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When Will Google Places Bail Out White Hat SEOs?

September 14th, 2011
21 Comments


A frustrated practitioner of bail bonds SEO laments about Google Places, Where Crooked Businesses Take Over:

“Here’s another great example of the wonder of Google Places and Google’s dealings with Local Search. Type in Google, “Santa Clarita Bail Bonds.” (this example could be done for many other keywords if you care to try) You will see in the number one spot in AdWords a listing that has the address, 23740 Magic Mountain Pkwy. This address is actually the Santa Clarita Jail. Anyone on the internet can find out that this is the jail address in about three clicks but Google can’t?

So I called my Google Adwords representative and told her about this. After an exchange on the phone and several “confirm” emails, you can see the listing is still there, representing an address that they not only don’t reside at, but are also misrepresenting the Jail as their bail bonds office. While I was on the phone with my AdWords representative, I said, “can you do me a favor, can you type in, Santa Clarita Bail Bonds, and see the first listing in the AdWords, next, in another window, type in Santa Clarita Sheriff Station. Do you notice that are using the official jail as their address?” The AdWords rep responded, “oh, that’s not supposed to happen.” Really?  This was more than six months ago and today, 9-14-11, nothing has changed.”


Tags: Google Maps · Google Place Pages · Google Place Search · Uncategorized

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave Oremland // Sep 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Nice article and reference, Andrew. Thoughtful piece by the writer.

    Unfortunately Google Places or maps.google.com is very easy to spam. Its a spammers heaven, or a wide open door for local black hatters. Also unfortunately google highlights this weakness in the local algos by inserting Maps/Places results in the main organic results.

    I’ve been around long enough to see google’s engineers do some great things in fighting spam within organic google. Unfortunately they aren’t keeping pace in maps.google.com. On top of that they don’t communicate with businesses. Its deeply frustrating.

    Lets just hope and pray the local spammers/blackhatters don’t start messing with results for delis.

  • 2 Andrew Shotland // Sep 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    That would take huge balls Dave. Huge.

  • 3 graig // Sep 15, 2011 at 5:56 am

    great post andrew, i can certainly tell you that the black hat ways will be around always, but in fact good SEO can combat that. if you focus on links, citation, and good keywords you’ll be fine. focusing on what you can control.

  • 4 Dave Oremland // Sep 15, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Andrew:

    Whack that guy above me…then whack this post so other spammers don’t know how easy it is to add crappy stuff!!! (not that something this simplistic will work)

  • 5 Kris // Sep 15, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Maybe the Sherif should claim their spot on Google places! But they have little incentive because there is no shortage of clients! In fact business is booming.

  • 6 bail bonds los angeles (aka "El Spammer") // Sep 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Hi there and thanks for this interesting and important post.

  • 7 Chris // Sep 16, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Hilarity! que the spamming bot for one of the competitors for bail bondsmen.

    Classic

  • 8 Matthew Egan // Sep 16, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Please for the love of God don’t remove that spam comment, that is too funny.

    If only it was for the Santa Clarita company, the circle would then be complete!

  • 9 Austin // Sep 19, 2011 at 6:42 am

    You think that is bad? What till they start filling out multiple places pages for you or your client with bad addresses and information. We have aclient who had 5 different Places pages created by someone else all with erroneous information. Took 5 months to get them all deleted and we still don’t rank yet for the real page.

  • 10 David // Sep 20, 2011 at 2:29 am

    This is really a problem, hopefully the big g has a fix in store that doesn’t wrongfully punish some real business…

  • 11 Carol Lee // Sep 20, 2011 at 11:41 am

    The Internet and Google in particular is filled with incorrect information. We purchased a list to fill in gaps in gathering Name, Address, and Phone #s. When we saw a conflict in data we turned to Google to verify accurate data. That was a mistake – of the 200 listings that I researched today I discovered that for every one in ten chiropractors we contacted (or attempted to) by using Google Search results, we found incorrect, incomplete or out dated information. In many instances, the same business is listed several times with different addresses and phone #s. One chiropractor that we called told us that because of data in Google Places and Natural Results, patients are directed to an OB/GYN’s office and not a chiropractor. You can imagine the shock of a 50 year old man walking in to an office of expectant mothers for his “back adjustment”. We have another example of a poor woman who went for cataract surgery at a podiatrist’s office.
    We have always tried to stay both “white” hat and to verify address information, but it certainly is a pervasive problem. Thanks again for your post, but unfortunately I agree with some of your previous posts that black hat marketing and incorrect data is a problem we have to live with. If Google and other Search Engines don’t correct the problem their reputation as a trusted source will be jeopardized.

  • 12 Todd // Oct 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    It’s sad that Google isn’t doing more to combat spam in Google Local and Maps results. So much for their fancy algorithms and dancing pandas. There are now at least a dozen big agencies doing the following to hijack Google Local results-
    -leasing local phone #’s in every market
    -using GEO + keyword as company name in Local profile
    -using inner page of competitors domain as their own when “claiming” page
    -creating false address, though strategically at city center
    Then selling leads back to them. Its happening with landscaping, office space, plumbers, locksmiths, karate studios, etc.

  • 13 Kris // Oct 2, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I just ran into a competitor spamming Places to high heaven, as mom says. I googled the name of the company and one of the cities we do business in and low and behold a whole series of imaginary locations each with a product-city.info domain name.when we know for a fact that they just have one locattion.
    Do you send email to Google for this? It certainly is not a fair business practice. Or do I tell my client we should do this too. He is worried that Places will end up like Craig’s List: a good market for advertising services destroyed by spam.

  • 14 Todd // Oct 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I’m think I’m going to out this company by writing a blog post entitled “How to Hijack Google Places”.

