Improve Local Rankings by Removing Spammers

Do you know who Dan Austin is? He’s a MapMaker expert and an awesome rad dude! I think all Local SEOs should be aware of him and read everything he writes or that is written about him. He recently provided some amazing insight over on Mike Blumenthal’s blog that you MUST read: Google MapMaker Update Summary: One Database to Rule Them All. You should also read this interview Nyagoslav did with him back in February 2012.

I asked Dan some questions about finding and reporting spammers in the comments of Mike’s post and his responses need to be shared. First, let me explain why finding and reporting spammers is something you want to do…

Tactic: Finding and Reporting Spammers

It drives me nuts when I see spammy listings beating my clients in the local search results. I’m like this:

The worst part is that reporting them for spam seems to do diddly squat. Report all you want, but they’ll still continue to rank above your clients and you’ll continue to destroy cell phone after cell phone. It’s quite the aggravating (and expensive) cycle.

If Google would actually do something about it, then you could bump the spammers out, thus moving your clients up. A one position ranking increase for sending in a simple spam report is some pretty low-hanging fruit. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to put this tactic into practice… until now!

The Right Way to Report Places Spam

After reading Dan’s “guest post” on Mike’s blog, I knew he’d have some great insight on the best way to take out spammers. From the comments:

@Darren:

Maps Report a problem is irretrievably broken. Despite some assurances from the Local Spam PM, and months of waiting for some action, nothing has ever been done. I think Google hires a contractor who manages the GLE (Google Listing Editor) workforce, and the GLEs are endlessly incompetent. They call the business in question and ask them if they’re spam! Seriously! They do have a multi-point checklist, but they ignore that in favor of expediency, probably because Google wants high speed reviews, so the quality diminishes, and spam reports are ignored.

I would delete them directly in MM, which is the fastest. I wouldn’t bother with any info. in the comment section. The GLEs will ignore it anyway, and the Google Reviewers from MM (who, in my opinion, are the shining jewel of the GMM universe) know what spam is. The previous lead for the GR team out of India was extremely proficient and resourceful in verifying and removing spam. Now that SABs are available in MM, you can delete them directly from MM as well.

You’ll probably have to jump through the hoop at least twice, if the GRs don’t review it first. The GLEs will probably deny the deletion, so you’ll need to hit “I object” so a GR will come along and take a look at it, and then re-delete it yourself. Googlers are a bunch of data hoarders, and like to hold on to bad data no matter what.

The best time to delete is late at night, when the India GRs are working. Chances are, if you’re deleting a lot of spam, you’ll catch a GR wave. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait a few days for them to review your deletions.

This is a simplification of the whole process. There’s multiple bugs, tricks, procedures that makes it more efficient.

 

While I suspect Dan will chime in after Thanksgiving with more details on those bugs, tricks, and procedures, this information is already gold. Here’s a summary of the tips:

  • Don’t bother with “Report a Problem” in Maps or Google+Local.
  • Just “Delete” the listings directly in Google MapMaker.
  • Do it late at night when the Indian GR team is in the office.
  • Don’t bother being too verbose in the comments section. Simply leave it blank, or just enter “spam”. The GR team knows what to look for.

 

Types of Spam To Watch Out For

Great! We now have a method for getting the spammers removed, so, let’s outline exactly what constitutes spam. Here’s a short list I came up with. I’m sure there are other things, and if you suggest them in the comments I’d love to update this post with them.

  1. Altering the business name with industry or city keywords.
    Take a look at their website and their existing citations. Is that really their name, or have they added keywords for a ranking boost?
  2. Fake addresses.
    Examples include PO Boxes, Mailboxes Etc boxes, UPS Store boxes, parking lots, airports, the White House (seriously), roads that don’t exist, city parks, etc. Check out their address in map maker to see if it’s legit. Fake addresses are common in service area business.
  3. Moved Markers.
    They didn’t like the spot their actual business is located, so they moved their marker to a more desirable location. Simply compare the marker for the business with the marker you get when you search their address.
If you’d like to take your knowledge of Places spam and spammers to the next level, I highly recommend reading this post, also by Dan the man.

Monitoring Your Competitors in Map Maker

Alright! We know how to report these jerks, and we know what to look for. Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep tabs on the competition for spam signals? We can!

Dan mentioned that MapMaker allows you to track changes in your neighborhoods, including spammers. I wasn’t aware of this, so I asked him for more details. Here’s what he said:

@Darren, here’s a link: https://support.google.com/mapmaker/answer/2840884?hl=en&ref_topic=2819659

Quick tutorial:

*Decide on the areas you want to monitor. You can ‘make your own neighborhood’ (with boundaries), or you can enter in city, county, state, entire countries. You can track specific changes in multiple neighborhoods. I track the entire country when it comes to locksmith spam, but the sampling rate (how much of a particular change you’ll see in your neighborhood feeds) can vary.

*Then you add keywords (only one keyword per neighborhood). So, for example, if you’re tracking locksmiths, you would create one neighborhood each for lock, locksmith, key, safe, vault, etc. Skip the category search–it’s broken. Use lowercase words–I think this helps. Don’t use multiple words (for example, key lock safe for one neighborhood). Same goes for any business model you’re tracking, plumbers, bail bonds, lawyers, etc. Any changes occur will pop up in your neighborhood feeds. The more neighborhoods dedicated to specific keywords, the better your chances of surfacing what you’re looking for.

