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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Map’s spam fighting efforts- if graded?

My son just got his progress report in school and I am proud to say that he got very good grades. It wasn’t always that way, and in fact last year he spent most of the time either on restrictions or with extra chores. He has grown up a lot over the past 6 months and I have to give him credit. It seemed as if I was going to struggle with him for his whole high school career as he “lost” one homework assignment after the next or only “remembered” to finish half of the assignment. I guess there is hope for him after all. In fact more than hope. I am incredibly proud of him.

I am not so sanguine about Google’s chances in fighting mapspam. But it is that time of year so I thought I would offer up a grade.

The recent cases of florist and brand hijackings were some of the most egregious examples of spam that I had seen in a while. I wanted to review Google’s record in dealing with it.

Some 45 or so unsuspecting floral businesses and a number of other national chain locations had revenue diverted (stolen?) when their unclaimed listings were modified via community edits to redirect to an affiliate fulfillment house. One florist, in a large market that I spoke with, noted that his revenue was down 30% for the several weeks that he fell victim to the attack.

That is a large number and it had to hurt. He finally, with the help of Google, regained control of his listing, reappeared in the 10-Pack and all was good. Google, while not preventing the attack, did respond to his pleas in the group and elsewhere.

The trail of the hijackers though was quite clear. A few “community editors” did most of the dirty work of changing the florists, car rental agencies and hotels to their benefit. Google’s community edit system, while woefully insecure, does leave a large footprint. Without the right tools, it takes hours to ferret out the culprits, but their deeds are there for the world to see. With the right tools, it would have taken but a few minutes to track them down and delete their handiwork.

So in determining Google’s grade, with the help of some florists, I went back to review listings that were hijacked and determine their status. Google, for reasons only they know, has not changed many hijacked listings back to the original owners.

I would encourage you to view some of the profiles of the “editors” to see how widely their net was cast and how obvious it is that they were up to no good. Here is the list of florists whose listings were hijacked and remain so 5 weeks after they were widely reported:

Hijacked Location Community Editor Community Editor
Clara CA
lisajoneson Lorotolo
Newark amicisalon siusan90
Orlando Lorotolo
nickboster Lorotolo
Cleveland spaamici
Chicago sandersmike1 siusan90
Atlanta sandersmike1 siusan90
Brooklyn sandersmike1 siusan90
Dallas lenasdes siusan90
Houston pmwale siusan90
Portland siusan90
lenasdes siusan90

From where I sit, Google needs to do the same growing up that my son has. They need to not only make it more difficult to scam the local listing system, they need to be more thorough when responding to spam attacks. Removal of few high profile listings while leaving as many in the index is not a “grown up” strategy. The index needs to reflect reality, not the twisted mind of petty theives. Google, as they move toward adulthood, needs to recognize their responsibilities in this matter and live up them.

One, they need to do their homework, two they need to turn it in on time, three they need to stop relying on the likes of me, and others like me, to highlight the worst cases and four when they do find a case of spam, they need to go back and scrub the data not just remove the most visible of them.

My son, who is soon to be 14, has grown up. Its time for Google to grow up as well. Their grade? A big fat D. Not failing but not the star student that I had hoped they would be. Kids these days! But if my son is any indication, there may still be hope.