mapspam

Search phrase: wrongful death attorney pasadena ca    

Mirror Site: Wrongfuldeathexperts.net

Google Maps Site Search (12 results): Site:Wrongfuldeathexperts.net

No One Box results                      

Maps Search phrase: pasadena car accident lawyer

Mirror Site:Caraccidentexpert.net

Google Maps Site Search (12 results):site:Caraccidentexpert.net

  
Search Phrase: Michael H Silvers Pasadena Ca                

Mirror Site: michaelhsilvers.com

Google Maps Site Search (12 results): site:michaelhsilvers.com

                

Search Phrase: pasadena personal injury attorney pasadena

These six Map’s listings are obviously all for one physical office location. I gave up looking after I found this many. Given that he has 24 offices, one could safely assume that most offices have been listed multiple times and there may even be more in Pasadena. 

Many of the above Map’s record referenced different domains that offered slight variations on the same site. The whois record indicated that they owned 42 domains. The domains found point to mirror sites that are optimized for each key phrase/domain combo and other than titles and headlines, the sites have otherwise identical content. Many of the sites also each provide additional authority to the local record as they are referenced in the “Web Pages” tab of the record. Here is a list of some of the domains that I identified that were being used by Michael Silvers. Given the total number of domains there may be more than six listings for each address in many locales. I will leave that to Google to figure out.

dogbiteattorneys.biz
california-dog-bite-attorneys.com
wrongfuldeathexperts.net
michaelhsilvers.com
caraccidentexpert.net
car-accident-experts.net
California-WrongfulDeath-Lawyer.com
losangeles-personal-injury-attorney.net
motorcycleaccidentexperts.com (this one takes on a very cool harley color/look but alas no new content)
san-jose-personal-injury-attorney.com 
california-truck-accident-attorney.com

It was of interest to me that some of the records used the round pins instead of the pointed pin, which usually indicates that Google acquired the record elsewhere and has some level of unsureness about their location. It is likely that these records originated from the phone companies and implies that the law firm been using this marketing technique long before Google Maps existed. The other point of interest is that these folks were pointed out to Google by panzermike last week.

It turned out that Google’s actual listings of lawyers in Pasadena Ca was in the 950 range. Certainly a more optimistic sign for the future of local than 50 some odd thousand. However it still amounts to one attorney listing for every 16 residents of Pasadena, a likely indication that either there is more spamming to be found or that there will soon be a number of unemployed lawyers.

We have obviously entered the era of the long-tail local search map spam result. I for one am glad that Google will become more stringent on mapspam control.

Now lets get back to that new lawyer joke about this very real one box….any suggestions?

Los Angeles Dog Bite Attorney

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
The Longtail of Local Search Mapspam by

17 thoughts on “The Longtail of Local Search Mapspam”

  1. Obviously Spam no doubt. The keyword stuffing and obvious abuse of the Name / Title Tag.

    But here is where my question lies….. is it spam because of the keyword stuffing, or because of the locations that obviously weren’t physical locations.

    I kind of laughed at that when I saw the onebox….. the trick to get the authoritative onebox is to trick the engine to think the query is actually for a business and not a general search. So they obviously used the title tag and then we know from the patent review of that the local algorithm looks at the URL and analyzes the landing page submitted with that listing and likes to see the business name in the domain name. S when this guy submitted the url “www.dogbiteattorneys.biz” that was enough for Google to assume that was a business name and not a keyword search.

    Obviously this brings up the fact again of the huge need for an algorithm that determines servicing in separate cities and ranking on that factor.

    I don’t know about you but this all is so 1999 all over agin again……..

  2. Hi Stephen

    re: But here is where my question lies….. is it spam because of the keyword stuffing, or because of the locations that obviously weren’t physical locations.

    In this case (Michael Silvers) they are actual physical locations, just a few too many listings at each and stuffed with keywords…in the panzermike case I think he probably did both + non existent locations.

    In my book it is spam because he is creating 6 (or more) map listings for each actual location. But ultimately it isn’t my opinion of what is spam but Google’s….and we only know that after the fact.