*Don’t turn on email notifications, unless you want to go crazy with constant, annoying pinging, or unless you’re tracking something very specific.

*Everytime you open MM, it opens to your neighborhoods feed, in the sidebar. Check in 1x or more a day to see what activity is occurring. You can also look through individual neighborhoods, or you can see them all, in aggregate. You can roll back through time, although it usually only goes back at most a few months or so, unless they’re pending edits from last year. (Yes, there are pending edits from last year.)

Why is this useful? If you’re tracking spam, it’s easy to vaporize it, because all the new spam in the sidebar is right there.

If you want to track all the general changes in a specific area, you can do that, as well. If you want to keep tabs on the competition, you can do that, as well. It might just be easier to check Maps/Google+, as that shows rankings (MM doesn’t), so your results will vary.

I think it keeps people honest, too, regardless of what profession. It’s just too easy and tempting to spam, because Google doesn’t care, none of their spam algorithms work anyway, and half of their reviewing workforce doesn’t adhere closely to guidelines or common sense.

 

I have tested this out and it looks like a really cool way to monitor your competition.

1) Log into mapmaker

2) Hit the dropdown and choose “Show Changes in My Nieghborhoods” > “Add Neighborhood”

 


3) Fill out the form, adding only a keyword, not a category (Dan says categories don’t work). Don’t bother with email alerts either unless you like getting drowned in email.


4) Log in and check out recent edits.

 

Drop in daily (or have your intern/outsourcer do it), to see if there is any spammy activity going on. Report those spammers and you’ll be helping your clients maintain their rankings as well as helping Google keep their database clean.

I’m pretty new to all this, so I’m sure there are details I have missed. If you have something to add, I’d love to learn from you in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! Today I give thanks for Dan Austin.

 

 

AUTHOR

Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren's passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

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0 comments on “Improve Local Rankings by Removing Spammers

  • Awesome summary Darren, and a big thanks to Dan.

    I’ve come across a couple of competitors who use mailboxes, and I had reported 2 of them. Months later nothing happened. This gives me now all the right information how to handle the situation. There were also several other keyword stuffers.

    Anyway besides this, one can still focus to grow with links from his loca community (websites).

    Regards,
    Jet

  • Dan is unbelievably great. Sort of the Robin Hood of spam fighting. This looks like tremendous info. Can’t wait to turn it up.!!! Nice article, Darrin!!! All great stuff!!!

  • Thanks for sharing Bro ! Dan has done so much on Google map to make it clean and free of spammers, He is so knowledgeable and knows what he is doing, I am a locksmith and i know how it is when you are facing 200 locksmith spammers in less than a mile away from your shop. but thanks to dan and his team for making it little bit harder for them to stand out on google map. Keep it up bro

  • Great ideas given in this article. I’d encourage people to use MapMaker for more than just this narrow scope as the tool itself is capable of far more. I’d also caution folks who are considering using MapMaker to be aware that using the tool is often much more complex than Dan makes it out to be.

    The benefit to using the report a problem link in Maps or +Local is that the “conversation” is one-sided. You report a problem and then someone else (folks like me and Dan in MapMaker) have the opportunity to review that edit. Often you’ll see the GRs and GLEs (if the listing is verified) step in, but often it’ll just be other MapMakers.

    In MapMaker, when you make edits you develop something called “trust” – the more edits and reviews you have approved, the higher your trust. For edits and reviews that get denied, your trust level drops. In addition, MapMaker keeps track of the types of edits you have denied and provides that detail to reviewers.

    All that is to say, don’t take the tool lightly and do your best to make positive contributions to the map. A great guiding principle is to make sure you’re always “adding detail” to the map. This can come in the form of removing erroneous listings, of course, but be cautious of just deleting things in general as more often than not simply removing a POI does not necessarily “add detail.”

  • I own a local service company and the spam is rampant. These guys pretty much dominate on yahoo local search. I’ve reported them, but nothing seems to bump them. Is there a way to handle this on yahoo?

  • The local result spam seems to be worse on Yahoo and Bing but happens on Google. Google has better controls over it. I think some people still don’t know how to contact the “local authorities” — although I’m aware this advanced SEO crowd mostly knows this . . .

    Just in case:

    For Google:
    Google places support can be contacted via phone but you have to hit the “contact me” button . . .Google immediately calls your number. Wait times can be long but getting better. Most hold times are less than five minutes now. The url is:

    https://support.google.com/places/search?hl=en&query=not+secure#

    For Bing:
    You have to hit the “report a problem” button the local listing and then click “chat now.” Bing has no phone support for Bing Places; however, the chat support can be VERY effective. They can be smart and effective at problem solving local listing issues including marking listings for escalation to engineering for deletion.

    For Yahoo:
    I’ve found the best strategy for contacting their local department is to call the sales line at Localworks (Yahoo’s upgraded local listing service). I have found these agents to be very helpful in local and map troubleshooting if they think there is a the slightest chance you might sign up for the upgraded service. The sales line number is 866-883-1043 and the webpage for it is http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/localworks

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