Google Maps – User edit abuses happening to Payday loan company?


payday1.jpgI have little sympathy for even the best companies in the payday loan business. Many of them charge as much as 400% interest (as reported in the WSJ) and manage to illegally get their hands on limited Social Security payments (again according to the WSJ), a practice the government is attempting to limit.

Google seems to offer some implicit support for these less than savory tactics of this industry by not having removed their mapspam that I reported at here and at SearchnEngineland.

It appears that in an industry that is used to preying on people is now preying on itself. Advance America is a legitimate (I say that advisedly as there are reports of them charging close to 400% interest) payday loan company that is listed on the NY Stock Exchange and has 2800 bricks and mortar locations. Their local Map’s listings, which they have never claimed, are apparently being hijacked in an effort to claim an affiliate fee.

The search in Google Maps for payday site:advanceamerica.net returns 1941 listings for Advance America, a reasonable approximation of their listings in Google Maps. A little digging into the “View History” of the edited records details a veritable tug of war in a number of the records with a company that varies its domain based on the location but appears to have no role in the process other than an affiliate referral role.

I find it ironic that the sharks of the loan industry seem to be eating each other’s lunch and appear engaged in abuse of the Google End User edit facilities in Maps that was introduced in mid March.

If Google is relying on community policing to keep these kind of practices under control, the system will self destruct. The folks using these services  don’t much care and it appears that the aggrieved party doesn’t have a very sophisticated practice in regards to local. These types of edits should automatically trigger some sort of Google review.

Google Maps Lost Record Recovery Tip


Google’s Maps Guide Tom, who first announced the problem (late Feb) with missing records in Maps and the subsequent fix (late April) has noted a work around for any records still not showing up in Map’s as a result of the problem:

==========================================
TOPIC: Active listing not appearing? Try this!
=========================================

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Mon, May 5 2008 3:52 pm
From: Maps Guide Tom

Hi All,

I know that there are reports that some listings aren’t appearing on
Google Maps, even though they have an “active” status and have been
verified with a PIN.

If you’re still experiencing this problem, I have a workaround that
may help get your listing to appear!

First, search for your listing to ensure it’s really not appearing:
1. Go to maps.google.com and click “Find businesses” under the search box.
2. Enter the name of your business as it appears in your Local Business Center Account in the “What” field, and then the city/state combination or zip/postal code in the “Where” field.
3. Hit “Search Businesses”.

If your listing appears, rejoice! Your listing is showing on Google
Maps. If your listing doesn’t appear in the search results, please try
the following:

1. Log in to your Local Business Center account at www.google.com/local/add
2. Click “Edit” next to the listing that isn’t appearing.
3. Without changing any business information, click “Finish”. You
won’t need to re-verify your listing.
4. Wait 24 hours, and then check to see if your business listing is
appearing using the steps above.

This should cause some business listings that aren’t showing to finally appear.

For the successful creation of business listings, please, please remember these two points:

1. This workaround should only be for listings that aren’t appearing but HAVE ALREADY BEEN VERIFIED and whose status is “Active” in the Local Business Center. Please don’t try this if you haven’t yet verified your listing.

2. Don’t include non-address information in either the “Address Line 1″ or “Address Line 2″ of your listing. Including such information will create a problem with the listing and Google Maps’ algorithm won’t be able to place it, even if it appears as a correct location
within your account.

Hopefully, this should clear up most issues about business listings disappearing. If you’ve performed the workaround and your listing still isn’t appearing, please let us know.

Best,
Maps Guide Tom

Maps Guide Tom’s advice to first find your record seems self evident but it is not uncommon for posters in the Maps For Business Groups to not really be sure if their record is in the Map’s index or not. This reflects both a user education issue AND an interface problem on Google’s part. A simple solution in the LBC would be to instead of noting that the record is “Active” offer a choice to actually “View” the record in the index so users of the LBC would be confident that it is actually there. It would obviate the need for the record holders to know how to query maps and it would reduce the frequency of one of the most common questions in the support Group.