    Mike

  3. According to Google placing map listings at parks isn’t per Mike Jones at SMX West……….but is that still in effect…..who knows. But obviously the other tactics are.

  4. Stephen

    Not sure I understand your point…could you clarify? Who is Mike Jones? When you say it is still in effect..does that mean that Google has blessed it or hasn’t blessed the practice? When you say “But obviously the other tactics are” would you elucidate which tactics and as to what they are?

    Mike

  5. Mike,
    I can’t help thinking about how this lawyer must be cleaning up with his mirror sites and map spamming, based upon what Panzermike related about having to hire someone to handle all the calls he got from using these tactics.

    Perhaps someone like Attorney Silvers knows he will be caught one day, but, in the meantime, the business he will have built will make getting banned ‘indefinitely’ worth it?

    I just re-read the above sentence and I can hardly believe any gain would be great enough to risk such a penalty.

    But…what if you made millions before being caught?

    Hmm…the shady life of spammers. Not something I know anything about, really. What makes it worth it?
    Miriam

  6. Miriam

    Well capitalism is a funny beast.

    It promotes this sort of behavior. Businesses take these calculated risks all the time in an effort to achieve super profits. Walmart does it by making people work off the clock and figuring that the gains will be worth the penalties when they finally get caught. And having good lawyers they will fight like hell to minimize the penalties. Another example of that would be GE in the Hudson River dumping case.

    I would wonder whether Mr. Silvers knows of the risk and if he does I doubt that he has enough information to calculate the possible downsides of the strategy. No one does at this point. But I am sure he has good lawyers :)

    Getting benefits illicitly (ala John D Rockfeller) or shifting costs (ala WalMart and GE) has a storied history in the “building” of our country. This is not the world that I want to live in, but I do and I sure am having fun as an observer.

    Mike

  7. @ Mike

    Mike Jones = CTO Google Maps

    I was wondering if what he said about pointing your address to a park if you want to be found in that city is still allowed.

    I was stating that the keyword stuffing and abuse of the business name is obviously spam.

  8. Mike:

    I leased office space. A lawyer, or law firm does not have 24 locations in a metropolitan region. I’m sure the 24 locations is an effort to spam local. Could be for neighborhoods or sections of the greater LA region. That is a bogus representation.

    There was a day when lawyers couldn’t advertise. Now the advertising is grotesque….and spammy.

  9. Hi Earl

    Yes, I they are leased spaces in each of the major towns around LA etc. This technique was used pre Google to get local phone numbers, addresses etc in the YP directories.

    This area of law generates particularly grotesque advtertising I agree. But what client in their right mind would choose a lawyer based on the search “LA Dog Bite Attorney”? It seems to cater to the underclasses.

    Mike

  10. @Steve

    Gotcha… he made that statement at SMX Local last October, it didn’t make much sense then or when I wrote about it in in February. I have heard no retraction or restatement from them.

    He actually (according to Chris Silver Smith) recommended a Mail stop or PO Box not an address in a park:

    He essentially said that they should try to get an address in the city because Google did not display businesses that didn’t have addresses—after all, he quipped, one can’t pinpoint something without an address on the map. He suggested that those businesses could rent a post box to accomplish this.

    So I guess even Google has standards in these sort of things :)

    Mike

  11. “But what client in their right mind would choose a lawyer based on the search “LA Dog Bite Attorney”? It seems to cater to the underclasses.”

    I don’t know why, exactly, but that really made me laugh.

    It’s true, Mike!

    Somehow, it reminds me of those eBay adwords plugs “Buy New & Used Dog At EBay”

    The artifice of crummy and weird SEO at work.
    Mim

  12. Miriam

    Your comment also struck a nerve with me and I thought “cut rate plastic surgeon”. One of the great oxymorons…which lead me to breast englargment which lead me to….wondering just how far “weird SEO” might go….

    Stay tuned :)

    Mike

  13. Hi Mike,

    I’ll pass on your additional comments regarding our policies on spam in Google Maps. We take your feedback very seriously, and I think it’s fair to say that we don’t want to see search results where multiple listings show up for the same business location. Those types of search results aren’t useful in any way for our users, whom we care most about.

    Thanks!
    Jen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comments links could be nofollow free.