Google Maps Fixes Newest Hack & Adds Private Mapspam Reporting Form

Maps Guide Jen has commented that Google has now fixed the most recent hack that allowed records claimed in the Local Business Center to be hijacked:

Hi Mike,
Thanks again for bringing these cases to our attention. The issue involved was different from the ones that affected listings a few months ago. Like those, it’s now fixed.

Maps Guide Jen has also noted in her comments that there is now a Mapspam reporting form that replaces the previous publicly visible reporting thread in the Maps Help forum:

As you all know, we’re working hard to clean up the spam on Maps, and to make it easier and easier for business owners to make sure their listings are accurate. Keep sending your reports to us at “Report an instance of a user spamming Google Maps business listings” found here: http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=contact_policy

Sincerely,
Jen

The Mapspam reporting form is available in the Contact Options area of Maps Help.

The form (visible below) will hopefully encourage more active and detailed reporting of Mapspam to Google. In removing the postings from the public domain, though, it may also make it harder to bring the critical transparency to Google Maps that it obviously needs.

Continue reading Google Maps Fixes Newest Hack & Adds Private Mapspam Reporting Form

Will MapMaker + Steetview Replace TeleAtlas?

In January I speculated Google’s Streetview Data be could used to replace TeleAtlas. One of the elements missing from this scenario was that TeleAtlas also provides Google with routing information and Google had not yet developed routing capacity.

Well it appears now that Google has internally developed directional routing and has released it in their Map Maker product serving the many markets world wide not covered by TeleAtlas or NavTeq. 

From the Google Lat Long Blog announcement:

Over the past few months, users have created rich and comprehensive maps in 164 countries around the world. Today with our newly launched feature on Google Map Maker, you can get driving directions in regions where this was not previously available.

Interestingly, consistent with the wiki nature of Map Maker, this feature allows for user correction and editing of the routes:

In the spirit of Map Maker, you can correct the directions as appropriate. Note that for every turn in the directions, you can edit the intersection details such as name and whether turns are allowed or not (known as turn restrictions). 

It appears to me that this feature is one more way stop on the way to Google’s complete control over the Maps data set and the cutting out of TeleAtlas from the process.

Article at SEL: Despite Fixes, Google Maps Still Vulnerable To Spam

SearchEngineLand is running an opinion piece that I wrote: Despite Fixes, Google Maps Still Vulnerable To Spam which summarizes much of the recent goings on with insecure records at Maps.

In the article I voiced the opinion that Google in unleashing an immature product on us had gained much, while loosing little and that the real loosers were the hijacked businesses. Let me know what you think of the article.

Is Google Maps Battening Down the Hatches?

Gogole Maps is now presenting a stronger indication that a previously claimed record can not be claimed by a second party. This new feature was pointed out to me by the folks from the Inn at Tanglewood Hall, a bed and breakfast in York Harbor, ME:

this-listing-has-been-claim

There are a number of ways to get to the Edit button in a business listing and for now at least, this new message is only available when you click on the pin and then on the edit. One presumes that it will soon be the default response across the board.

Google Maps Hijacker to Boss: “Oops I hijacked the wrong business”

The Locksmith industry brings out the worst in search marketing and where but New York City to get the worst of the worst? A recent trend in hijackings there and elsewhere across the country has been cross industry hijackings where a restaurant or hotel record is stolen by a blackhat locksmith for the benefit of its many reviews.

These hijackings are easy to spot because the volume of reviews is SO high compared to the rest of the listings in the 10-Pack. Note the listings marked with the arrows were hotels or restaurants in Google Maps once upon a time:

10-pack-reviews

But sometimes even the best of bad intentions can go woefully astray. This listing had 785 reviews and each was worst than the last….

Would you shop at a locksmith that couldn’t even steal a good business listing?

reviews1

Is it possible to unhijack a listing? Otherwise this hijacker’s job should be on the line.

Google Maps LBC: Claimed Business Listings Still Being Hijacked?

