• http://www.coinso.com Yam Regev

    As an insider, i can start with the bottom line- Google did some huge maneuvers in the last 11 months that actually blocked the mega spammers from bulk spamming their maps index.
    All the spam that you can see NOW across the nation is only the remains of a great spam empire(s) that once thrived in Google Maps Petri Dish.

    The days of uploading bulk spammy listings from your Places account, create 100s of accounts with 100s of listings, polluting the IYPs, 411, Local verticals, etc.. are gone. Today, to be a spammer in the past magnitudes that we used to see on Google Maps is not an option anymore.

    I don’t think that Google did it on initial purpose, but the sheer amount of info that they absorbed in the last 3.5 years from Locksmiths who revive the definition of “Wild (Wild) West” on top of Google Maps platform is what makes it safer today.

    I was forced to fight fire with fire & i got burned, although unveiling the spam techniques to Google with the huge help of Mike Blumenthal.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is spam in Google Maps & there will always be. But what Google is doing now to prevent it, is unprecedented, as far as i can see.

  • http://www.kristofcreative.com/why-i-twitter/ Kristof

    This type of spam is very serious and Google needs to squash it fast.

    I’ve experienced this first-hand. Late one night, I was traveling with my 7 y/o daughter when I accidentally locked my keys in the car. I used my iPhone to search for a local locksmith and located one a couple of miles away. I called the number and was told that a locksmith would be dispatched. 45 minutes later – nothing. I called again and was told they were on the way. 30 minutes later – nothing. When I called the third time, I was told the driver couldn’t find us so they had the diver call us directly. When the driver finally called, he told me that our location wasn’t on the map. Come to find out, the driver wasn’t even in the same state. He was in Texas and we were in Tennessee. It wasn’t until I called again that I discovered it was a call center and there wasn’t a locksmith “down the road” as indicated on the Google map. After almost two hours, I had to call the police to come help us.

    On the up side, I was in a well-lit church parking lot. But I could only imagine the safety concerns should this happen to someone in a dark and remote location.

    If you need a locksmith, my best tip is to simply call your local police (non-emergency number) and ask them to recommend a locksmith. They work with locksmiths all the time and can give you the name of a reliable locksmith that actually works in your area.

  • Matt McGee

    @Yam – excellent insight in your comment, thanks for sharing. I had wondered what you would think of the NYT article.

    @Kristof – terrific advice at the end there about getting a referral from the police. Shame the situation is so bad that it’s come to that.

  • http://www.coinso.com Yam Regev

    As @Kristof mentioned above, the big problem of this spam is it consequences:

    1. Missleading the customer about the Locksmith’s location. i know about situations that babies were accidentally locked inside a vehicle, the parent looked in his smartphone for a nearby locksmith, saw that there is one just “around the corner”, he walked there & nothing…. just imagine the horrible experience.

    2. most of those spammy companies are employing people without any US working permits, Locksmith license nor contractors license. So of course they are not paying taxes as well.

    3. Why is it so hard to fight those guys? If you are dominating the Local results & the PPC results and you are advertising yourself with ads & listings like “$0 Emergency Locksmith” “$15 Locksmith Services”, etc.. you’ll get tones of phone calls, but when the locksmith technician will finish the service he gave you, most likely that he’ll charge over $300 (like in the NYT article), this Bite & Switch technique is working great & this is the fuel of spam (Local & paid).

  • http://www.douglife.com Douglas Montgomery

    Quite an interesting article, and the comments double it’s value.

    As people deep in the industry, do you believe it’s effecting small towns similar to my market of 100K people or less?

    Although I’ve not been in the locksmith business as there is a local company dominating with some clever Scion XB’s wrapped with attractive designs( :D), I have had problems with attorneys, plumbers, and surprisingly enough home well repair.

    Is it safe to say Google is working on solutions across local business as a whole, and not just in the hot-to-trot trades like locksmithing?

  • http://www.coinso.com Yam Regev

    @Douglas
    Let’s take the Locksmith spam for instance; It’s not matter whether you are in the US or Canada- you can’t spam as before, as spam filters are triggered in those 2 countries (for instance). So whether you are in SF or in a small tow, as long as you are located within the US borders, you can’t mega spam Google.

    About your 2nd question, I guess that Google is fighting back & as i said implementing it spam filters in the hottest industries. But the problem here is what’s actually a hot industry? unfortunately, hot industries are only the one you can create a buzz for.. otherwise Google will not look at your direction!

    Anyhow, today Google has already come up with spam filters that are making a hard life for spammers not matter from which industry. You can’t hijack listings as before & in 90% of the cases, you’ll have to verify your listing by post card. Furthermore, from time to time Google’s reps are calling to random bizs & verifying the accuracy of their listings.

  • http://blog.glennf.com Glenn Fleishman

    The NY Times article and this account doesn’t mention the antidote (or one of them at least). I stopped using Google a few years ago for local referrals for the reasons mentioned. I switched to various things, but mostly use Yelp. If a business has at least a few reviews, it’s been a better gauge for me of the reliability of the firm than nearly anything else. I used to not be a Yelp fan. I thought the reviews were skewed, and results incomplete. But they’ve improved how they filter nonsense.

