Google Maps 7-Pack Result
If you take a look at the image above at a Google Maps result you will find listings for 4 companies that don’t really exist, at least not with that name or at the address listed. I called and asked if they were licensed, they said no. All 4 phone numbers were answered by a person whose voice sounded remarkably similar to the others. The address doesn’t exist; And they dominate the search result for Garage Doors Danbury CT.

What’s amazing is that similar listings dominate the Maps’ search results for this query in the cities that surround Danbury as well; Plus hundreds of cities in Connecticut, New Jersey, California and their now moving into Pennsylvania.

With location being such an important factor how could a company rank in the Local 7-pack in so many cities across the country. Here’s how it works.

1. Set up a listing in Google Maps at an address that does not currently exist. For example, where there is a 60 Main St., Anytown and a 64 Main St, Anytown and these represent real addresses. Set up your listing at 62 Main St.

2. Name your business USKeyword-City, or Keyword-Pro-city or Ficticious name of person plus keyword for the personal touch.

3. Build citations to your listing. These listings contain citations from Yahoo Local, Hotfrog, Guidespot, local.newstimelive.com.

4. Create a blog on one of the sites for the purpose of creating a perfect citation for thousands of listings.

5. Link build

6. Give your new listing a sparkling review

7. Now find an adjacent town and repeat. Again and again and again again.

A search in Hotfrog for Overhead Garage Door CT turned up 88 separate listings belonging to this ring.

A search in Yahoo local for garage doors in Danbury returns their listings 16 times out of the first 30 results.

In Google Maps they take 4 spots in the Lucky 7-pack, and in the Other Places You Might Like on their Places Page their other listings show up as your only choices. Dominant.

Why Does It Work?

Because location is such a big part of the ranking algorithm in Maps the key to their success is the fact that they have a “location” in each of the cities.

They are obviously creating new listings which Google will allow you to verify by phone most of the time. Theoretically, they could be using the bulk upload system. I don’t use the bulk upload system so I’m not sure whether that’s possible or not. If you are… please let us know in the comments.

Once established, these “locations” need only trust to start ranking in Google Maps. This trust is established with citations and backlinks. As mentioned earlier they have only a few citations on each listing, so it got me wondering… Does it help that they use made up addresses?

Addresses that have never pointed at any other listing or place on the web? Is that why they chose a non-existent address, rather than a business park or an office building like many spammers of the past? Is their a sort of “citation-certainty” in the algorithm that takes into account not only the volume of citations but the percentage that point at a single listing.

Perhaps an 11th extreme local search optimization technique: New Construction.

 

51 Responses to Dominating Google Maps- The Most Effective Spam Ever And What You Can Learn From It

  1. Chris says:

    I like this example (always like looking at spam).

    Your suggestion of “citation-certainty” being a part of the algorithm sounds pretty right to me.

    I also thought the websites themselves might play a role. Looking further down on the search page, one of the spam sites, Garagedoorsus.com, is listed 4th in the regular (non-7 pack) results. The website (and all the other spam sites), contains many pages, each supposedly a garage door company in a different city.

    The sites all have a reasonable number of links, probably more than any garage door company in Danbury, and between all the different locations must have hundreds of citations from around the area.

    I’m a bit skeptical that this might be the case, but could Google be thinking these are large, multi-location businesses, and allowing trust to be shared some way between locations?

  2. David Mihm says:

    Tim,

    Good recap of why spam is working these days. It’s unfortunate but I’m not sure that Google would ever be able to verify against a USPS mailing list, or something, that only includes legitimate addresses. If you build enough citations via the major data providers and IYPs, I guess you enter a realm of quasi-wikiality where you are creating your own location reality.

    The best thing Google could do to combat this, in my opinion, is get the word out to all the LEGITIMATE garage door opening companies to verify their own profiles and beef up their SEO. Getting the word out to SMBs is harder than I expected, though, given our experience with Local U.

    At any rate, and excellent post.

  3. earlpearl says:

    Real nice write up Tim. Tx

  4. Interesting Analysis Chris. It sounds like your suggesting that Google is passing trust on to this domain in the manner it may use to evaluate to a franchise.

    David, I like the use of the phrase quasi-wikiality with citations. That really encapsulates what their doing. I would’ve thought Google would be better at this for goodness sakes. When I use the their GPS on my Droid, and arrive home, the picture of my house differs if I arrive from the east or the west. I would’ve thought they could tell if it exists at all!

