Google

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.

Google Map Spam in the UK

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.

Map Spam Google

It’s not just B&B’s – they are targeting estate agencies, dog trainers, limousine hire companies, perhaps even businesses like yours.

google_map_spam1

You can report Google Map spam here.

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.

0 responses to “Google Map Spam in the UK”

  1. Hi Susan, this is a really interesting article. We’ve spotted this same tendency in our industry (translation services). Its particularly galling because having a post code of NG13, competitors based in Nottingham city centre tend to come up ahead of us in the map results. At one level you can’t argue with that, if people are looking for the convenience of a local service; but when the search results are map spam, its not very nice. There is a large UK translation agency doing a lot of black hat SEO and apparently getting away with it. Their way of coming up in local search is to add spurious business addresses to the Google index. I imagine this is quite expensive to do though, because their listings don’t look machine generated. Not sure I would have the time to report lots of their listings as spam, even though they deserve it. Cheers Mike

  2. Anon says:

    There is a company called CFM Entertainments, they are a competitor to my business, they have created a map listing for nearly every town in the country. If you searched for a mobile disco in say Lincolnshire, they would have about 4 entries in the top 10, eg sleaford, lincoln, spalding, horncastle etc..

    This means that 3 competing mobile disco’s are losing out in this search.

  3. Anon says:

    If a company lists its businesses in many different towns on google maps and is willing to carry out the work in each area then I dont see a problem with that. Its just agressive marketing and to be honest I just see a pro-active go ahead company who want to work in a large coverage area. Nothing more.

  4. Susan says:

    Google is quite explicit about the Business Listing Quality Guidelines:

    “Don’t participate in any behavior with the intention or result of listing your business more times than it exists. Service area businesses, for example, should not create a listing for every town they service. Likewise, law firms or doctors should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties.”

    http://maps.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=107528&hl=en

  5. Anon says:

    There is a company called Stardust Karaoke video disco also creating multiple google map listings in lincolnshire and leicestershire, infact there are many disco companies doing this, too many to mention here.

  6. john says:

    i know its a bit dated thread but a local company has over 10 lisitng in 1 city and has taken the majority of the top 10 results causing other business to lose out on work…this is unfair play an was wondering if any one had a direct email to google to report spam business plz reply to me at [email protected]

  7. I’m a Locksmith who operates on the outskirts of Edinburgh but cannot get listed bt at least 2 national spammers who occupy places in the 7 box listing. I have already reported one a few weeks back but they are still in the same place. After reading this I decided to report another 1 plus the one I had already reported. Lets hope Google will take action and get rid of these scubags who prevent local businesses from getting work in there own area.

    Chris
    Pentland Locksmiths

  8. I noticed the same thing for Accountants recently when working on SEO for a client, although in this case it was in the organic listings and not the small business (maps) listings.

  9. Paul Fillingham says:

    The practice of ‘map spam’ is a shocking abuse of genuine local services that goes against Google’s policy of relevancy. It’s been going on for too long and it’s high time Google did something to weed-out the offenders.

  10. karl says:

    Im in the drain cleaning industry and spent 2 days writing bad reviews, reporting to google. 2 months later, Nothing. Google has a duty to remove these listings but cant or wont.

  11. My Quad Bike says:

    Hi Everyone,

    We have been studying Google Local for some time now, and we have found a method which will help you get placement in the Google Local Mapping – should anyone wish to send me an email, go to my website and use the general email tab and I will do what I can to help.

    We are not a marketing company, but have now found this small helping hand which could at least give you some assistance in getting a listing placed on Google Local Business.

    Regards
    Darren

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