Google Maps: Tightening down on Locksmiths

Last week in the Maps Forums and again today as a posting in a comment in Google Maps vs Locksmith Spammers: Spammers winning? Locksmiths have noted that Google is apparently building system wide impediments to spamming.

Boruch Fishman, an SEO in the Locksmith industry noted:

Recently Google has been slamming locksmith spam so hard it appears to me that the situation is going to the other extreme. I work with locksmiths in my role as a search engine submitter. Today I talked to a locksmith in Arlington Virginia. He told me he has worked out of his house for a year. His company is called Security Locksmith. From what he told me, he is serving people in his local area. He uses a local phone number. He admits that he registered his company on Google, using a trade name – 24 hour emergency locksmith. His listing was then flagged. He changed his name back to his company name, and began taking out keywords. He subsequently found that his listing was flagged, until he entirely removed the word locksmith from any text field in the Google application. Since locksmith is actually part of his legally registered name, he shouldn’t be flagged.

I had another locksmith and call me about the same problem. I was told he also had a brick and mortar business in Nashville. However, this man had a toll free number. I tried to register his business and it was flagged. I then took out any term with locksmith, and the listing was finally changed to waiting for submission. I then decided to test the system. I just added back the word “emergency mobile locksmith,” and the listing was again flagged. Later I found out from the man that he really lived in another State, and had people that would be working for him in Nashville. While Google would be happy to ferret out this out of state poacher, how could they really differentiate this man from a brick and mortar locksmith?

In the Google forum, the following exchange transpired and was notable in that a Google employeed identified Puresheer’s answer as definitive:

aaaprolocksmith

I opened up an account, brick and mortar local location, local service area, locksmith service in Nashville. The account wsa flagged and so I started stripping out keywords and categories until it was changed to “awaiting next update,” which means the content was approved. Then I added back the one category “24/7 mobile locksmith,” and the account was again flagged. I took out “24/7,” I took out “mobile,” I took out “locksmith,” I stripped that account to the bare bones and had to finally change the name before it again went back to being “awaiting next update.”

What is so bad about “24/7 mobile locksmith service”

All answers

Puresheer

Level 2
6/25/09
Mike CH (Google Employee) says this answers the question:

@aaaprolocksmith

This term “Mobile  Locksmith” was one of the firsts that Google blocked/ flagged while one using it. The reason- spammers! 1. you can thanks Usafe (see first reference below) that spammed Gmaps very strongly with this term in their categories & additional titles to their listings. 2. you can also thank the mega spammers from Florida (or wherever they are from) about the wide use they made with this term in ALL USA & Canada (see second reference below- Organic results, see all the first pages - most of them belong to the same spammy company). BTW- the term Emergency Locksmith is starting to be flagged as well; that happened in the last week.

My suggestion- don’t use  the flagged terms; the Locksmith industry is under the spot light & you don’t want Google to investigate your listing more than they are doing now (for Locksmiths).

If this is the only ‘bump’ you encountered with Google in the Locksmith field- you are in a good position!

References:
[1]
maps.google.com
[2]
www.google.com

Earlier this month, Glenn Younger, a locksmith in the San Diego market who tracks unlicensed locksmiths in California, noted that although the number of fraudulent unlicensed listings in Maps had declined

… in my town (San Diego) have reduced from over 3,000 to now under 1,000. The map spammers are still in the entire 10 pak and well represented, but now they are only 75% of the listings. Google users are still more likely to see or find a scammer but Google is doing something to make a difference.

Obviously Google is working on the Locksmith spam problem and because of publicity is perhaps making more of an effort in this regard than the other search engines. They seem to be using a combination of flagging listings in the LBC and alogrythmically submerging from the listings. In typical Google fashion, it is without much input or clear error messages on their part but their response in the forum was refreshing.

The difficult work of making Maps a more honest place has begun. In my last interview with Carter Maslan he told me:

Its like getting a vaccine. It makes you resilient long term. All the spam you are seeing are short term things. We are tackling them and they will be exponetially cured by exposure to the spam. We are working on spam abatement as a top priorty. This will allow us to provide an even better experience.