In June of last year, reports started flowing into Google support groups about hijackings of claimed listings. In December, I communicated to Google a method by which “blackhat” locksmiths were hijacking business records previously claimed via the Local Business Center and which Google had posited as secure. Towards the end of January, Google notified me that this particular vector had been closed and that I was free to talk about it.

It appears though, that claimed records are still able to be hijacked. It was recently reported in the Google Maps forum that a claimed listing has once again been hijacked.

I followed up with the poster. The above record, legitimately claimed in the client’s LBC, was compromised over this past weekend. In emails with other Locksmiths, it appears there are additional reports of hijackings of claimed listings as recently as the past 4 days.

It is unclear whether the same or different tactics are being used. It does seem quite certain that these supposedly secure records are being compromised.

In related news, “blackhat” locksmiths have been compromising unclaimed listings in the hotel and restaurant business. This is similar to the floral hijackings and brand name hijackings during this past year. The blackhats take control of popular restaurant and hotel listings to gain benefit of the many web citations and reviews.
Continue reading Google Maps LBC: Claimed Business Listings Still Being Hijacked?

Google PlusBox – Will Life Imitate Art(?)?

I have written often and critically of Google’s (mis)use of the PlusBox since it was introduced in December 2006:

Google and the PlusBox Blues
Google Plus Box – Where does the (wrong) data come from?
Change Your Address In The Google Plusbox In 5 Simple Steps
An Internet Change of Address Guide

Last April 1, I wrote a post: Local Business Center upgrade now allows Plus Box control that noted that Google was now allowing business owners to more directly control the use of the oft errant PlusBox. Even though the post was a total fabrication, a number of readers and SearchEngineLand gave a huge sigh of relief that this pesky problem generator had been finally fixed. 

Well in a strange twist, it seems that Google may be getting ready to fix the PlusBox in a fashion similar to the one I recommended last April Fools Day. Or at least they are thinking about it. Here is a recent posting at the Google Maps Help Forum:

3/7/09
@Joel

Is the ability of the Local Business Center to feed correct info to the PlusBox new? Will it override strong signals from across the web? How long does it take for it to impact the PlusBox?

In the past, we have seen numerous cases of correct LBC, correct website but incorrect or outdated PlusBox information. 

Mike
***

  Joel H  
Google Employee
4:09 AM

It most circumstances, the Local Business Center’s ‘authority page’ will override the plus box. It can take a couple weeks or more before the change goes live on google.com. There are cases where the strong signals from across the web will override the LBC. 

However, we’ve been actively discussing what’s the right thing to do here. And, I’ll update this group when we make changes to this interaction.

(Note, I have added the bold)

Who knows, maybe this April 1st I will be writing an article titled: Local Business Center upgrade now allows Plus Box control

Google Maps Vs. Mapquest User Engagement

Google has been doing its darndest to catch Mapquest and become the most visited mapping site…seems that they have been succeeding in that, having caught up and possibly passing Mapquest.

If this Google Trends Chart is any indication, it also appears that users are actively looking for Google Maps and that their mind share in search is growing:
trends-mapsvs-mapquest

Google has been adding a number of features that should also increase user engagement. They have added expanded Streetview, Community Edits and more. So why then, does Hitwise show that Google Maps has significantly lower weekly average visit duration times than Mapquest and they are not increasing relative to Mapquest?

avg-visit

How to Fix “Place Closed” in Google Maps

A number of businesses in the Maps Help forums have reported Placed Closed labels being placed on their business listings. This issue was highlighted recently on SearchEngineLand and SEO Roundtable.

It appears that the increase in Place Closed labeling was due to a change on Google’s end and not nefarious community edits. The designation was showing up on both claimed and unclaimed listings. Google Employee Joel has, once again, been providing information and repair strategies in the Forums (Give this man a raise!)

