Indian IT Firm outsources Local US Mapspam to itself

I frequently check my own record for Web Hosting Olean NY in Google Maps and when it popped up with this one box result my eyebrows raised a tad to see a new web hosting firm located at Vidhyapati St in Olean.

Olean, while it may have a number of Asian and Indian residents, typically has streets named after US Presidents, classic American Trees and the original thirteen states.

I found even more irony in Google’s claim that the “placement on the Map is approximate” (I’ll say):

Upon a little investigation it become obvious that Olean wasn’t the only market that Cisin.com was targeting, with over 2,000 listings in the US at 307 Vidhyapati St (which just happened to be the same address as listed in their Whois record in Indore, India ) in one town or another:

I had recently decided that since Google had posted their mapspam reporting tool, I would limit my mapspam reporting. This case is so rich in irony, that I couldn’t resist. This is one IT outsourcing firm that gets the job done!

Google LBC Upgrades Business Communications

Google has recently added a new feature (hats off to Martijn for the heads up on this) to the Local Business Center allowing a business to receive more communication from Google. Of particular interest is the option to “Receive notifications when changes are made to your business listings.” These preferences can be changed at any time going forward in the “settings” area of the LBC.

It is not clear exactly what types of changes are covered but one would hope that it would include new reviews and updated information. In theory, this will allow a business a much better feedback loop on their listings and offers the beginning of a glimpse of the possibility of using the Local Business Center for customer relations management.

Google: How to notifify Google of Mapspam

Today in the Google Maps for Business Group, Maps Guide Jen provided public instructions on filing a Mapspam report:

 

==========
TOPIC: Report Spam on Google Maps 

================

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Thurs, Jul 10 2008 12:00 pm
From: Maps Guide Jen

To file a spam report with the Google Maps team, please reply to this
thread with the following information:

– Your search terms
– A link to your search results
– A short description of why you believe this is spam

If we don’t ask for additional information, you can assume that your
report has been read and is being investigated.

Kudos to Google for a necessary step. But never one to be happy with a half full glass when it could very easily be more half full, I would suggest that:
1)These instructions be included in the Google Maps Help files
2)That there be an obvious link in the Maps Results that allow reporting of bad results and capture some of the information that Google needs to diagnose the issues involved
3)There should also be a more discreet reporting option for those users that would prefer to make the report privately.

Even more importantly, Google needs to allocate the human resources to Maps to be sure that the Map’s records are truthful and accurate and that these reports DO get read on a regular basis. Obviously the Maps Staff are spread pretty thin and a poster to the group never really knows that the posts have been read AND that the report is being investigated. The Group goes weeks on end without hearing from a Guide and often obvious spam is not always dealt with quickly.

In the end the burden of the process should be squarely on Google’s shoulders and they need to step up to that responsibility. The above statement of procedure is a GREAT first step but it is just a first step.

Google Maps: Earthlink Mapspam making a comeback

Update 7/10/08: Google has now removed the Earthlink listings. As of 6:29 pm EST, the Australian Locksmith Mapspam in still in place.

Update 7/10/08:As of 10:00 EST the Australian Locksmith Mapspam has been removed.

In early May, Imamnotadoctor.com reported that there was widespread mapspsam from Earthlink in Google Maps. Maps Guide Jen noted on his blog that it had been a bulk upload abuse and that the listings had been removed.

They are now back and in large volume. On the search Business Internet DSL San Leandro Ca it dominated the listing:

In exploring Maps it appears that there are over 3000 listings nationwide with a listing for every central switching office in the US where they have a DSlam:
Continue reading

Google Mapspam: Time for a formal solution

Google has handled Mapspam reporting in an ad hoc fashion since it was first identified as a problem in Maps almost a year ago. Despite Google’s recent efforts at tightening up the LBC interface, reports of large scale Mapspam seem to keep coming in. There has never been a formal reporting form on Google’s site for mapspam nor a Google defined procedure for alerting Google to a specific Mapspam instance. Google does read Local Blogs looking for reports and the Google Maps for Business Group has provided a venue for highlighting mapspam. But from where I sit their efforts have been minimal.