  5. Jim Rudnick says:

    Wow…this post is great! I love the fact that you point out not only the “how” of such a spam campaign, but that I also checked and yup, Google reports the same listings….

    Will be back for more on a regular basis!

    :-)

    Jim

  6. David says:

    Nice sounds fairly easy for others to copy for other industries. The point about picking a new location is they are mostly always approved without much fuss…

  7. Christy Maniyattu says:

    This post is pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing.
    I think its good time for garage and the like companies to start SEO for their business.

  8. Joydeep Deb says:

    Hi Tim,

    Does this requires any location based snippet?

    Geo-targeting snippet.

  9. Thanks Jim….

    David, I agree. I am wondering if they also got an unexpected benefit from it- as in more trust!

    Joydeep Deb, I’m not sure when you say location based snippet. But for these I think it is the combination of location with a blend of citations for trust.

  10. Micah Heath says:

    Hey David, what if Google just ACTUALLY hired some people to remove all the listings that concerned citizens such as myself take the time to flag for spam? I read an article saying they have 62 billion dollars in just cash laying around, and that they can’t find enough things to spend (invest) it on… Here is an idea, spend it on one of your products that shows up in search results 20 million times a month or at least on some customer service for Google maps/Place Pages. I report people who spam Google maps everyday, some of them I have reported well over 20 times, and yet nothing happens! It just seems to me that if Google continues to let this happen, people are going to stop using/trusting the info they find on there, which is going to kill the local business’s that this product is doing wonders for! Local search is my life and my passion, I’m just really surprised that Google is letting such an amazing service get dragged through the mud, and I am fearful that it is only going to get worse…

  11. Tim,

    Good post, but obviously I wouldn’t recommend creating multiple listings for your company unless you have a valid reason (like you actually have multiple locations…)

    I’ve been racking my brain on local search maps for the past few months and I’ve come to the conclusion that for many industries (typically the less searched ones), you can spam without repercussion. Only caveat I’ve seen across all industries is that listings with citations ALWAYS beat out those without.

    Case in point: I have a previous client in south florida showing up in 4 out of the 7 spots (the first 3 have reviews)- the ONLY thing different in his listing is variance in the description, categories, and hours. The title is EXACTLY the same for each listing, as is the address and phone number. Of course I’m not going to tell you who it is, but it’s not a high volume search query;i.e. less than 200-300 visits a mo. in this area. There are however, about 100 sites competing organically.

    He hired me to get him on maps, got tired of waiting for 2 weeks for his listing to show up (sheesh), so he went ahead and created 3 more listings – against my advice.

    Whatever. I got paid regardless, and I’m sure eventually he’ll get popped but for now he’s living large.

  12. [...] Tim Coleman/Convert Offline: Dominating Google Maps- The Most Effective Spam Ever And What You Can Learn From It [...]

  13. [...] Tim Coleman/Convert Offline: Dominating Google Maps- The Most Effective Spam Ever And What You Can Learn From It [...]

  14. Aaron says:

    Good info to know. I would never recommend anyone to do this, as google will catch on eventually and could end up penalizing your website. It is good to know there are people out there doing it though, so we can find ways to thwart their efforts and get real reviews and real citations that are better than theirs :)

  15. Sebastian says:

    Using the Bulk-Upload is just perfect to make spamming on Google Maps/ Places as easy as you described above…

    After using the Bulk-Upload Tool you’ll have to verify yourself only once using this link: http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/request.py?hl=en&contact_type=feeds_verify

    After that, all the listings you’ve created are now “verified listings”, which is crucial for a good google maps rankings…

  16. Cindy says:

    Excellent info. Thanks

  17. I think I’d get so confused I’d just click on the SearsGarageDoors Link in the Sponsored Listings. Maybe that is the secret plan.

  18. matt says:

    google is doing nothing at all to stop this, in Phoenix, glendale, scottsdale, mesa, and peoria Arizona for over 2 years there has been a home based one man computer repair “shop” who has over 20 fake listings all over the area all using these tactics. I along with other people have been reporting the fake sites by the report a problem button and the google maps spam form for over 2 years. Not one answer or anything done!! I finally emailed Mike Blumenthal of “understanding google maps” and he forwarded my pages of evidence and even photos of fake or vacant shops to google, google removed like 10 of the 20 offenders, and that was it, since then, 20 or so more have shown up, heck hes got 5-6 listings at one residential address and 3-4 are in the top five, hes got top billing for every computer repair search!!!! Tons of emails and reports for 2 years…..wake up google!!!!!!!!

