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Google Mapspam Coming to a City Near You

May 3rd, 2008

Greg Sterling and a few others note of a new Interwebz spammer called biglocal.com on a Search Engine Land post.

Many have noticed local (map) results on Google when doing a local search query. If you do a common one such as “pizza in Minneapolis” you’ll see something like this.

Minneapolis Pizza

The above results are pretty slick and very relevant, appear above the natural results, and the algorithm is separate from the natural results as well.

Now you can do a search for “internet consulting in Minneapolis” and you find a bunch of fake ones from biglocal.com.

Big Local spam

Clever indeed, although it’s obviously search engine manipulation and will be deleted once Google finds out what’s going on. Some notes…

1) They’re not local to Minneapolis which is considered essential for Google in these results.

2) Everytime you call their number, you suddenly get a “Due to the high volume of calls, we cannot answer. Please try again later”. On a Saturday? Right. This is noted by others as well.

3) The domain is registered by proxy, which basically means you can’t find out who they are. Domains by proxy are primarily used by those who don’t want themselves to be known.

4) Their “about us” page leads you to a broken page and they don’t show a physical address on their contact page, or anywhere else on the site.

5) The listing addresses they use for themselves are fake. Not just in Minneapolis, but in Seattle, Los Angeles, and pretty much any city across the country.

Although it appears they want to be anonymous, they do have a SuperPages profile and a Yahoo Local listing complete with a five-star “review” and matching physical addresses and Salt Lake City local phone numbers.

It does seem strange that the phrase they’re targeting is “Internet consulting + YourCity”. So many more people search for terms such as “Internet marketing”, “Web marketing”, “Internet advertising”, or “search engine marketing”. The free WordTracker tool isn’t perfect, but see for yourself.

The person or people submitting their listings are pretty clever though, and apparently pretty horny as well. The first Minneapolis listing shows an address of 307 3rd St S. This is about a block from what Google considers the city center and is also arguably one of the main factors Google considers in their local (maps) algorithm.

If you do a “street view” map search, there is no such address, but 308 and 316 3rd St S. shows you none other than this.

Rick\'s Cabaret

That’s right folks. Rick’s Cabaret, a well-known gentleman’s club. Maybe this photo was taken in the morning and these two gentleman shown are waiting outside for the club to open?

In addition to Greg from Search Engine Land, others have written about this too including Mike from the Blumenthals blog, Stephen from I’mNotADoctor (I believe he was the first to find this), and Greg’s article was even Sphunn on Sphinn.

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21 Responses to “Google Mapspam Coming to a City Near You”

  1. Note that on the search local internet marketing minneapolis mn and on the term local marketing minneapolis mn and local marketing ny ny they also do well.

    Mike Blumenthal

    • Dave says:

      Mike,
      So my question is? Who can give me these results? There r so many co’s out there sayin they can do this n that. But who really can?

      Dave

  2. Paul says:

    Good point Mike.

    I’d be upset about this whole thing if the scam wasn’t so obvious. Hopefully it won’t take long for those results to disappear.

  3. One has to wonder what practices they employ on behalf of clients as well.

    Mike

  4. lynn davis says:

    I tried to contact the company and was told there would be a 627 sec hold and then it came back and stated that there would be a 787 hold time. How the hell did I get pushed back in the Q. I’m beginning to think scam.

  5. derek says:

    to me it looks like an internet consultant is mad his listing was pushed off the map, all that info shows is that they can do what they say………… i could be wrong though

  6. Paul Jahn says:

    Nah, the fake results only stayed there for a couple days. At least from this area anyway.

  7. Bucky says:

    Just got a call from these BigLocal.com clowns (aka clovers.com). The lady on the phone didn’t have a clue. Kept telling me that my site would be on the first 10 results guaranteed. Just to see her level of knowledge, I asked her if it was in the sponsored area in Google and said “what is their sponsored area called again… Ad something or other.” I hear her flipping through papers and studdering. I said “it’s ad something… adsponsor or something like that” and she said “yes that’s it” and then went on talking about how they are experts in… blah blah.

    Get ready folks. I heard at least a dozen telemarketers in the background. She guaranteed biglocal.com would get us in the top 10 results under 5 different words. I said “are you sure biglocal.com (aka clovers.com) can guarantee a top 10 listings?” And of course she said “Biglocal.com will get your in the top 10 guaranteed”.

    She is supposed to send me an email about BigLocal.com’s service and how they can guarantee a top 10 listing. By the way, I did a search in the local results in Salt Lake City Utah where biglocal.com (clovers.com) is supposedly headquartered and I didn’t see Big Local, Clovers, Biglocal.com or clovers.com in the local results or organic results under anything to do with biglocal.com, clovers.com or Salt Lake City web.

  8. [...] MapSpam in the Legal Marketing Community Google MapSpam has been around for awhile. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s manipulating [...]

  9. [...] seems very familiar to a different scam from the same geographical area months [...]

  10. Sam says:

    BigLocal garentees your business name in the top ten listing. Any one that bashes a company should take the time to read the terms and conditions the company provides and get the facts right.

  11. Paul Jahn says:

    Thank you Sam for the anonymous reply. Any input regarding the local search spam your company provides?

  12. Sam says:

    I look deeper into things than these other fools. That map u got on the top there is fake.

  13. Paul Jahn says:

    Maybe you’re on to something, Sam. The image you speak of was actually superimposed all slick like by the anonymous person standing in front of Rick’s Cabaret’s Gentleman’s Club (pic above).

    Unfortunately for him, the money I gave him to superimpose the picture was spent back at Rick’s within 10 minutes.

  14. What a strange coincident. I’m reading localmn with CNBC on in the background just now and they come on with a story about out of work wall streeters and one gal named Randy Newton who works at……..Ricks Gentleman’s club!! ….That’s freaky.

    BTW, Mastercard is getting my money back from the Big Local scammers.

    Paul……rotf!

    Sam…getting a little bitter about losing your scam income?

  15. Paul Jahn says:

    Hey, I was reading about that story online today. The woman got laid off from Morgan Stanley or something if I remember right?

    I’m glad you’re getting your money back.

    I’m reading that guarantee. You can actually go to Google Local Business Center yourself at http://www.google.com/local/add and most likely get the same result for free.

  16. Yeah One of those Brokerage houses.

    If my credit gets a ding I am getting a lawyer and will start an action. I should be able to get all their info as a result. If my lawyer says it’s ok, I will post it.

  17. Mark says:

    BigLocal is a scam.
    They promised 5 categores, got 4. Promised that it would reach a 30 mile radius, it was more like 3 miles. The rep sent me an e-mail saying there was no contract and no obligation to continue. The rep also promised (vebally) to waive the $99 initiation fee, which they didn’t
    I requested to drop the service since it was misrepresented. They continued to charge my credit card. I finaly had to cancel the credit card just to stop the charges. Now their collections department is harrassing me even though they owe me money in unathorized charges.
    They have only been in business a little over 2 years, and have over 20+ formal complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

    If my credit gets hit, there will be a lawsuit.

  18. mike says:

    I see a class action coming. Just sent in the paperwork to the credit card company for a fraud report. I too had to cancel my credit card at the banks urging.

  19. Paul Jahn says:

    Mark, Mike and others, this definitely saddens me. Over a year ago, I started this thread as kind of a joke without realizing they had a big selling force which apparently rips businesses off.

    I really hope you all get your money back. This kind of stuff gives the industry a bad name.

    I’ve mentioned it before, go to http://www.google.com/local/add and you can do the same for free.

  20. mike says:

    Thanks for the sentiment Paul.

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