    We also are lucky enough in my neighborhood to have a mailing list (as many neighborhoods now do) and I rely on neighbors’ experience. It’s been also quite good.

    I think Google’s ability to deliver useful local content remains as poor now as it always have. Algorithms don’t beat people.

  • http://www.bfwebdesigners.com Sha Menz

    Ummm…talk about “can’t see the forest for the trees!”

    While all of this makes for a very interesting discussion, did anyone actually take a look at the website that is being killed by these spammers? If the term “emergency locksmith seattle” does not appear anywhere on the page, then it is unreasonable to expect that the site will appear in the SERPs for that search term, or did something change while I wasn’t looking?

  • http://dikaio.com Don

    Why do people act as if this doesn’t exist or make statements as if Google’s rectified their local listings dilemma. This type of spam is in just about every industry and the sad part about it is Google puts it front and center of all local search results … how can that be relevant. I’m sure Google’s taken steps to block the spam but that still doesn’t take into account simple things like merged listings from business in the same building … the local listing system is broken and for Google to make it a center piece of their results is mind-boggling.

  • http://www.coinso.com Yam Regev

    @Glenn Fleishman
    Using ‘neighborhoods references’ is a great tip for everyone here, no doubt!
    About Google Local results, i agree that their product “is not there yet”, but when looking on the past 4 years, you can see some big changes.
    Re Yelp, it’s not that differ from Google from my perspective. You can create there as many listings as you want & about the reviews… well check it out: We had a listing for a locksmith in San Diego (1.5 years ago) that other spammers keep inserting bad reviews. After we called to a Yelp rep, he told us- “upgrade your listing to a preferred one ($300/month) & all your bad reviews will be gone”. So we did & the reviews were indeed gone.
    Couple of months later, we got a real bad review into our preferred listing. 1 call to the rep, saying we think we want to stop the campaign -& the legit review was gone as well.

    @Sha Menz
    Now, when searching “emergency locksmith Seattle” 80% of the organic results are spammy companies (exclude the NYT article that hit the bottom of the 1st SERP & 1 more company). if you’ll click on the map & go to Google Maps you’ll see MUCH LESS spam than in the organic section & in the PPC section (which is polluted!!!).

    @dikaio
    Although merged problems aren’t spam, i got your point. i think that these days you can see less merged problems than ever. Today you have many other things like reviews that vanish, etc.. .

    As one that got kick in his face from Google 4 times, I’m feeling like Google’s protector over here. So don’t take me that way. The thing is that I’m in such a high friction with Google (& the whole Local arena) in the past 4 years, that i can see it evolved & get the impact of changes from close look.

  • http://www.smx.ph alfredopalconit

    I havent read any news about Bing fighting spam. Is there such a thing?

  • Matt McGee

    Yes, there is (was) such a thing. I wrote about locksmith spam on Bing on my personal blog some time ago:

    http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/locksmith-spam-on-bing-you-bet/2016/

    Google gets all of the attention because Google has the dominant market share. :-)

  • 007

    Dear Yam Regev,

    Reading you comments one would think you fighting spam to make the world a better place, but by simply running a quick google search I see that some of your major clients are locksmiths as well. An additional quick search for the actual locksmith companies you do work for will bring multiple results in the organic search, different domain names, different phone numbers, and very small lettering at the bottom by the footer – “We have no retail store, this address is where we receive our mail.”

    With all that said, I don’t have a problem with any of these practices – its fair competition, having more exposure means getting more business. Running a PPC campaign offering 0$ locksmith or $15 locksmith is fine too. But here is what’s not fine, accusing most of these locksmiths of giving shoddy work, being illegal and therefore not paying taxes, switch and bait, or that terrible story you mentioned about someone accidentally locking their baby in their car, checking their smartphone, seeing there is a locksmith just around the corner, walking over there and discovering there really isnt one there! – if you ask me, thats one irresponsible parent, or perhaps he should have scrolled all the way down to notice the fine print ;-)

    I think its just fine to work as a locksmith without having an actual store front, I’ve done it for years. Worked 24 hours a day out of my van. The people I helped get back in their homes and cars could care less if I had an actual address or store front. All they cared about was that I get there quickly and get them back inside. They didn’t care whether I had a nice logo printed on my van, or if I wore a nice work uniform with a company logo either. They cared about one thing and one thing only, get the job done.

    And then Google places shows up, all the veteran locksmiths in town are listed cause they have a physical storefront and I’m not. Most of the businesses listed at first are completely legit, but since they are storefronts and not mobile, they don’t offer emergency services which is what a lot of people are searching for. So should I not try to list my business only cause I don’t have a storefront?

    Another thing you mentioned earlier – “some of these calls are actually answered far away and then dispatched to someone local” – whats wrong with that? I sometimes call my cable company for technical support and reach someone in India.

    People should not be afraid to call a dispatch service, people should not be afraid to receive service from someone that doesn’t own a store. They should be concerned of the same exact things whether you’re a local based business or not and that would be your level of professionalism and integrity. Even if you’ve been local locksmith for decades and own a storefront, but you’re neither professional nor honest than that definitely doesn’t make you a better choice for the average joe that needs service.

    But please, I beg of you, do not pretend to be a saint and preach to others whats right and whats wrong. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to make ends meet and pay the bills.