23 April 09 Update : See also my Google Map Spam Update blog posting.
Google Maps is a powerful marketing tool for small businesses in the UK – but it is being hijacked by unscrupulous SEO companies in the UK.
Map spam is a black hat technique used that manoeuvres inappropriate listings to the top of the map listings results. The best known examples of map spam are the infamous Locksmiths of New York and it has also plagued other industries.
Here in the UK I’m seeing more and more examples of map spam. I’d like to discuss one example: the accommodation industry, targeting small businesses providing guest house, or bed and breakfast. This is a particularly despicable scam in that they are targeting a business sector that has one of lowest adoption rates of Internet technologies, and yet operates in one of the most competitive markets.
Google should hurry up and fix this problem. It has a special responsibility to provide trustworthy results to an unsuspecting audience. It has undertaken the role of developing a business directory, knocking services like Yell out of the picture. And now it is delivering results that are untrustworthy, and putting small businesses in the position that they feel they have no choice but to give in to the demands of these cowboys.
If you were to go and search for a bed and breakfast in Mablethorpe, you will find the top 10 Google Maps listings clogged up with 3 false listings, creating spam records that read “YOUR B&B can be HERE” – and offering to blackmail the owner of a genuine business that rightfully deserves to have that listing for free.
If you were then to go to Google Maps and search for his marketing strap line YOUR B&B can be HERE you’ll find these cowboys are operating around the whole of the UK, targeting everywhere from Glastonbury to Lincoln, Liverpool to Portsmouth. There are 9 pages of these results, and they are even spreading their tendrils into France.
It’s not just B&B’s – they are targeting estate agencies, dog trainers, limousine hire companies, perhaps even businesses like yours.
And finally, we can see a trail of damage they have left behind, selling these entries to unsuspecting small businesses, who no doubt will have their listing removed once Google pulls its finger out.