The only guarantee against having a business listing hijacked in Google Maps has been for a listing owner to control their listing in the Local Business Center. The only way to be ranked well in Maps is for that same business to control their listing in the Local Business Center. The many blogs covering local have said time and again, take control of the listing in the Local Business Center.
It is a message that makes sense given how Google has designed the system. It is a message from Google that is clear and which Google keeps repeating. Yet I fear that we and Google are preaching to the converted.
Even businesses that want to take control of their listing and are motivated to do so are often stymied. Prior to last week’s hijacking debacle I was corresponding with a locksmith who contended that his listing had been hijacked.
I was trying to document the locksmith’s situation so I made repeated efforts attempting to get him to confirm to me that he had claimed his record in the LBC. I was unable to do so. He just didn’t get what I was asking him, no matter how many ways and times I asked. In his mind he had claimed the record but he could not tell me exactly how or where. I came away convinced that he simply edited is record using Google’s end user edit capability and returned to it regularly to correct any nefarious edits.
This posting in Google Groups confirmed my suspicions that many, motivated business owners are completely incapable of making their way into the Local Business Center (even when they think they have):
In response to the many changes that Google has made of late in Maps, Google is once again surveying some Map users (Survey URL) with questions as to speed of the service, quality of data and customer service level satisfaction. If the survey is unavailable at the link above you can view this PDF of the survey.
When Google upgraded Maps with the blueline upgrade in late July, they temporarily lost the abililty to allow easy rerouting of their directions. That loss led to an avalanche of small business complaints from companies that were using Google for daily routing of their vehicles. The most recent change to using TeleAtlas has led to a new series of complaints from SMB’s using Google’s routing noting that whole locations (not just the functionality) have been lost.
Has anyone seen Union County NC? That’s the question a small business owner outside of Charlotte, NC is asking of Google after their recent change to using TeleAtlas mapping data.
In this posting to Google Groups, this small business person, using Google Map’s routing, is complaining that the data necessary for his daily routing task is either missing or unusable due to its age. I wonder how he would answer the survey?:
Last week’s reports of hijackings of legitimate business listings in Maps highlighted wide spread abuse of both Google’s community edit AND the reviews feature. In addition to hijacking listings, the affiliate spammers have been rapidly adding bogus reviews. Most IYP sites have a rapid response to such activities and will quickly pull down a bogus review in response to a business owner. NOT GOOGLE!
This posting in the Groups highlights the issue (and provides plenty of fodder for the curmudgeon in me):
Last week, Google announced that they were switching over Google Maps data from NavTeq to TeleAtlas. At the time they noted that “there may also be some cases where the data may not be optimal”.
With Google’s rapid switch over to TeleAtlas and Google’s high visibility these reports of missing streets are likely to increase over the next several weeks as these problems with TeleAtlas’ data are uncovered. As Miriam Ellis points out on her blog, this missing Map’s data can cause incredible marketing problems to the small business that experiences it.
There are reports starting to flow into Google Groups of this being the case. What should you do if this happens to you or one of your clients?
Google has often made their technology available to encourage and support voting. In that vein, it seems likely that Google Maps will soon provide a new Google created mapplet with comprehensive voter information.
The site, currently visible at the url: http://maps.google.com/vote, will provide voting location, registration information and more. Apparently the data set is not yet loaded as the site notes: All voting location information will be available by mid-October. Until then, please check with your state or local election officials to verify your voting location.
It is likely that this project started out as a Google 20% project but given the finished look and feel has obviously become fully supported. Being able to generate a driving map for each potential voter to every polling place offers incredible benefit to every “get out the vote” organization particularly smaller ones that might not have the resources to gather this information. Rolling this out on a national scale is an intriguing example of deep local data collection and how that information can possibly affect outcomes on a larger stage. It points to a time when having in-depth local data will fundamentally change the way that the web is used.
On another, possibly related note, a reader pointed out the domain GoogleVote.com that sports the Google Vote logo above.
In honor o’ Pirate’s Day, the ever snarly, gnarly uber pirate, Maps Guide Jen is publicly making someone walk the banishment plank over in groups. She gave the fellow until sun up on Monday to comply:
TOPIC: where is my listing please???????????????????????
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Fri, Sep 19 2008 4:21 pm
From: Maps Guide Jen
Your listings are showing up, but you also have 4 separate listings with lots of keyword spam. This is strictly not allowed under these guidelines which you should check out:
Normally we’d remove your listings immediately, but it is Friday. Please make every effort to suppress your “extra” listings over the weekend.
