Survey: Does Google Local Do Enough About Spam?

With the rollout of the new Google Guidelines and the @maptavists exploits, there has been a very lively discussion about Google and whether they are active enough in removing spam and in creating an even playing field.

Dan Austin made the point with this comment. Please read his comment below prior to taking the poll. Or better yet read the posts and the comments. Do you agree?

[polldaddy poll=”7818333″]

Dan’s comment:

I feel safer with potential competitors than I do with the incredibly incompetent Google, who can’t manage to maintain fairly static and benign listings without them ‘accidentally’ disappearing and reappearing with no explanation (as happened to a friend of mine over the weekend), while at the same time they’re doing everything in their power to encourage the proliferation of spam.

I think there’s an element of good faith and fair play, when the marketplace is fair. No one is out to screw you if everyone feels like the “cops” are working to resolve and prevent crimes. You can compete on your own merits. That is not the current state of affairs. Google doesn’t care about your listing, they certainly don’t care about you, you’re the product they’re selling to their advertisers.

That being said, I don’t anticipate that they’ll make it any harder than it is. I think they just need to tighten up their guidelines and actually enforce them, particularly for business segments that are incredibly spammy. Locksmiths listings are 95% spam. Lawyer listings are 70%. That is bad. They can all be verified fairly easily. I think I can say with some confidence that I have about a 99% success rate in identifying spam. I have taken down good listings by mistake, but I worked incredibly hard to get them back up as soon as I realized or was made aware of my mistake.

Let me put it another way: what’s to stop a competitor from bombing your listing with bad, fake reviews? You can retaliate, of course, which is the risk they take, but most of the bad faith I can see in previous situation isn’t between legit business owners, it’s between Google and the business community they purport to cater to. They’re coddling the spammers and destroying our confidence in their reporting mechanisms. If they want to fix it, they can, as easily as they removed the spam POIs.


Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Survey: Does Google Local Do Enough About Spam? by

11 thoughts on “Survey: Does Google Local Do Enough About Spam?”

  1. Well, now. My Google accounts are still working as of this morning, so Google hasn’t decided to erase me from existence just this moment. Feeling kinda relived. LOL.

  2. Wonderfully well put by Dan. Google does not give a flying monkeys uncle, or whatever clever adjective you want to add, about the local businesses, websites, or content they share. All they care about is that their end user finds their results to be the “best” and therefore returns more often, performs more searches, and adds to their coffers to be able to go out and replicate Star Trek with their “ideas”. (ie self driving cars, bionics, robotics, spatial mapping, et al)

  3. @Mark: Couldn’t agree more. In their headlong rush to the future (which is always 20 years away), they’re disregarding the destruction they’re causing in their wake. Star Trek is cool, but what’s cooler is having really good, accurate data that doesn’t require constant babying to keep up.

  4. Google has never cared much about the SMB, let alone those who abuse the local space and ultimately harm particular industries. The fact that a legitimate locksmith can’t even get a listing verified without jumping through hoops is pretty crappy.

  5. G tried to fight it about an year ago but it seems they just didn’t wanted to do it in the proper way. The support and the reviewers are all from India or similar resulting pretty unadequate decisions and very bad support.

  6. Voted! 🙂

    “while at the same time they’re doing everything in their power to encourage the proliferation of spam.”

    I don’t know that they are actually making it easier for spammers, I think that unfortunately spammers are just better at navigating the pitfall-laden labyrinth that Local has become, Spammers have ongoing practice and experience to draw on; this is what they do for a living.

    I work with mostly small, service based businesses. As it stands, roughly one in three new clients have some kind of preexisting problem with Places. It’s almost never because they were trying to “game the system.” It’s usually a combination of honest mistakes and poor communication of the constantly changing rules for Local.

  7. @Dolly:

    They’re trying to make it easy for any business to add their info. to maps. Which means they’re making it easy to spam. Unless you create procedural hoops to slow down the rate of entry for any business, it’s always going to be easy to spam. Google Places has the equivalent of the word “password” for their password in order to get entry on to Google Places. That is bad security, and any business that gets hijacked or sees lost business due to spammers would be justifiably upset at Google acting like it doesn’t matter.

    I think the oddest part is that Google never tries to hack their own systems to find the exploits before the spammers do (and plug them in a timely fashion: six months is not an acceptable timeframe), and they also seem completely incompetent at responding to exploits that are reported behind the scenes on on their forums (most exploits, before they reach pandemic stage, are spotted by sharp-eyed volunteer mappers on Map Maker, and reported directly to Google, often six months or more in advance).

    They should also be offering a reward program to hack their systems, if they’re so confident in their ability to handle spam. They could easily create a white market for spam exploits. At $10,000 a pop (a rounding error for the Goog), if you can demonstrate an exploit to Google, who wouldn’t be trying to figure out how to spam Google Maps?

  8. “I think the oddest part is that Google never tries to hack their own systems to find the exploits before the spammers do (and plug them in a timely fashion: six months is not an acceptable timeframe”

    It’s the ongoing theme of Google not really caring about Local, I don’t want to get all “tinfoil hat” on Mike’s blog but really what does Google gain by curating this stuff? What incentive does Google have to clean this up and keep the spammers from taking over Local?

    Here is how I see it: Local is a way for G to get it’s hooks into small business owners, it’s free and who doesn’t want to get some Google traffic? But Google is of course not a charity, each business owner that gets frustrated with Local and moves to Adwords is a win. There is no money to be made off the spammers but they are allowed to exist because they raise the bar of entry, making it harder for small businesses to crack into Local traffic.

    I hate to think like that Google, I really do. But more and more it seems like all roads lead to Adwords.

    I like the idea of a reward for catching bugs and exploits. If they don’t do it I think it’s going to be for the reasons above.

    Is Facebook still paying just $500 for that? (When they feel like it, who can forget #HireKhalil) ok /tangent

  9. Naturally my answer has to be:

    {yes| certainly| without a doubt| undoubtedly| that’s right| it’s true| surely| obviously| unquestionably| naturally| by all means| yeah| precisely| most assuredly| sure| for sure| without fail}

    (some light relief!)

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