Google rarely responds to the mapspsam posts in the groups and often seems to ignore them so one can never be sure if they have been read and if the reported spam will be removed. I received several emails last week that reinforced my belief that Google needs to formalize the process of Mapspam reporting, provide specific tools for the process and aggressively police the index:

Hi Mike

I have been trying to report a company spamming the google local business directory for months now.

When you search for a locksmith anywhere in Sydney, dr lock (www.drlock.com.au) is listed in sydney over 500 times. For example search on Locksmith Parramatta Australia.

I can assure google that there is no locksmiths in Australia that have over 500 offices. It it makes no sense for a locksmith to open 20 shops in the same suburb. I would of thought that it would raise some eyebrows at google…..

A group of local locksmiths including myself are looking to hire someone who can bring this to google’s attention.

Is this a service you provide? We are happy to pay for your time and effort to remove this guy from google maps.

I have filled in the spam form a few times, and i have also been emailing back and forth someone at google in Australia…..

I have also posted about 5 articles in google business forums in the hope that someone will see them

here is the emails i have been sending and receiving. They have been to someone in the adwords department as they are the only email address for google that i could find in Australia.

It would be nice if there is a form dedicated to naming and shaming people who spam in this way. I would think that surely google know it is impossible for a locksmith business to open up 40 shops in the one suburb, or 500 in the one city

i appreciate an help or direction with this problem
Thank you

In the end a locksmith from Australia shouldn’t have to contact me for help with this problem. He shouldn’t have to wave money at me and I should not have to write about it. It shouldn’t take several months and endless fruitless efforts on his part to find a solution to an obviously unfair situation.

It is time for Google to step up to the bar and provide typical business people with an obvious means to report these problems and a clear cut procedure for dealing with it. The time for me to be the industry watchdog has passed and Google needs to accept full responsibility for solving this problem. That means:
1)Providing an obvious reporting mechanism
2)Responding aggressively to reports and removing the reported spam
3)Google should be proactively searching for and removing Mapspam on their own initiative
4)Continue to make it more difficult form Mapspam to enter the index.

Here is a screen shot of the Australian Locksmith Mapspam that the emailer is complaining about:
Continue reading

Google Maps: Interview with Carter Maslan

At the end of last week, after the upgrade and bug fixes to the LBC were mostly finished, Carter Maslan, Product Manager for Google Maps, took time to speak with me about the upgrade. You may read the full interview at SearchEngineland.

His main points:
• The upgrade was intended to improve the UI to faciliate flow through the data entry process
• They do read the Groups messages and the Local Blogs but did not have time to respond the many reports as they were trying to get the upgrade out the door and finished
• There will be a European version once the kinks are worked out of the US/Canada/Australian version and localization is finished
• There will be some sort of trusted status going forward for higher volume, trusted LBC users.
• Coupons will continue to languish

Read the whole interview here: Carter Maslan On Google’s Local Business Center Upgrade

Google’s Carter Maslan: “Heads were down” during recent LBC upgrade

Google Maps recently introduced a new user interface for the Local Business Center. There were some issues with the upgrade and Carter Maslan, Google’s Director of Product Management for Local, agreed to answer some of my questions about the process in a phone conversation.

MB: What was the goal of the upgrade? What prompted the change?

Carter: We wanted to address usability issues to make it simpler to get through the process and having it flow on a single screen was a big driver.

Usability was the main motivator…simple things like not a big enough map to be able to accurately move the pin, having a clear sense of where you are in the process etc. We were trying to address the flow through the enrollement to make it as fast and simple as possible

MB: What do you perceive to be the greatest improvements from the new interface?