That all being said, if you need a locksmith I still wouldn’t use Google Maps just yet to find one. Establish a relationship with a local craftsman well ahead of time so that in a time of emergency you know who to call and don’t need to rely on the as yet still compromised Map index.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps: Tightening down on Locksmiths by

23 thoughts on “Google Maps: Tightening down on Locksmiths”

  1. Bravo:

    Somehow an SEO doing submissions on behalf of locksmiths”complaining” doesn’t elicit a lot of sympathy from me.

  2. @Dave

    I am not suggesting you should or you shouldn’t give him sympathy.

    I do think that he makes an interesting point that in the second case Google ultimately let the locksmith through but in the first case required a removal of even legitimate use of the word. Maybe that is what is required but one would hope that Google is able to refine it going forward so as to not sweep up the good with the bad.

  3. Interesting comments from Mr. Fishman. His second paragraph demonstrates why it’s highly unlikely 3rd parties will ever gain ‘trusted LBC submitter’ status. (Not saying he’s unethical, just that less-than-forthcoming clients are out there.)

    I also wonder if SEOs and SEMs who submit for the likes of the faux Nashville locksmith get future submissions for other clients flagged/dampened internally. Does trust follow submitter IPs/logins?

    I’ll have a go at answering “While Google would be happy to ferret out this out of state poacher, how could they really differentiate this man from a brick and mortar locksmith?”:

    Four steps:
    1) Put more weight on citations from within the legit locksmith industry (trade associations, official state contractor license sites, local BBBs, etc…)
    2) Dial back the ‘freshness’ bump and ‘Keywords in Title’ weight given to new entries in a category.
    3) Dial back businesses in the spammiest categories (locksmiths, movers, florists, carpet cleaners) that use the street addresses of Post Offices and PMBs as their addresses.
    4) Require the physical address shown in the listing be displayed on the claimed/linked website.

    That ought to get about 98% or so….

  4. Map submissions are an easy first step to getting SEO traffic, but I think anyone totally relying on a map submission is not going to find the best SEO results. After all they can change quickly as the algo is still very much in beta form, and less mature than the standard web algo.

    Maybe some locksmiths should optimize their website while waiting this out and develop long term organic positions.

  5. Mike -
    Fascinating post, but am I reading this right that the term ‘locksmith’ itself is now setting off a flag? That is how I read this, but that seems incredibly odd.

  6. @Miriam

    I can’t confirm that but that is how it sounds from both of the above posters.

    I have a great idea! Why don’t you and I created Locksmith listings at our address (every one else has) and we can report back :)

  7. for a long period of my listings where showing up?? my status shows active but i can not find of those listing anywhere on google maps. has anyone got answer to that??www.ampmlocksmiths.com

  8. Food for thought on guidelines and so called spammers!
    We have a local seo guy using an address at a UPS store smack downtown. Now his physical address is 21 miles north and in most phone listings he represents his actual address and the town name. We all know this guy is going around the guidelines to rank higher for Google local (Google gave a 1 box for the term). What Google needs to do is just filter in every UPS store location into the Local database and discount and/or punish the listings that are intentionally doing harm to the Google Local tool!

  9. At one point not too long ago, Google was actually encouraging the use of UPS Mailboxes. And recently they merged a bunch of addresses at them. The problem is not a simple one. What about all of the legal offices that have been renting virtual offices in remote communities for year so as to be listed in the phone books and now Google Maps?

  10. I understand the use of these systems for like companies that must maintain a virtual office in another state for state regulations, but when it is deliberate to do nothing but manipulate the rankings, then Google Local will become as useless as the yellow pages. What need to happen is a direct connection between the location in Google Local and the location on the business site. If they match fine but if not then spam.

  11. I can confirm that just having the term locksmith in the title AND believe it or not even in the category section results in a listing getting flagged. Crazy but it is true. I believe that google is using this to stop locksmiths from adding new listings so they can start ferreting through the spammers without having to deal with the thousands of NEW listings that get added everyday.

