“Scary sabotage” not so scary after all.

Jay Holtslander

Scary sabotage warns Internet police! The CTV news story cried in its headline regarding Google Maps issues for businesses. A rather click-bait‘ey headline to be sure.

The Internet police? There’s no such thing (yet), but in this case, it’s a couple of members of Google’s Local Guides community which is free for any Google Maps user to join. Much like I did.

Let’s break it down

A full read of the article reveals that what the article is, in fact, talking about is two things.

  1. An overabundance of spam in Google’s map databases rather than an act of sabotage to a legitimate business’ listing. In other words, spam in the form of fake business listings designed to lead people to another business.
  2. Fake listings for businesses that do not exist at all but will take your money for reservations. These are scams.

With that in mind, you can see the real issue is Spam and Scams rather than sabotage directed at an existing Google My Business account. Let’s look closer.

Spam

Spam and fake listings are nothing new. Google has been trying to fight it for a very long time, but the spammers are very persistent and numerous.

Spammer’s motivations

Usually, the goal of spam listings is for increased exposure for real businesses.

If John Doe searched for “car injury lawyer vancouver”, saw a search result displaying a map point that’s one block away from him, for a business called “Vancouver’s Best Car Injury Lawyer

John is fairly likely to call them.

But if in reality, that business was actually Smith & Jones LLP (located in Surrey) John may not have found them. This is because one factor Google uses to rank business in search is based on physical location. Spammers know this, and they try to circumvent Google’s local search algorithms by being everywhere at once. This is against Google’s usage policies, and they could penalize a business heavily for doing it.

Creating fake businesses also allows spammers to Keyword stuff their business names. That is to put as many likely search terms into their business name as possible to increase the likelihood that their business will show up in a search.

Despite the fact that Google has tried to automatically detect spammers create fake businesses, they have not been successful on this front.

Keyword stuffed “business” name example

Map Spam

Scams

The other less common motivation for fake listings is for scams designed to steal money from searchers. As the CTV article referenced, some scammers create fake businesses that collect money for non-existent services (like a fake Hotel booking). This is a scam that preys upon naive or inexperienced searchers who might be less skeptical of paying hundreds of dollars through a shady and suspicious website. These are usually the same type of people who are likely to reply to a Nigerian prince’s email request for financial assistance.

The best defence for this is education and life experience. When performing a financial transaction online, people should always do their due diligence to determine if the business is legitimate and operational.

What we do for our clients

Having a complete Google My Business listing is essential for businesses in 2018 and would probably be the most important thing for a business owner to have second only to a website. Some might even debate that it’s even more of a priority than having a good website.

All Skunkworks clients have their firm’s Google My Business profile created, and their business claimed (verified) on behalf of the firm. This ensures that the information contained within is authoritative and not compiled from incorrect or scraped information by Google and/or other Internet users. We monitor Google Maps for potential competitor spam and monitor for vandalism to the businesses’ listing or critical reviews that may need a response on behalf of the firm. Also, we ensure our clients have the equivalent listings prepared for both Apple Maps and Bing Places.

Or:

Monthly Archives