  19. [...] is rampant throughout the service.  But I still see plenty of it – check out Tim Coleman’s analysis of “new construction” as one of the killer local search ranking [...]

  20. ken anderson says:

    i have been researching google maps and google places for about one year. I do local seo work for small to medium sized companies from coast to coast. I have become quite good at it and i am thinking about creating a course. I have had great success at creating the one box (where the clients company is the only business listed). i have done testing and i do not compete against existing businesses…so i do not consider myself a spammer. I get the top spot and then i take it down…for testing purposes to be more effective for the customers i work with. now here is one of my tests and i will leave it up for a while so everyone can see it. Do a google search for edmonton hotel rates. Google places does not depend on citations , backlinks, pinging or any other seo methods. once you know the trick you rank for almost any term or search phrase you like…it is quite simple. i am almost afraid to release the training in fear that the spammers will get the course and destroy almost every legit listing…not sure what to do?

    ken

  21. It’s a shame that google (matt cutts) spends so much time ridding their results of spam, and then they let these spammy local results occupy the #1 spot.

    seems very self defeating

  22. I see your point about the call to action, but I would suggest that a lack of options is sometimes a sufficient enough call to action (depending on the site of course).

  23. Great article for sure! It is amazing what people will come up with LOL …

    Ken Anderson – OK … you can’t just throw something like that out there and leave no way to contact you LOL … you’re KILLING me! ;) *huGs*

  24. [...] is rampant throughout the service.  But I still see plenty of it – check out Tim Coleman’s analysis of “new construction” as one of the killer local search ranking [...]

  25. This is a great post on blackhat google map listings. Thanks for sharing the technique

  26. zeitgest spam says:

    as a professional spammer i disagree to the post title “The Most Effective Spam Ever”. what you need to realize is that for the long run the only effective spam is the one nobody recognize as spam!
    “the devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist”

  27. This is a really good post, and very informative, problem was when trying to register multiple address google wouldnt allow this and required account activation via post .

  28. Pat says:

    Point well taken. I have likewise complained about a business that has been spamming the Google Local/Places for the past 6 months. I have reported them for the past 6 months – at least 30 times. But they keep getting more and more listings in “mortgage broker” Google Places for my town AND many surrounding towns. They have knocked other legitimate brokers off the list.

    If you Google “Mortgage Broker Princeton NJ” you’ll see a business called “O Guide Me.” They are some kind of coupon shop with no financial focus at all. The site hasn’t been up for months and the phone numbers are all disconnected. There are several location addresses that appear to be in shopping plazas. If you google “Mortgage Broker Somerset NJ” they have 2 of the Places taken. Just 2 weeks ago, they had only one Place in Somerset.

    I complained to Google about their category listing, but nothing is done.

    It boggles my mind how Google can let something so obvious to continue and get even worse. If the spammers can con Google this easily and our complaints do nothing, then yes, confidence in Google is very much eroded. Apparently, even under the “new” Google, it is possible to get a Places listing under any category you want regardless what your business is.

    Very annoying.

  29. ill give it a try, dont think my customers would be happy but its worth investigating this technique.

  30. [...] route – or just get spammy with a bunch of fake offices and business names, as a look at the garbage in some results shows that can clearly work for a [...]

  31. Great post, but I have to tell you not only the maps are spammed but also if you type “movies” which is a pretty popular and expensive keyword the whole first page comes with sites with spam. Not sure why google is overlooking at these.

  32. Use Google Map for protecting spam ?
    Never hear

  33. Innes says:

    This is really very annoying to see. At the same time, as clever as people may think they may be, its not wise as google will bite you for doing this! I have seen tradesmen do this and create false addresses.

  34. This is really cool site here.

  35. Spam is a terrible thing. Spam is never clever. Sooner or later Google will catch on and remove your website from their index. Do it right.

  36. Carports says:

    i wish this still worked! I would be in heaven!!

  37. Great post, but I have to tell you not only the maps are spammed but also if you type “movies” which is a pretty popular and expensive keyword the whole first page comes with sites with spam. Not sure why google is overlooking at these.

  38. With Google emphasizing freshness, it is impossible to get to the top these days through spamming and the sort. Besides doing it right the first time is always the best policy.Be smart.

  39. Chelsea says:

    After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the
    -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from
    now on every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from
    that service? Thank you!

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