“Lead Generation” Map Spammers
In recent months, we have been hopeful that the new Google Local Business rules would bring about a change in the constant Spamming of the Map. Perhaps some of you have noticed a change for the good, but the majority of us haven’t seen any call to action. The same groups that were spamming the map last year are doing it this year.
The reason this subject is so irritating to us is the short suspension that we received for having just two locations that were uniquely verifiable. The one problem with our listing was that we had only one phone line at the time and relayed everything through it. Obviously those were harder days and we’ve moved up to a more sane business model. The point is that such a minuscule notion immediately got Google’s attention, but the spammer/scammers of the map have been able continue their actions seemingly unaffected.
There are a few theories why the spammer are able to stay under the radar. They study the new rules every time Google releases them and try to mask themselves as best as they can. Here are the most common ways that a spammer is going to attempt to spam the Google Map.
1.) Using the addresses of local contractors they are selling the aggregated leads to.
2.) Using the addresses of pre-existing businesses and hoping no one will notice. (for instance. search for the KFC 1015 Maple Avenue, Lisle, IL you’ll find more than one “business” there and only one building. It likely won’t surprise you that this additional “business” has locations at other surrounding area restaurants.)
3.) Having local telephone numbers that redirect to one switchboard that is usually just a phone bank for lead generation. They collect the calls and them sell them for profit to local contractors in you area. You know, the ones that can’t be seen on the map to begin with because these guys are listed on every single corner.
4.) The last, and probably most recognizable method of spamming the map comes from those companies that spam their own listings with positive comments. A great example of these is a fake company called Naperville SEO run by a guy that ran Mann Insurance. This guy used several fake locations, names and domains to set up multiple fake businesses that would loop SEO rewards back to his own site. he spamming was even that more obvious by how many of the comments were added on the same date. He obviously wasn’t fooling anyone.
The latest rules are supposedly made to aid in the removal of the spammers, but the results are mixed. Many of them have been reported repeatedly and it would appear that Google is, at best, slow to respond. The latest rules can be found here, but can be summarized in five basic points.
Here are the new listing rules and requirements from Google. Their original location is on the help forum here.
Business Listings in Local Business Center must have correct information about physical, local businesses, as they appear in the real world. Google reserves the right to suspend access to Local Business Center or to other Google Services to individuals or businesses violating these guidelines.
- Only business owners or authorized representatives may claim their business listings on Google Maps.
- Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. The name on Google Maps should match the business name, as should the address, phone number and website.
- Do not attempt to manipulate search results by adding extraneous keywords or a description of your business into the business name.
- Do not include phone numbers or URLs in the business name.
- Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist.
- PO Boxes do not count as physical locations.
- Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts.
- Businesses that operate in a service area as opposed to a single location should not create a listing for every city they service. Service area businesses should create one listing for the central office of the business only.
- Businesses with special services, such as law firms and doctors, should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties.
- The precise address for the business must be provided in place of broad city names or cross-streets.
- A property for rent is not considered a place of business. Please create one listing for the central office that processes the rentals.
URL & Phone
- Provide a phone number that connects to your individual business location as directly as possible. For example, you should provide an individual location phone number in place of a call center.
- Provide one URL that best identifies your individual business location.
- Do not provide phone numbers or URLs that redirect or ‘refer’ users to other landing pages or phone numbers other than those of the actual business.
Custom Attributes & Description
- Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. This type of content should never appear in your business’s title, address or category fields.
- Please see this page of the LBC User Guide for examples of acceptable custom attributes.
A great comparison chart on these new rules vs the old rules can be found here.
I understand that some are having a field day pointing out fellow small businesses that have made a mistake with registering their multiple locations. As I said, this was s short term stumbling block for us as well. The hard focus should likely be made on the lead generation groups that are constantly assaulting the map with more and more spam.
What if I’m being punished by Google?
Local businesses who have found exclusion from the map. There is hope! Write Google a letter in your local listing area. Let them know how sorry you are for violating the rules, ensure that all of your maps have been updated/erased to allow for only correct information, and make a solid commitment to not let it happen again. As long as your business is on the map at all there is hope, but make sure not to let it happen again. If multiple occurrences happen, it becomes more likely that Google will ban your business from the map completely and no one wishes for that outcome.
As for the large lead aggregators, I have no pity for them and hope that Google can find a way to track them all. Unfortunately, most of them immediately overhaul their domain and website and are up again within a week. One aspect that would likely help Google is to track the phone numbers being used by spammer businesses and require a letter, not phone verification whenever they are used again… just a thought Google. If you find one of these large groups who are obviously robbing the local business, feel free to turn them in here.
These guys claim they are helping local businesses get leads, but all they are doing is stealing the leads from them and then selling them back. The end result of this mess is that you and your local contractor pay for a service that was never needed.