Google Maps: Today its Mapspam, tomorrow I retire, I promise

Oneboxes for Credit Repair Mapspam
How do you get 13 Authoritative Oneboxes across the US with a one page website and take the afternoon off earlier? Google Mapspam, of course.

I am such a glutton for the gritty details I could not resist following the trail laid down in the Google Groups for Business Mapspam report yesterday. I think I am in need of joining Mapspam Annonymous.

This particular case demonstrates the least amount of work for the return that I have seen in a while using the same technique pioneered in the Payday loan business last year. There is more than a little irony that with the collapse of credit, the affiliate spammers have moved on to exploiting people needing credit recovery as their targets.

It is particularly galling because Google has awarded them so many Authoritative OneBoxes and it clearly demonstrates the principal that if Google is going to make the job of deceptive affiliate marketing easier and there are no significant penalties to any of the participants, why not?

This Map search shows listings in most metro areas for cityxxx-credit-repair.com. The street view of their location in SF shows a distinctly non commercial neighborhood. It appears that they have one domain per city and using some php coding,  show the same website with the local variation for each domain. I.E. san-diego-credit-repair.com and sacramento-credit-repair.com resolve to the same website where it gets modified on the fly with a new town name. The domains are all registered to the same person, a one, Phillip Barnett and show an address in Livermore, CA. If you would like to contact Phillip for tips on making money this way his email is: barnettweb@gmail.com. Regardless by all measures it is mapspam.

Here is a cursory listing of the cities that featured this domain (there could be more) and those with the asterisk indicate that Google awarded them an Authoritative OneBox. The balance received a listing in a Local 3 Pack.

Oneboxes for Credit Repair Mapspam

Jacksonville Credit Repair
Phoenix Credit Repair*
Baltimore Credit Repair
Philadelphia Credit Repair
San Diego Credit Repair
Boston Credit Repair *
Sacramento Credit Repair*
San Jose Credit Repair*
San Francisco Credit Repair*
Seattle Credit Repair*
Kansas City Credit Repair*
Memphis Credit Repair*
Austin Credit Repair*
Indianapolis Credit Repair*
San Antonio Credit Repair
Columbus Credit Repair*
Kansas City Credit Repair*
Memphis Credit Repair*
Charlotte Credit Repair*

From the credit-repair.com site , which is but one page in length, it redirects thru 3 or 4 affiliate sites (tkqlhce.com, emjcd.com and another site) before it ends up at Lexington Law. Can anyone elucidate for me why they need to forward thru multiple affiliate sites before it ends up at the final site?

Lexington Law is registered & located in North Salt Lake Utah. Their client fee is $99/mo setup plus a choice of 3 monthly plans of $39, $59 or $79/mo. with the ability to cancel your monthly fee at any time. Obviously many clients must stay on for more than the first month.

The company has para legals answering the phones and seems to be national in scope. I spoke with Paul, a manager a Lexington Law, who noted that marketing was done through a local search marketing firm. He was kind enough to explain the affiliate commission structure:

1-3 clients/mo. – $35 per client
4 to 5 clients/mo – $50 per client
6 or More clients/mo – $65 per client

If we assume that Mr. Barnett forwards 1 client per week for each of the 19 major metro areas where his Local listing is showing, he is receiving $4680 per month minus the % back to the affiliate aggregator. Not bad for a one page website. Although I have learned that the % siphoned in the middle of the chain is significant. It appears that the end affiliate is receiving somewhere between $5 and $15 a lead. That would put his monthly income somewhere in the $1000/mo range. That leaves a lot for the middle men in the gambit.

The conflicts of interest are rife along the whole chain, the incentives are obviously very high at each point to look the other way for what may appear to be minor infractions and indiscretions. There is plenty of fault to go around but I would suggest that the if the ends of the chain, Google on one side and the law firm on the other, were to carefully monitor the situation, it would quickly go away. Although the affiliate management company and the marketing firm, both profiting from the arrangement and given their knowledge certainly, can take their share of the responsibility.

It would seem that the law firm, having hired a company to do their marketing, might not be immediately aware of the situation but would not want their name tainted with such tactics. Ignorance in this instance is not really a defense. It might even be in violation of advertising ethics codes in their state.

PS Never take the word of addict. 🙂

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps: Today its Mapspam, tomorrow I retire, I promise by

7 thoughts on “Google Maps: Today its Mapspam, tomorrow I retire, I promise”

  1. And it doesn’t help that in some cases Law Firms are in themselves morally bankrupt. Perhaps we can mapspam for moral bankrupcy firms?

    This is really interesting. So Mr P Barnett has just randomly chosen addresses to affliate his “business” to?
    Wow – some folks just don’t have many scruples do they?

    Lucky for us we have the Google watch dogs keeping an eye out for these dastardly devils… oh what? Unionized and not in their contract? Drat… I guess Mike we’re on our own.

    J

  2. @Joan

    Yes, they appear to be quite random. I only checked a few in street view and there didn’t seem to be a business at the location. Perhaps he has lots of cousins. 🙂

    Mike

  3. Terrible! It’s too easy to get a OneBox listing like this.

    I understand that Google wants to give a OneBox for searches on a business name. But Maps can’t tell the difference between a keyword search and a business name search.

    Seems like the easy solution would be to show a OneBox only if the Maps listing matches the #1 organic listing.

  4. @Tom

    Yes it is a shame that searches that should be returning a range of customer choices are in fact returning the Authoritative OneBox. Google certainly seems to be setting the standard too low.

    Mike

  5. @Ari

    Ahmed Farooq educated me as to why Commission Junction (and any affiliate aggregator) redirects like they do:

    1. In windows there is a file called ‘hosts. Its lets you set local DNS rules. These local DNS rules override anything online so what the adblocker companies would do is insert something like tracking.cj.com into the hosts file and block it so all affilliate links for Commission Junction would get nullified. What CJ did to counter this was to buy up 10000 domains and instead of always using the same domain (tracking.cj.com), they used these 10k different domains. Thus making it much, much harder for the adblocker guys to kill the affilate links

    2. There are like 10 main CPA networks that do the credit/payday garbage. Often times if an affiliate network does not have an offer themselves, they subcontract it from another affiliate network. So lets say we are both cpa networks, I have a credit repair offer for say $10 and you dont have one … so you sign up under me and offer it to your affiliate sfor $8. Your affiliate uses the xxxxx.com link you give them, which ten goes to my yyyyyyy.com link, which then goes to the proper affiliate site.

    Mike

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