    Do you think it will be popular?

  • 15 Gyi Tsakalakis // Oct 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Seems like Places is having a hard enough time solving bugs, let alone, combating spammers…

  • 16 How to Use Google Places For Local Business Marketing — Your Online Marketing Blueprint for Your Business // Oct 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    [...] Maximize Return, Minimize CostLocal business marketing can be challenging; especially if you don't h…keting and start looking for tips to help you make an effective website and drive traffic to it. There are tons of ways to drive traffic to your site and if you've done any research about online marketing strategy at all, you've seen that very few of the experts truly know anything about local business marketing. All of their tactics work well if your business is primarily online but need lots of modification to apply them to your offline local business.Google Changes from Local Business Center to Google PlacesBut one tactic that works better for local businesses than online businesses is Google Places or Google Local Business Center. Google has renamed their Local Business Center and added several new features within the last month to make this an even more attractive option. By claiming your listing and making sure all your information is correct, you can make sure your listing shows in Google's local listings every time someone searches for your product or service in your area.Google Places has an improved customer help center compared to the local business center. This help center includes updated guides, more ways to contact Google if you're having problems, and information on all the new features. They've also added a help forum with designated "Top Contributors" that are able to answer your questions if you get stuck. At least that's what Google says…we'll have to see how it actually plays out in practice. In addition, they're offering improved training through more webinars. Now, if the past is any indication, the webinars will be mostly Power Point presentations with narration and no opportunity for interaction. But they also usually provide some great insights to local business marketing on Google if you have the time to attend or listen to the recordings.Listing Local Businesses Hasn't Changed…MuchThe basics of getting your company listed and working your way to the top of Google's local listings haven't changed. You still need to go into Google Places and claim your business (if it's already listed) or set it up if it isn't.When you set it up, remember that local business marketing success is…as they say in real estate…about three things:Location Location LocationAs you're entering information into your Google Places local business profile, always think about how you can add location specific information to your listing. For example, in your business name, you could add your town's name like this: Taylor's Dry Cleaning – Wichita's Leading 1 Hour Dry Cleaner.One of the new features in Google Places is an easier way for you to list the areas your serve. This will help, especially in larger cities or more competitive markets. By listing the names of the neighborhoods, subdivisions, and even zip codes you want to target, your listing will stand out above the other local businesses that haven't taken the time to update their Google local listings.At the end of the day, local search engine marketing is one of the most straight forward and cost effective ways to market a local business. By taking the time to set your listing up properly at Google first and then moving on to the other local search engines (Bing and Yahoo!), you'll help insure your customers find you when they look…then you just have to turn them into buyers when they call or visit. But you do that every day anyway, right? [...]

  • 17 Google Places Hater // Oct 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Google places is like the bane of my existence for other reasons. I been trying to kill a duplicate listing for months and I’m sure it’s killing my results. It’s difficult to see how to rank for it except for being near the city center which seems after looking at it to be of uber importance.

    What do you expect as to accuracy. Google has out and out said that they don’t evaluate the accuracy of information. Sure they’ll crack done on something really blatant with an obvious footprint if it’s reported in the NYT.

    Honestly, they really should be charging for google places placement and verifying if it’s a real local business. Just like the yellowpages which I doubt would allow a BK lead service to advertise as a BK firm and resell the leads. If Google ever loses it’s position at #1 it’s going to be because a search engine actually takes responsibility for generating quality content. (mahalo was a good concept but then they went and crowd sourced it).

  • 18 Robin Sandoval // Dec 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    All I can say is, thank you Andrew Shotland! How perfect an example for my bail business which is located in Santa Clarita. This was so well articulated, I was taken aback as my mouth hung open while reading your post! My husband and I opened up our bail agency in Santa Clarita, CA., aptly named, “SCV Bail Bonds.” The SCV stands for Santa Clarita Valley because our office is actually located, (you guessed it) right here in Santa Clarita. We are active community members, Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce members, etc., etc., But no matter how hard we’ve tried to understand this Google issue, we cannot tell you how livid it makes us that Google does not see the erroneous addresses that other bail companies can use to get themselves placed at the top of the organic rankings. Yes, when someone types Santa Clarita Bail Bonds into Google search, we do come up, albeit, we are down the list. We deserve to be at or near the top. We can actually arrive to our local Santa Clarita jail in just minutes, anytime of the day or night. The agency(s) that list their address at 23740 Magic Mountain Pkwy. (which is actually the jail and not a bail bond office as you mentioned), are being placed by Google in the “A” position, along with the map! This is so egregious, but what can we do? It’s a David and Goliath issue. We will continue to forge ahead and provide good, ol’ fashion service to the community members of Santa Clarita. What folks don’t know is they may not be calling someone who is sitting at or near the jail in Santa Clarita, but is located further out in Los Angeles, San Fernando valley or otherwise. If there’s any traffic on the 5, 101, 14, 170, 134, or 210 fwys., when they wish their loved one released quickly. . . well, you get the picture. They’ll have to wait much longer.

  • 19 Rob // Feb 12, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Trying to correct Google Places listings has been an incredible pain and unproductive effort for us as well. So many incorrect and spam entries, and even when we’ve received emails from Google saying they’ve been reviewed and corrected, nada.

  • 20 Daryl Osswald // Mar 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    ANDREW!!!! I figured out how to fix Google Places!!! I wrote another article if you want to check it out. If you just want to read the article and not post the link here I don’t mind, not interested in the link juice. btw, if you know a good app builder, we can get rich off of this idea. Hope to hear from you.

    http://www.vannuysnewspress.com/blog/2012/03/01/how-i-can-fix-google-places/

  • 21 Henry Hernandez // Apr 18, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Wow. It’s funny and frustrating all at the same time.

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