Finding Google Local Spam at Scale

TL;DR On the shoulders of others, a technique that can help you uncover Google Local Spam at greater scale.

The Inspiration

Over the years, Google Maps has lost many advanced search features* making spam identification harder and harder. A few weeks back Dave DiGregorio, a local SEO in NJ, posted a tip on Twitter that helped at ferreting out some of the spam:

Using the allintitle command in the Local Finder and then zooming out allows you to find up to 200 instances of spam. Better than a fish!

While Dave’s technique might surface some of the spam, it still left me feeling frustrated due to the fact that Google Maps was restricted to showing only 20 results and providing no option to see more. Thus to develop anything approaching a significant list, one had to craft the search for each and every geography that held that spam.

And I knew that for some of these terms, particularly those generated by lead gen networks, there were hundreds if not thousands of spammy listings in play in virtually every town and city in the US.

But I took Dave’s idea and refined it using the Local Finder on the desktop* (as opposed to Google Maps) to allow me to surface hundreds of related spam listings instead of the 20 that Maps were serving up.

The Technique

  • Start with a local search on Google.com that returns the 3 Pack
  • Select the option to view More Places
  • In the Local Finder’s search field, replace what you have with the command: allintitle:spammy business name or allintitle:”spammy business name” (using the quotes to be more precise). For example: allintitle:”cheap car insurance”, or allintitle:”dog bite layer“.
  • Using the zoom out Map button, bring the whole country into view.
  • The search will continue to change as you zoom out to view more of the US.
  • If you zoom too far, the listings will disappear so zoom back in one step for maximum coverage
  • Scroll to the bottom and you will that you now have as many as 10 pages, each with 20 listings.

Here is a video detailing the technique:

Why do you need this?

Google typically responds much better to reports of massive abuse at scale than tales of a single mom and pop down the road adding some title spam.

If you really want to clean up the space for your local client in say, Philadelphia, it is more likely to be taken down if you provide details for hundreds of listings.

The sad reality is that you should be able to report 1 or 2 listings and have their magical, world changing AI figure out the other 2000 similar listings.**

Big surprise, it can’t or won’t. It must be working on more important problems.

What’s Next

The problem with this technique is that while you can find hundreds of listings, Google needs you to report the URL for the listing for them to do anything. That still adds up to a ton of work.

I am working with Darren Shaw and the good folks at Whitespark and to capture these listings with the URL at bulk to make my job of reporting them to Google easier. I will keep you posted as to our progress.

A favor to ask

If you use this technique to uncover spam at scale I would love to see some of the searches!

Footnotes

*In days gone by you could do name, phone number or URL searches in Maps and it would return hundreds and hundreds of listings. This evened the playing field somewhat and gave me the tools to find and report massive networks. But as Google scaled back these advanced features Maps became less and less of a tool that could be used to uncover the very spam that was populating it.

*This command and technique ONLY works on the desktop and won’t work on mobile. And likewise for any sample Urls in this post .

* This still means that you have to put in a fair bit of volunteer work to get Google to take notice and that sucks. But if it helps the client and you are getting paid, there could be worse things to do.

*While 200 listings is better than nothing, we still can not easily determine how many there might be beyond those 200.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Finding Google Local Spam at Scale by

6 thoughts on “Finding Google Local Spam at Scale”

  1. How did you report the cheap car insurance example in bulk if there isn’t a website and they all have different phone numbers? I have seen a similar example where the names have a geo modifier so they don’t match exactly either.

  2. I used the technique to find hundreds of listings for a lead gen company for pest control. They use the city in the listings along with Pest Control Pros. There were 15 just in one state, which impacted my client.

    allintitle: pest control pros

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