Over at Mike Blumenthal’s blog, he’s been talking about cases of measles (massive map spam shown in tiny red dots) occurring in the locksmith industry. I was all set to help show how many of those phony locksmiths make their way into Google’s Maps through remote call forwarding (RCF) purchases and Yellow Pages business listings. Add in phony addresses for extra measure and viola!, you can see where the measles come from all within a few blocks up and down my street.
Note not a single locksmith actually exists at those highlighted locations. Multiply that by the rest of the streets in our town, and it’s no wonder there are hundreds of phony locksmiths listed here and tens of thousands everywhere else.
While the ultimate blame lies with the businesses who willingly providing false information to deceive consumers about their actual locations, the cloaking behind RCF numbers – which are then picked up by data providers like the Yellow Pages publishers, assigned zip codes (if no street addressees are provided), and then treated as trusted local businesses by Google – makes their entre’ into Maps easy.
This week, local florist and flowers listings came down with a big case of the measles and the infections were most apparent in small towns across the US, like Morrow, GA where the phony florist listings take up 7 spots in the Google Ten Pack.
Mark McFall of Florist SEO Watch also blogged about the affect of this map spam on listings in small towns in California. .
The spam was reported in the Google Maps Forum, but the magnitude may not have been apparent at the time since the spammers have managed to add more than 30,000 listings across the US:
Flowers By Grower – 2,325 listings
Florist Concierge - 20,984 listings
Florist Telesales Directory - 5,502 listings
Few if any of the listings show any authority citations at all, and those that do overwhelmingly show an IYP. Some listings – with zero authority citations – even manage to show up in a One Box.
All the listings I tested in California were found only in YellowBook.com, including this one:
Others from the Eastern and Midwest sections of the US showed up only in YellowPages.com or Superpages.com – but all calls to those thousands of unique phone numbers lead to just one company – ‘Florist Concierge’- a Teleflora affiliate reseller whose website and main phone number are aligned with another company – Nationwide411.com.
Nationwide411.com purports to operate a pay-per-call service using remote call forwarding. They also own a florist ‘directory’, nationwidefloristdirectory.com which lists every single local flower shop’s phone number as Florist Concierge’s number – 800-650-5058. Spiffy.
The Google Maps team is going to have to continue to play whack-a-mole with these measles outbreaks in flowers, locksmiths, carpet cleaners, movers and other local business sectors as long as IYPs continue to geo-tag RCF numbers with zip codes – and as long as Google continues to trust that very bad data.
The alternative is to render Maps/Local business listings useless in those categories.
We local business owners are hoping Google Maps wins the battle since many of us have given up on the IYPs (and taken our ad dollars elsewhere in the process) for the very reasons discussed above.
Here’s also hoping Teleflora takes a long, hard look at the business practices of their affiliate reseller order gatherer. This kind of duping of consumers by a phony local florist is on par – actually worse than – the nasty talking boxed flowers in Teleflora’s Super Bowl Ad.