Locksmiths Local Spam Embarrases Google Maps

Jul 11, 2011 • 8:27 am | comments (11) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Maps

google maps locksmithsAnyone in the SEO industry, especially those that focus on local SEO, know that the locksmith category is one of the most heavily spammed keywords within Google Maps.

David Segal from the New York Times decided to publish an article on it over the weekend. It is named Picking the Lock of Google's Search although NY Times SEO'ed title tag for the story is "Lead Gen Sites Pose Challenge to Google - the Haggler."

The article tells a story around Bob Strom, a legitimate locksmith in the Seattle area who loses out to lead generation sites selling locksmith services to under qualified companies or individuals who rip off customers, at least according to the article. Who's at fault? Google?

You might assume that lead gen sites would be no competition for people like Bob Strom. But for a couple of years, in one crucial arena, they have been crushing him: Google search results. Last Tuesday, the Haggler typed "emergency locksmith Seattle" into a browser, and the top results - most notably, the seven that appeared in the highly coveted Google Places spots, which are marked on an area map - appeared to be lead gen sites. They have local addresses, but if you call and ask to visit, they demur.

Honestly, the locksmith problem on Google Maps has improved drastically from years ago. It isn't "good" yet, but it is better from where it was, in my opinion.

Google told the NY Times:

We're aware of the gaming practices happening in the locksmith industry - practices which long predate Google and have affected the Yellow Pages for decades. We've implemented several measures to combat this issue, including improving our spam-detection algorithms and working with the locksmith industry to find solutions.

Anyway, like Matt McGee said at Search Engine Land, "Although the Times' article doesn’t reveal anything new, local search watchers and, more importantly, real local locksmiths can hope that the added exposure compels Google to finally solve this long-running problem."

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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07/11/2011 07:14 pm

I'm really glad you posted this with the headline you chose. Hopefully Marissa Mayer will see it and act on it. It seems the only way to get Google to act on anything is to publicly embarrass them; and the NY Times is a great platform for that. I've been dealing with this issue for a long time; and until now I figured there was no hope. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel after all.......


07/11/2011 10:27 pm

I am a  locksmith in San Antonio, TX and want you to know that it is not just Google with the problem. Bing, Yahoo, Citysearch, YP.com, Superpages.com ALL have the problem. Legitimate, local locksmiths are constantly displaced by scamming websites. Fortunately my listing is high in Google, but about 1/2 of the listings on the first page are scamming sites, and 1/4 are other listing sites that contain mostly scamming sites. It is not difficult for me tell the "good" from the "bad" since I am familiar with most of the locksmiths in San Antonio,  but most people probably wouldn't know.  It is very time consuming to actually verify a listing as non-legitimate.  Listed addresses for  locksmiths are actually  McDonald's restaurants, Mexican restaurants, flower shops, roofing companies, even vacant lots.  The search sites have a daunting task if they choose to try to fix it. 90% of my business comes from my placement on Google. Hopefully any fix won't mess it up.

Tim Dineen

07/11/2011 11:34 pm

Hmm, you'd think Google could invent some kind of car with  a camera on the top of it to drive around and take pictures of the business to see if they match the claims being submitted? Then maybe they could automate those cars to drive themselves? Oh also maybe they could invent some photo recognition software to read the signs on buildings? Oh wait, they've done all that? Well someone please ask all the folks working on these things to share a table some day, because while Google is busy inventing other stuff, local search sorely needs some attention!!


07/12/2011 08:01 pm

The Google Ad above this box leads to a locksmith lead gen site---i believe it is Yext...http://www.locksmithdirectory.com/:)


07/12/2011 08:56 pm

In Vancouver, British Columbia we have locksmith licensing but it has not stopped the scammer locksmiths.  If you google "Locksmith Vancouver" 5 of the 6 ad words listings are fake locksmiths. Terry Whin-Yates


07/14/2011 06:39 pm

You'd think they would have figured some of this stuff out by now.  It's embarrassing but you have to admit it's also humorous.  


07/25/2011 06:16 am

Yes, Google is doing better at this class of spam than they were last December. Not mucht better, but better. Back in Q4 2010 they were counting recommendations, which made their system incredibly easy to spam.  SEO firms were advertising "Google Places Guaranteed" and "Google Places Unleashed".  Google was looking at Citysearch recommendations, which were mostly spam. Once Google stopped counting recommendations, that closed off one easy way to spam one's way to the top SERP. Other ways were found. Google Places remains easy to spam, easier than link farming. Location spam is an indication that the approach to "places" data is wrong.  Whether business A has a physical presence at location B is not an opinion. It is a fact. A checkable fact. Google needs to be validating those facts against ground truth.  The necessary data are available. Users put up with this because Bing is worse.  Bing copied Google's inclusion of "local" results into web search in October 2010, but seems to have results as spam-filled as ever. Try searching for "New York City locksmith" on Bing. All the local results are from the same spammer. It's been that way for months. Bing doesn't even seem to be trying to fix the problem.

locksmith in buckeye

11/13/2011 02:54 pm

I had noticed this too on my SEO travels.


11/24/2011 09:04 am

I am a licensed locksmith in Nashville Tn and we have the same problem here, they are using my business name and address. it used to be worse but i think google is doing better now, it is getting little bit harder to get verified on google place when it comes to locksmith category but still they have at least 3 top positions. I know so many google map maker reviewers who are working so hard to wipe them off but the problem is , google is not paying that much attention to the spammers, when you report one of them it takes more than a month for google to even look at it. We all know siri came out with iphone 4s , siri is not using google result for local businesses ,siri is using yelp to find you a local business and that is another disaster because all of the spammers are updated and they have created  so many ads and fake locations on yelp  and there is no place for Legitimate lockmsiths to be found anywhere on the map. what i would recommend to google and all other search engine is , when it comes to locksmith they should ask for state license and location license. that's when we can  wipe them off the map.

wayne bruton

10/12/2012 08:30 am

I am a locksmith in sydney, City Fringe Locksmiths, Australia the same problem goes on, easy for corruption people can have contacts in yellow pages or any advertising medium for that matter , another problem is businesses get listings on numerous google map listings for various addresses they dont even operate from

Gean Ward

02/16/2014 04:28 pm

i am A locksmith and it's the same with moving companies , towing ,carpet cleaning it is internet ,

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