All posts by Mike Blumenthal

More cases of Massive Mapspam in Maps

Update 6/6/08: This spam has been removed. Also on Maps Guide Jen noted about the similar Earthlink Spam:

This particular case was added through a bulk feed in our Local Business Center. We’re actively working to implement some processes that will prevent these types of spam from displaying in Google Maps.

map spam

A recent posting in the Google Maps for Business Group has led to uncovering of another case of widespread mapspam very similar to the Big Local and Earthlink reported earlier and covered here.

This review of the company says it all: This company is listing my address because I sometimes do work for them. You will get better price and service by going to me directly. David Ringwald‎

The structure and probably the vector of this spam are identical to both EarthLink and Big Local. It doesn’t appear to have been bulk uploaded as their is no indication of business owner control. A number of the listings have a street address but not building number and are represented with the circular indicator instead of the pin. 

This search on the phrase ComputerAssistant returns 2,495 listings within Maps with listings for every independent contractor that has worked for them previously.

Google has removed the previously reported Mapspam from Earthlink and Big Local. But all of these efforts speak to the idea of showing service area that Carter Maslan spoke of in the interview last week with Greg Sterling last week where he noted: We currently don’t allow for service areas, but we recognize that many businesses don’t have physical locations and are working to accommodate those businesses.

If anyone has a suggestion as to how these listings entered maps I would love to hear them.

Renaming your business for Local

Google has recently made clear that a business can have only one listing per address and that multiple listings for that business at one address would be considered spam. They have made no clear policy statement in regards to naming the business.

Google appears to tolerate and to some extent endorses the idea that a business should be able to readily change their business name. Yahoo’s policy seems to be that you can change your business name in their local system but if you don’t subscribe to their premium listing it will revert to the business name as indicated by the upstream data providers that they buy their listings from. Is it ok for a business owner to rename their business listing for use in Google Maps?

This “tactic” was first suggested by Chris Silver Smith in Extreme Local Search Optimization Tactics. Of late I have reported a number of Maps listing where listers have creatively “rebranded” a business by changing its business name. “Local Marketers” have used keyword phrases like “Brain Injury Lawyer” or “Boob Job” to replace their business names in an effort to achieve ranking. Mary Bowling recently had an insightful post on Taglines-Why You Need One and how a good tagline in your business name listing not only communicates to your customers but communicates important information to the local search engines as well. Certainly in its current iteration, Maps seems to reward business names that relate closely to the search phrase with higher rankings.

Is changing your business name for the internet a legitimate exercise? Can it ever be? Will it be considered spam or otherwise incur a penalty with Google? The answers are yes, yes and who knows but I think not. Continue reading Renaming your business for Local

The time for a “Geo” Sitemap is Now

Yesterday Greg Sterling had an Interview With Google’s Carter Maslan about Mapspam in which Google noted that they are still at the stage of removing mapspam by hand. Also of not was that they will be addressing how to allow non bricks and mortar locations to provide information on their service area (see What Should Google Do About Mapspam? from last year).

Of most interest to me, however, was the clear statement that all websites should have a KML sitemap to clearly indicate to Google the exact locations of your businesses:

SEL: What about a business that formerly appeared among these top 10 listings and no longer does or wants to appear in those listings, what advice would you provide to such businesses?

CM: As a result, there’s no one piece of advice we would recommend beyond providing accurate, well-categorized listings and, for those businesses with web sites, following these tips including location kml in sitemap.

It has been clear that Google has been scouring the web looking for and indexing KML files and it stood to reason that having a KML file associated with your website would give Google clear signals about your physical location.

The time has come for it to be considered a “best practice” to include a Geo Sitemap on any local or regional website. Google clearly wants webmasters to include this indicator of location in a clear and obvious way that allows them to easily confirm geo data. Details on how to create a Geo Sitemap can be found in the Webmaster Help Cetner file: How can I create a Geo Sitemap?

From Google’s Webmaster Help Center:
Continue reading The time for a “Geo” Sitemap is Now

Local Links of Interest

Office Depot Teams up with Google to Provide Online Marketing  – Business Wire (press release)

In a tactic to place their critical local products in front of more eyeballs Google is offering Adwords, Apps and the Local Business Center at Office Depot’s small business portal. These types of partnerships are a low cost way for Google to increase small business awareness of their free and paid products.

Google’s Local Ad Targeting Strategies – Greg Sterling, Screenwerks 

Google is introducing a ZIP-code prompt for local queries that will allow for better targeted local ads.

Phone Keyboards and Seachers Using Predictive Query Suggestions – Bill Slawski, SeoBytheSea

Search engines are also paying more attention to the smaller screens, and the more limited keyboards available to people who access the Web by phone. What influence do these constraints have upon the future of mobile search?

Payday lenders likely doomed– Jim Siegel, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Just as Ohio House did, Senate tightens rules on industry after efforts at compromise failed.  House Bill 545 would slash the annualized interest rate charged by payday lenders from 391 percent to 28 percent, prohibit loan terms of less than 31 days and limit borrowers to four loans per year. It also would ban online payday lending.

My question is will Google be held accountable to this state law?

Getting KML into Google’s Geo Search Engine – Frank Taylor,

As people develop their own content, they might want to make sure Google’s Geo search can find their content. Google has already been crawling the Google Earth Community and looking for KML/KMZ files it finds linked to web pages. But, you might want to tell Google to index your content right away so other people can find it. Google has added a new syntax for “sitemap” files so you can tell it where to look for KML or GeoRSS files. Read more about Geo sitemap files, and the syntax of the files here. According to Lior and Mano, the sitemap will more quickly Geo-index your KML or GeoRSS content if you use the sitemap service. Read more about sitemaps at Webmaster Central. NOTE: as the search index grows, you’ll have to depend on Google to rank its search results so your content appears first. I guess we are going to need GeoSEOs now…

Nascent Demand for Mobile Shopping – Greg Sterling,

In a survey conducted by Lightspeed Research in the UK (n=998), between April 10-14, 17% of respondents said that they would be interested in mobile shopping. According to the firm, “this figure was higher than respondents in France (9%) but lower than in Germany (25%

Google Maps: What can be learned from the Mapspammers?