Carter: We do a combo of usuability studies in labs and montior actual useage and user sucess rates. We look at both and try to improve the overall process…this was the first refresh of the UI in a while and was intended to pick up high payback UI changes.

MB: There were a lot of complaints in the Maps groups over the past 10 days. What was up?

Carter: All things will be fixed very very soon and those things not yet fixed should be ok within days…we were not able to replicate the bulk upload problem. But all problems [with the new Local Business Center] should be reported into the Maps Group and we will take a look.

The Maps team read the posts about problems on the local blogs and in the groups but their heads were down. The Team fixing the problems were totally heads down…so no one was available to give answers in the group.

The main point is that even if we need to work on proactive communication, the team is paying attention…and will try to do better on the communication.

MB: Was there a change in listing policy? The Pin is now required on all single entries? What precipiated that change?

Carter: We are experimenting with how much verification vs. how much ease of use. There are variables as to when to prompt…in the past it had been too liberal, and is becoming more stringent. We are experimenting on the quality of the listings and spam…there is no hard yes or no answer to the correct structure.

MB: Will there be some accomodations to facilitate entry for agencies and such? Will there be something like a Trusted Partner status?

Carter: We are contemplating something like the letter of agency policy for cell phone companies…we are fleshing out the details. We are interested in coming up with a way to allow people with good intentions to do so…for both bulk uploads and multiple singles entries.

We initially are looking at it primarily geared toward primary sources…like a chain. How do we make it easier for the chaim to control the records even if there is conflicting info from a secondary data source?

The first step is for to us to provide simplified verfication for use by primary data providers like a national business or chains…whether it extends to other aggregators or agencies is in discussion.

We hope to have this available soon…less than a year and maybe as soon as a quarter. We are working through the process.

MB: Is there short term efforts to integrate analytics and adwords

Carter: What would you like to see with analytics? What should we do?

I am not on the ad word team…we do have joint discussions on how to make everything simpler…the auction concept is difficult and there are discussions on how to simplify and to maximize an ad campaign. But for now we will stay diedicated to getting basic listings up and running.

MB: Is there a plan to roll out the new Local Business Center interface to the international market? What is the time

Google Maps: More Mapspam, Again

Throughout May and early June there were reports of high volume bulk upload Mapspam for Earthlink, BigLocal and Computer Assistant. These listings were national in scope and often noted that the listing was Not a physical Location. Google apparently pulled down the publicly reported Mapspam.

A reader though, has pointed out that similar Mapspam is in the wild and in very large numbers in the Credit Card Processing world and TV Satellite (note the 20,446 hits on the query) installs:

dish-tv-mapspam
Continue reading

Maps getting squared away – bit by bit…

Google has been fixing many of the broken bits in Maps and responding positively to user input in the Maps Groups (thanks to Martijn for the alert).

One problem with the recent update was the inability to move a map marker after the LBC record had been updated. Today Maps Guide Jen noted:

Hi!
Thanks for this feedback. We didn’t think that the “edit incorrect marker
location” might still be necessary after verification, but you’ve given us
some clear evidence that it is. We’ll be adding this capability back in.
Thanks,
Jen

I previously noted that the Coupon issue had been fixed.

What are your experiences with other recently broken features?
• What features have been fixed that were broken by the new update?
• What is still broken?
• What should have been fixed in the LBC that doesn’t appear to have been?

Google acknowledges problems with Local Business Center

The Local Business Center has never been perfect but since being upgraded late last week, the complaints have been streaming into the Google Maps Business Owners Group and the Google Maps Troubleshooting Group. There have been problems with bulk uploading, coupons, image uploading, location pin adjustment and more in the new interface. Google Map’s Guides have been conspicuously absent from the groups.

Tonight Maps Guide Brian, ever the master of understatement, sent out this alert to Group members:

We understand some users are encountering system errors in the Local
Business Center. We’re working quickly to resolve these issues. Stay
tuned for an update!

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