It is intriguing to me that it is still necessary for a user to need to individually enter their LBC record and flag it so that Google knows to reindex it. Reminds me of the days of dBase/Foxbase and having to spend the better part of a day reindexing when a computer crashed before you could get back to business. Hmmm, the more things change…

Google Maps – The Dog Daze of May


Google has in the past conflated two records but this is the first I have seen a record being confused with its own older version. I sympathized with Nivek’s lament in the Google Maps for Business Group:

dogdaze.jpgTOPIC: Hours duplicated, can’t remove the incorrect set
======

= 1 of 1 =

Date: Sat, May 3 2008 12:13 pm
From: nivek

The hours for my business are listed twice and I can’t remove the incorrect set or hours. The set of hours at the top are incorrect:

Google Maps: Dog Daze Puyallup Wa

When I update our hours, it only updates the bottom set, which is the correct set of hours.

I don’t know how to fix this.

Any assistance is appreciated.
Thank you.

Nivek, Dog Daze Natural Pet Market – Puyallup, Wa.

I would respond:

Dear Dazed in Puyallup:

Do not let this set back affect your self image. You have done nothing wrong here. You will not be able to fix this yourself, you will need the help of the others involved in this unfortunate situation. Things happen to data, what it is though just isn’t clear.

I would go back to Google and explain your plight but remember you are not to blame in this situation. If after 7 or 8 pleas they have not yet responded be assured that sooner or later the record will probably straighten itself out. Remember you are but one record among 13 million or so and keeping all of that data straight is a difficult job.

Mike

Google Reaching out to Local Search Blogging Community


Jen Chin, aka Maps Guide Jen, in a recent comment to my article Google Maps Fixes missing record bug, has noted:

You’ve seen me posting as “Maps Guide Jen” on our Maps Help Group, but
I’m hoping to get out in the blogosphere and comment on blogs more
often. 

…. We’re currently talking about a better system for posting when issues
are resolved, but in the meantime, we’ll appreciate your patience as we
work to make our Maps product better. Thanks for the feedback–even
when it may not be apparent that Google is paying attention, we are
working to do better.

Dealing with the vagaries of Maps has been, at best, a frustrating experience. Between the bugs, the unknowns and the lack of communication from Google, solutions have been hard to come by. I certainly welcome a more open Google. I can only hope that they perceive the need to respond in internet time, not Google time and that they respond in a forthright fashion.

To our Maps Guide Jen, I say: Welcome to the party!

Google Maps – Avoid being delisted


Today in the Google Maps for Business Group, Maps Guide Tom reconfirmed that Google had in fact fixed the missing record bug. He was writing in response to the numerous posts that records seemed to be still missing. Most records aren’t in fact missing rather they just don’t show in the Local 10-Pack, the users don’t know how to find them or they are in new record delay hell.

But it appears that some have been delisted by Google for using one of the address lines in the record for descriptive info instead of real address information:

==============================================
TOPIC: Business Listing Disappearances
==============================================

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Fri, May 2 2008 9:56 am
From: Maps Guide Tom

Hi all,

I’ve noticed many of you are reporting that your active business
listings are disappearing from display on Google Maps. In regards to
the post I wrote back in February, that issue has been resolved, and
listings are no longer disappearing from Maps!

……Also, I’ve noticed that many of the issues you guys are reporting have
a common theme.

Please remember to include ONLY address information in
“Address Line 1″ and “Address Line 2″ when you’re creating or editing
your listing from within the Local Business Center. If you put a
business description, or name, or anything that’s not an address in
either of the address fields, your listing may not display on Google
Maps. (my bold)

Best,
Tom

Google Mapspam – Local Search Marketing goes wild


Update: Sometime around 8:00 EDT Saturday evening it appears that Google has removed these listings. It was reported below by Cavan Moon of eClickPerformance.

Stephen Peron of ImNotaDoctor.com reports a case of Mapspam that he discovered while researching the phrase “San Diego internet consulting” (graphic courtesy of Imnotadoctor.com):

He noted that the listing shows up for every major city as well. The spammer appears to have posted his listing 4,176 times:

biglocal.jpg

It is of interest that the spammer does so well on such a broad range of terms over so many cities. For example on the search: “Local Internet Marketing NY NY” :

internetmarketingny.jpg

And on the phrase: “local internet consulting Chicago il“:

internetconsultingchi.jpg

This spam raises several interesting questions for me.