  12. Google needs to put Google Maps out of it’s misery and go back to relying on page rank to determine relevance. Google Maps seems to have a new set of “local locksmith” listings every day in Phoenix. My legitimate brick and morter shop no longer gets shown (and we had 200 real customer reviews!!!) while you can see several listings from fraudulent companies (those reported to BBC and FTC).

    The trouble with targeting keywords to get scammers is that it also removes many legitimate listings that are out there.

  13. Happy Day!
    I may have missed it, but clearly a major chance hammened in the last few days relating to map spam for locksmith. Although there had been some improvement, that then went away, as of 11-14-09 we have no map spam in the 7 pak, AND the organic listing for “Locksmiths San Diego” is mostly clean. After 2 years of total map spam, Grah Safe and Lock is listed on the 7 pak for most of our terms! And we are above the fold on our organic as well. Thanks must go out to Miriam @ Solas, the good work looks to be paying off.

    The trial on the sale of the 3 Local search listings is in effect in San Diego for “locksmith San Diego”, and the mapspam folks have all three of those spots now. So they are not owning the 7pak, but they are still around.

    Even in expanded map view 90% of the business listed are real, with real addresses. There are a few fraudulent address spammers amoung the expanded map view, but 90% are good, and have been for almost a week.

    Yipee! Let’s hold out hope they have an Algo that works!

  14. @ Glenn

    Saw your listing over there couple of days ago. Well done & many Congrats!!

    However, in the 7 pack for ‘locksmith San Diego”, results- B (real estate office), F (don’t know what that is) & G (mall or something like that). All of those are real addresses but fake ones, of course.

    Tell me if I got it wrong. Thanks & way to go!

  15. I used to work with one of the largest locksmith companies. They understand the importance of SEO and are willing to do anything to get to the top. And I mean anything…

    I had to get out of the industry because of the lack of regulation and licensing. I thought maybe it was just the company i worked for that was shady, but I have quickly discovered this is not just limited to them.

    These companies are familiar with lots of listing techniques going back to the days of 411 database manipulation and yellow page manipulation.

    I’m glad google cleaned up!

  16. @puresheer
    We remain about 50-70% accurate on the 7 pak 2 months later, which a huge improvement. (up from 0%) So progress. I’m happy. Now onto Bing and Yahoo.

    I’m discouraged by the daily listings in blogs and other directories under the term”locksmtih San Diego”. I Google Alert for that pharase and attempt to also post whenever I find a new directory or Blog that accepts submissions. I need to find a way to have that done for me.

    If Google continues to give high credibility to Blog mentions, eventually the Map Spammers will be back in, as they are clearly working this angle. Although I want local search to be very relivent, blog postings for service business can be spammed this way too easily.

  17. @Tito
    Any time you would like to write up a 700 word “expose” of the inner workings of these guys, just let me know.

    @Glenn
    I would love to see your detailed analysis of this

  18. @Glenn
    I agree with the % of spam listing in S.D.
    in Total, in the Locksmith Industry, there was a great shift in past 1.5 months.
    Dependable & it’s affiliates are licking their wounds in this time, so the amount of Local spam (which taking a lot of efforts) got reduced. BUT the PPC spam (which is much easier to execute) is gaining momentum.
    Also, in the Bat area, 2 major players got kicked out from the field by the BSIS. Now they are in Toronto as well..

  19. @PureSheer
    I believe that eventually much of the wild wild west and lawless aspects of the spammers will be brought under control. (gotta have hope)
    But it is going to take a concerted effort to force the regulators to do their jobs. In California it’s BSIS, States attny general, district attnys, etc. Some states are really getting after it, but more is needed.

    When Fraud is committed, there is more than one victim, the reciever of shoddy service and the company who lost out. So we can hope Google and others do their part, but if we don’t have prosecution, no long term change will happen. IMHO.

    PPC might be harder to fix, but fraud will remain fraud so we will need the regulators. Ask they say in the movies “Regulators, mount up”

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