Google Maps: Cleaning up the Index

A number of weeks ago Google announced that they had closed one LBC security hole that allowed mapjackings, last week they indicated that they had closed yet another. Yesterday I highlighted a prominent mapjacking of The Plaza Hotel that Google almost immediately remedied. Kudos to Google for all these moves. But are they enough?

Today I was mapjack cruising and found this OneBox listing for the search phrase Locksmith in Detroit, MI:

Detroit Locksmith Hijacking

Google’s strategy to only remove high profile problems leaves these many, many polluted listings in the index affecting both users and businesses alike. Is it really fixed? Perhaps I am naive but when the plumbing breaks you don’t just seal the leak you clean up the mess from the broken sewage pipe.

I am confident that Pizza Papalis isn’t too happy about standing downhill from this particular pipe.

In a related story, Steve Hatcher, a local search marketer, was in Portland last week for SEMpdx SearchFest 09 and saw this Fox News report on the Portland nightly news detailing the Locksmith scam. It was noted in the video that the Google results led to a Pizza Parlor. An interesting tidbit was that these scam locksmiths will gain entry to anyone’s house on your behalf, not just yours.

Local Links of Interest

Twitter and UK newspaper websites – Robin Goad,  Hitwise UK.

Last week (w/e 14/03/09) was the 54th most visited website in the UK, up from 66th the week before. One consequence of Twitter rapid rise up the rankings is that the micro-blogging service has now overtaken most of the UK newspapers online. As the chart below illustrates, last week Twitter received more UK Internet visits than the homepages of the GuardianTimesSun and Telegraph. It also over took Google News UK. Of the main newspaper homepages, only the Daily Mail received more UK Internet visits than Twitter last week.

New AOL Chief Tim Armstrong is Big Champion of Local – Peter Krasilovsky, Local Onliner

Tim Armstrong, AOL’s new CEO, is a very big believer in local, with personal investments in a New York-area hyperlocal site (Patch) via his Polar Investments. Moreover, as head of sales for Google, he has frequently commented on his interests in developing local.

Computer Makers Prepare to Stake Bigger Claim in Phones – Ashlee Vance, NY Times

The computer industry has hit upon its Next Big Thing. It is called a phone.

The companies are also shifting gears because their technological feats of the last two decades — smaller laptops with faster chips to deliver snazzier graphics — no longer impress consumers, who increasingly find their three-year-old computers adequate for everyday tasks.

3G Phones Exposing Networks’ Last-Gen Technology – Matt Richtel, NY Times

Oh, the things modern mobile phones can do. They are music-playing, video-taking, direction-providing multimedia powerhouses. But many people have trouble getting them to perform their most basic functions, like making phone calls.

The underlying problem, industry analysts say, is the complex quilt of the nation’s wireless networks. The major mobile carriers have spent tens of billions of dollars on new voice and data networks that they advertise as superfast wireless express lanes. But analysts say these upgrades present major engineering challenges, and the networks often underperform.

Got Local Search Optimization? Start here! – Aleyda Solis, AleydaBlog

Aleyda has assembled a nice range of articles from the past 3 years of writings in Local Search and the summary provides a great starting point for someone who is just getting started in Local and wants to catch up.

The Plaza Hotel is Mapjacked

Update I am happy to note that The Plaza has been returned to its rightful glory as of this evening (3/16/09). Unfortunately the spammers domain still has 229 entries in the index across the US.

The Plaza Hotel in NYC has been an important, even iconic, location for events real and imagined in American life. It occupies a a storied place in the American narrative. Truman Capote hosted his acclaimed “Black & White Ball” in the Grand Ballroom in 1966. It has served as a backdrop for over 15 movies and TV shows including North by Northwest, the Sopranos, Home Alone and Crocodile Dundee.

It once again is playing a leading role in America’s newest drama…its business listing has been mapjacked by Locksmith’s, in the ongoing saqa of mapspam in Google Maps. When you search on The Plaza, NY NY this is what you see:

The hijacking of the Google Maps listing of the Plaza Listing was done by Locksmiths to achieve a high ranking on the phrase Locksmith NYC:


When you click through to the reviews via either listing this is what is presented:
Continue reading The Plaza Hotel is Mapjacked

Google Maps: Will More Fully Integrated User Created Content Generate Mapspam?

In the past I have written extensively about how Google was indexing KML & RSS files and integrating that information into Maps and why that made having your own kml information and geo sitemap important.

At the LatLong Blog, Google has announced that this user generated map content will now be more fully integrated with Maps results:

[W]e’ve recently taken yet another step on our quest to make Google Maps more user driven: fully blending user-created content into our search results.

Some of our more regular users may have noticed that we’d been sparingly doing this for a while now, occasionally surfacing results from KML, GeoRSS, or Wikipedia we crawl from the web, along with photos and videos we think would be useful – but now we’ve opened the floodgates! From now on, you can expect to see more higher quality user-created content to show up, often intermixed with our traditional results.

As examples of this integration google noted non mainstream searches that would not like have many IYP type entries like “falafel carts in nyc” and “bridge collapse in MN“. My own example would be “squirrels in Olean NY“.

It is conceivable to me that user generated content might offer a way to expand a business categories on the very long tail of local searches. Given the low volume of users currently inside of Maps (just how low you ask? well lets not go there…) compared to those seeing the 10Pack, this might not produce incredible immediate results. But Maps traffic is on the rise and the highlighting of this content might provide significant future benefit. 

This raises a number of questions:

1)Will these results be visibly integrated with businesses that have strong category presence now?
2)How will they rank this content? Will it use a similar system to the current maps ranking algo?
3)Will it start showing up in the Local 10-Pack?
4)Will spammers be able to use it to infiltrate traditional category rankings?
5)Will Google put spam guards in early on or will they wait until it is a tidal wave?

Blumenthal accused of Bad Humor: Pleads Guilty

Yesterday in my post making fun of Locksmith Hijackers picking inappropriate targets to hijack, I made a geeky Maps log joke that was so ludricous on all levels that I could not conceive of even one person taking it at face value…I was wrong both as to the potential humor and to the fact that not even one person could take it at face value…. it obviously was taken seriously by more than one person. To those folks I apologize.

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:


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:


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:


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?


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

Developing Knowledge about Local Search