1)This was clearly a bulk upload that I was under the impression were now reviewed by Google. Big Local even notes in their listing: “Not a Physical Location.”

2)It ranks well for terms that there are few if any indicators it should rank well for. Their site has a low page rank and not much optimized content. Their local listings are sparse and have no reviews, few if any web page references and few keywords in their listings.

Apple’s Price Reduction & its stealth mobile computing initiatives


Fortune (via LocalMobileSearch) reports that Apple will be reducing the price of the iPhone by $200. As Greg points out at Local Mobile: Price Matters!

The new price will drive adoption of this fully functional mobile computing device masquerading as a smart phone at a faster rate. Apple’s mobile computing strategy became very clear this past month while visiting a childhood friend who had up to the moment of our visit had steadfastly maintained his Luddite approach to computing.

His wife had purchased him an iPod Touch for an upcoming 20 hour vacation flight to Bali. Upon our arrival he proudly showed me his new toy (remember this is a guy that like me, buys a new car every 15 years whether he needs to or not) and told me how he was going to listen to Dylan and the E Street Band on his long trip.

I started tapping away and noted that it would be a simple thing to hook it the internet via his wife’s laptop which he agreed to. From that point on, each morning and evening he had me implement and train on an ever increasing number of internet capabilities….he started downloading podcasts by Amy Goodman, buying a few videos for the trip on iTunes, discovering the joys of Google Maps (you mean I can look up restaurants? show me!) and incredulous that he could now read his email anywhere.

Last I heard from him was an email from the Tokyo airport about a sock that my son had left buried in the den couch.

Apple, in focusing on the killer app (either music or phone calling + music) has developed a very seductive and appealing way to bring not just the technorati but the ludderati as well into the age of mobile computing. These new users may just leapfrog the desktop that they were so resistant to and in doing so make computing (and local search) a much more integrated part of our every day life.

Google Maps Fixes missing record bug


In February, Google Map’s Guide Tom announced a bug where certain business records from the Local Business Center had gone missing in Maps. Records, once edited in the Local Business Center, randomly disappeared from both the Maps listing and the Google Local OneBox. The only fix was to delete the record and reenter it in the LBC however that often resulted in loss of rank and associated reviews. At the time I lauded Google’s new openeness and responsiveness.

Today (after 2 months of silence), Tom (and Google) announced that the bug has been fixed. The rescue came too late for my record as I had deleted and reentered it about 2 weeks ago thinking that the original had been left for dead in some dark corner. Hopefully though the fix will retrieve some other missing records from the dark recesses of Google’s storage closet (is that where they go? I’ve been wondering).


In March, this bug struck one of my records and I had posted the following at the Google Maps for Business Group that had gone unanswered until today:

Continue reading

Yahoo Local Bug: San BuenaVentura Ca located just off African Coast


venturaca.jpgThe City of San Buenaventura, Ca is usually referred to as Ventura. Google Maps correctly substitutes the name of Ventura for San Buenaventura but Yahoo Local seems a tad confused by the use of the name San Buenaventura in a local search query.

For example if you search on Florist+San Buenaventura Ca, it maps the location to just west of the Congo, smack dab in the South Atlantic Ocean about 750 to the west of the African coast, some 6000 or so miles away.

Equally interesting is that the search Florist+San Buenaventura Ca apparently returns every florist in the United States, all 61,035 of them.

Until this bug is fixed the search can provide approximate numbers of total Yahoo listings for any industry. On the search Restaurants + San Buenaventura, CA, Yahoo Local returns 747,782 listings and the number one restaurant is Giordanos Pizzeria in Chicago. I wonder how the pizza is.

restaurants.jpg

Don’t you just love local?

Google Maps – Multiple OneBoxes on Used Car searches


In the past local searches (product + locale) would occasionally return an “inventory” onebox if Google felt that it was more relevant than a Local 10 Pack. An example is the search “Real Estate + Locale” which provides a Google Base search box to explore available inventory.

Recently on the searches for “used cars + locale” Google has started including both the Local 10 Pack AND the Inventory Search Box.

usedcars.jpg

Over time, Google has been increasing the granularity of their results as they have adequate data to provide meaningful results. Providing a list of currently available used autos in an area is certainly part of this trend.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search