Last week Matt Cutts implied that I was endorsing Mapspam tactics when he noted:

Mike: I find it odd to beat up Google for not taking enough action on mapspam, then beat up Google on the other side when we start taking stronger action on mapspam…..

During a few parts of the interview I felt like you were giving this fellow “air time” after he’d said that there were multiple listings with bad data.

Actually far from it.

The folks who practice the more questionable tactics in Maps are essentially pushing the system to find its limits; what can be listed, what affects rank, what works. They are doing so in a vacuum of guidance from Google and apparently their motivation is profit. Short term profit at that, as I don’t see it as a sustainable tactic. I don’t find these practices acceptable on any level but I do learn from them.

I study and report Mapspam because it provides insight
• into how Maps works,
• into factors influencing ranking,
• the obvious contradictions in Google’s policies and practices and
• occasionally it provides insight into legitimate techniques that might increases viewer response.

Here is an interesting case of obvious maps abuse (where else but LA) but one that raises the question, does the tactic increase end user response and is it acceptable practice?

Continue reading Google Maps: What can be learned from the Mapspammers?

Local Links of Interest

IPhone’s Hold on Users Not Exclusive – ALEX MINDLIN, NY Times

Nearly half of iPhone users changed carriers in order to use the device, according to a survey by Rubicon Consulting…. The survey also found that 36 percent of iPhone users regularly carried another mobile phone as well, most often a BlackBerry

Yahoo: Mobile Will Dominate PCs by 2016 – Greg Sterling, 

Geraldine Wilson, Yahoo! Europe predicted that by 2016, mobile Internet access will surpass that of PC-based access: “We believe that by 2016, more users will access the internet from their mobile devices than the fixed PC. Currently there are approximately a billion PCs and three billion mobiles.”

[Greg Sterling] informally predicted to a client yesterday this would likely happen in terms of search query volume perhaps as early as 2013. But what will the sessions be like and how effectively will they be monetized? And how effective an ad medium will mobile become for marketers?

Pew: Web Not Key To Final Buying Decisions – Mark Walsh,

While the Internet has become a key information source for researching products, it doesn’t have a major impact on consumers’ final purchases, according to a new study. Findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey tracking buying habits related to music, cell phones and homes suggest the Web is just one of various resources people use before making purchases. And only a minority of consumers actually end up buying online directly

Google Maps: Multilingual Mapspam in LA

Last week I interviewed a lawyer from LA that had been banned from Maps for multiple listings with invented addresses. I followed up with some examples of the Mapspam that were dominating the Local OneBoxes in the legal and plastic surgery industries in Southern California.

Matt Cutts & Maps Guide Jen responded that this type of Mapspam should and would be penalized. The good news was that over the last week, Google took down most of the reported examples (although the brain injured lawyer Los Angeles mapspam still returns an authoritative Local OneBox…maybe Google finds it as funny as I do).

However, Google’s hand editing of the index is not really a cure for these types of abuses. I realized that Los Angeles was a multilingual town. Our Hispanic brethren might have just been experiencing the same kinds of Lawyer Mapspam if Google had not been thorough in their cleansing efforts. 

My search for Abogados de Inmigracion Los Angeles turned up this Authoritative OneBox:

Tip: Search for English results only. You can specify your search language in Preferences

Jacobson & Han LLP – Immigration Attorneys (Abogados de Inmigracion)     

553 S Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Get directions

More information »
Open Weekdays 8am-12pm, 1pm-6pm; Sat 10am-4pm


Just today in the Google Maps for Business Group there was a posting from Helen in Spain that indicated Google was preventing multiple listings at one address even for legitimate multi-lingual reasons. Was the OneBox above a legitimate listing or was it just the tip of the proverbial Mapspam iceberg?

Continue reading Google Maps: Multilingual Mapspam in LA

Google Maps Policy: Multiple Listings at a Single Address a No Go

Maps Guide Jen, in a comment posted in response to the article The Longtail of Local Search Mapspam, has indicated that multiple listings at a single address are not acceptable:

…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.


It’s safe to say that if you are going to “rebrand your business” for Local, pick your name very carefully as you will have only per location. 

Maps Rebranding gone Amuck

Sometimes a “rebranding” doesn’t quite convey the message that you intended. It is unclear whether this lawyer creates these accidents or tries them in court or is perhaps a stunt driver. I suppose it could be all three. 

 Web    Maps    Results 1 - 10 of about 495,000 for Motorcycle Accident Specialist San Francisco CA. (0.25 seconds) 

Motorcycle Accident Specialist

18 Crow Canyon Ct # 325
San Ramon, CA 94583
(925) 866-8787
Get directions

More information »

Google Maps: Saved Location Update

Google Maps has rolled out a number of upgrades to Maps this past week. This just came in from Maps Guide Brian at the Google Maps Current Issues Group:

Looking for your saved locations?  Sign in to your Google Account and click on the drop-down arrow directly to the right of the Search box!


Some of the many other recent Maps upgrades:

News flash: Maps now open to Flash developers

Google Maps Adds “More” Button For Displaying Videos, Pictures, Wikipedia & More Content

Google Adds RE Search Option to Maps

Google Cleans Up Manhattan