On Sep 8, 4:14 pm, smartie81 wrote:
My listing is not showing… I go to google and put in my postcode, nothing I put in my business name nothing.
Please can anyone tell me why and what I have done wrong, this is it below
Permanent Makeup Essex Heidi Worman
Three hoozahs! Now if some equally gnarly coder over at Google would just catch this on the front end so Maps Guide Jen can take off her pirate patch.
Lisa Barone of Bruce Clay picked up my reporting of the new Google Maps Business Listing Guidelines . She commented:
Blumenthals doesn’t seem completely satisfied with the guidelines set out by Google because they leave too much wiggle room….. He’s right in that there really could be a lot more explanation to what Google will and will not allow, but it’s a start. And really, when has Google ever given you the degree of information you secretly hoped for? Maybe one day that’ll change, but today it’s still Google’s world.
I’m just glad that some semblance of rule has been put into place over there. Watching spammy local search results pop up makes my skin crawl. I need local search to be as spam-free and relevant as it can be, because that’s the search I go to when I don’t have time to play around and I need answers now.
My question to Lisa is why should we accept mediocrity from Google on any level? Google has had ample time to make more than just a start in Maps quality. Here is the answer that I posted on her blog:
It isn’t that I am not completely satisfied with Google’s guidelines, it is that I am dissatisfied with Google’s approach to Mapspam in specific and Local quality standards in general.
Google Maps has now switched their map data provision completely over to TeleAtlas from Navteq. Now the google Maps, the Google API and the Google Maps for Mobile all use the same underlying data. This switch was only a matter of time given Nokia aquisition of Navteq. Here is the announcement from Google’s Maps Guide Adam:
I wanted to give you a heads up that Google Maps recently made some changes to the map data. Specifically, we have moved Google Maps over to use the same map data from Tele Atlas that is currently used by both the Google Maps API and Google Maps for Mobile. While most of the map will look the same, and in many areas it will improve, there may also be some cases where the data may not be optimal. In those cases, we encourage you to use one of the following options to helpimprove our maps:
If you notice an error, feel free to correct it yourself by clicking on the “Edit” link in the information bubble that appears for alocation. For more information, check out this Maps Help Center page:
-Report the error directly to TeleAtlas
You can notify our map provider directly using the following link:
And as always, to view a one-stop-shop for reporting all types of Map errors, please visit http://maps.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=98014
Maps Guide Adam
I am very excited to say that I have been invited to speak at this year’s SMX-East. It is running from October 6-8 in NYC. I will be speaking in the Monday morning session: What’s New With Local Search Marketing – What’s new and exciting in terms of tactics for showing up in local search results? Greg Sterling will moderate and so far Craig Greenfield, Director, Local Search, Performics is also on the agenda.
If you are going to be in NYC for the event let me know. I would love to get together.
Late last week, the widespread highjacking of business listings in the florist industry for the purpose of affiliate mapspam was reported, confirmed and documented. There had been rumors for several months in the groups of these hijackings but specifics had been difficult to come by.
According to the Real Florists Blog by FlowerChat Blog the hijackings affected some of the “most respected florists in the US – including Lehrer’s and Veldkamp’s of Denver,Podesta Baldocchi and Church Street Flowers of San Francisco, Starbright Floral Designof New York City, Phoenix Flower Shops and numerous other major city floral operations.”
The technique, apparently in widespread use in the Locksmith, PayDay Loan and other industries, exploited weaknesses in Google’s User Edit capability. I had previously reported on PayDay Loan user edit abuses. In this newly reported case in the floral industry, Affiliate Mapspamers would target high ranking florists in major markets that had NOT CLAIMED their business listings in the Local Business Center so as to be able to benefit from an existing business’ ranking and reviews.
The spammers, using the end user edit tools, would change the phone number to another local number, change the location of the business slightly and then proceed to add a category, the URL and ultimately the name of the business. Apparently the small move in location convinced Google’s system that all subsequent changes were legitimate. The listing would retain the ranking and reviews of the actual business but redirect to a Canadian Florist fulfillment house via the affiliate’s website.
Some florists have succeeded in cleaning and claiming their listings but not all. In conversations with folks in the Florist industry, the many independant florists were in tears over the incidents and the attendant loss of sales. All were totally unaware that it had been necessary for them to claim their listings.