Google Maps Guide Adam has posted an announcement with steps to resolve the dreaded message:

Removing a ‘Place Closed’ Label

Friday, March 6, 2009 | 5:24 PM

 

There was a recent change that displays the label ‘Place Closed’ on some businesses. If the label has been applied incorrectly, it can be corrected with just a few steps.

For listings that have been claimed and verified through the Google Local Business Center, please sign in to your account and select the Edit link. The editing wizard will appear. Click the Submit button.
For listings that aren’t claimed through the Local Business Center, they’re open to community edits. Please select the Edit link below the address and select Restore Place.
The listings will be updated within a few days. If you’re seeing something different, please let us know in our Help Forum, posting a link to the listing in question.
We’re currently evaluating our usage of the label and appreciate the feedback received in this forum regarding the change.

Maps Guide Adam

These types of events highlight the power and pain that is Google Maps. Google tweaks a bit of code, hundreds if not thousands of small business owners are impacted. Some notice and how many do not? I don’t doubt that the messages will continue to come into Maps Forum well into the future.

Google has, at least, put someone in the forums to answer the question and has offered up a fix. They have also highlighted the fix in the announcement area where it will have prominent display. Those are good things and demonstrate a positive direction in real customer support.

But Google’ solution puts the burden back onto the business to fix the error, an error that the business owner had no part in creating and one that affects their income. One can only hope that the overall general improvement in the index from this action was positive and that the number of affected open businesses was small.

Local Links of Interest

Yahoo CEO says she prefers Google Maps to Yahoo Maps – Shane McGlaun, DailyTech.com

Bartz is looking at email as one of the anchors for Yahoo’s business and she says that she ordered ads to be stopped on the companies email service in countries with low bandwidth to provide a better user experience. She said that the ads were slowing down the service and frustrating users. Bartz also said that she prefers Google Maps to Yahoo Maps and thinks that Yahoo has paid little attention to the application.

Bartz’s future vision for Yahoo is to turn it into a portal that is continually visited by its users. She said, “I want the users to wake up in the morning, log into Yahoo, see what’s important, and I want them to do that before they go to bed at night. To do that, we owe them a fun experience, an easy experience, [and] a non-frustrating experience.”

Sheriff Impotent To Stop Craigslist Erotic Ads, Experts Say – Wendy Davis, MediaPost.com

Chicago sheriff Thomas Dart has sued listings site Craigslist for allegedly creating a public nuisance by facilitating prostitution. But Internet law experts say the court will almost certainly dismiss the case because federal law immunizes sites like Craigslist from lawsuits based on material posted by users.

Legislator moves to limit Google Maps because of terrorists – TheStandard.com

A California state legislator has submitted a bill that would limit the amount of detail allowed in images available from applications like Google Maps and Google Earth, contending that terrorists are using such online tools to plot attacks.

Speaking of impotence. This definitely falls into that category. If California legislators are looking to protect their citizens from Maps, they might start by looking at the locksmith scams or the floral hijackings.

Why I Sued Google (and Won) – Aaron Greenspan, HuffingtonPost.com

On January 15, 2009, I walked over to the Santa Clara County courthouse in Palo Alto, which conveniently fell within the same county lines as Google’s home of Mountain View, and filed a civil small claims lawsuit for $721.00–the amount Google owed Think when it disabled the account–using form SC-100. For a total of $40.00 in court fees, I arranged for Google, Inc. to be served by certified mail. The hearing was scheduled for March 2, 2009.

Since lawyers are not permitted in small claims court, Google instead sent Stephanie Milani, a Litigation Paralegal. During the short last-ditch-resolution period before the hearings on the afternoon schedule began, Ms. Milani argued that I must have done something wrong to deserve my fate. When I asked her what, she didn’t know. The AdSense engineers had not told her.

“Google can terminate your account for any reason,” she told me.

“Not any reason,” I said. “Not because I have blue eyes. Or brown eyes.” After being told to quiet down by the courtroom guard, we decided that we had reached an impasse, exchanged documents, and went back into the court room.

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