How To Spam Google Maps For Top Google Place Listings

Dec 9, 2010 • 9:21 am | comments (8) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Maps

Mike Blumenthal has uncovered a way of spamming Google Maps for top results in the new Google Places. He describes the process as "an elegant hack, so simple yet so powerful."

How does it work? Let me quote the process:

The problem is the differences between how the Post Office interprets addresses and how Google places interprets addresses.

If I create a new listing in google places and I give it this information

Name: Maximum Enterprises Street Address (1st line) : 100 W. 1st Street Street Address (2nd line): 225 E. 9th St. Suite 101, #9876 (my note: this could be any deliverable address PO Box, UPS Box or Street Address) City: Los Angeles State: California Zip Code: 90112

Then I select “Verify by mail.”

Google sends the PIN number with this address:

Maximum Enterprises 100 W. 1st Street 225 E. 9th St. Suite 101, #9876 Los Angeles, CA 90112

Here’s what happens. The Post Office eventually delivers that PIN# to the UPS store at 225 E. 9th St. Suite 101 (it will take a bit of extra time for handling, the ZIP code is actually wrong for the UPS store, so it will kick around the Post Offices a bit before it eventually gets delivered). The guy at the UPS store puts in in box 9876 (fictitious box #, he’ll probably trash it or return it, but if I had an actual box there, and used that number for my address on Google, it would go in my box).

I get the PIN and verify it, and Google places my location marker at 100 W. 1st Street (49 feet from the point that Google uses for “Los Angeles, CA”).

The post office delivers to the last address line, the line on the envelope closest to the ZIP code. Google places the marker at the first address line. This difference in handling allows anyone to “verify by mail” for any address they want to use that is in the same city as their actual mailing address (or a UPS store/Virtual office location in that city).

Pretty amazing, right? And it works, Mike tried it.

In a Sphinn thread Mike asks if what he did was ethical. Jill Whalen, a prominent SEO, replied saying:

Sure, why not. That can help Google fix things, but in the meantime, everyone else can take advantage of the loopholes!

By making Places Pages so prominently featured in search results right now, Google has opened themselves up to mega super duper spamming. For some, it's going to be the only way to compete with Places Pages.

Even I'm not discouraging clients to have address/phone numbers in the various locations where they operate, as it may be necessary (if not already).

I don't think this is a good thing, but it's Google's bed that we have to lie in.

Forum discussion at Sphinn.

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SEO Moves

12/09/2010 03:12 pm

Oh yes, needless to say web spam is going to take on new meaning in 2011. The new Link Buying is going to be Google Maps and Places abuse. I think Google felt that making people have a location is going to stop people but needless to say many people are already all over this....

Steve G

12/09/2010 06:34 pm

I had to laugh a bit.. I really hope that Mike uncovered this a few years ago and is only just now deciding to write about it.. This is by no means a new tactic..

Andrew Rayner

12/09/2010 08:15 pm

And if you want a listing in London UK, the ideal position is around Big Ben, a little more difficult to get a snail mail postcard from though :(

Neo Symmetry

12/10/2010 12:09 am

I have several place's listed on Google Places for obvious reason's. Having mutiple addresses allows you to show multiple maps in different areas. I have even got Google Places to show my business name in Google Maps more than once on the same serarch criteria. It seems that all you need is a different address to be verified for it to work. Of course setting up UPS P.O. Boxes can get a bit expensive, but it does work. I think since Google has decide to start charging for local placement it will effect this in some way's. It was great for a no name business to get top placement for free, but this is all about to change next year (2011). Our web traffic has increased because we have listed more than one location for our business. You have to admit though, Goolge has to know people are doing this on a daily basis. FaceBook is putting the presure on Google because they are charging for local listing's. That is another reason Goolge is following suit, I would also imagine that if they do this like they say they are going to, then so will Bing and Yahoo!

Naresh Kumar

12/10/2010 12:20 pm

Not very interesting and helpful. I thought there would be some hidden secrets but not found. SEO India

Mark the Webalyst

01/04/2011 02:38 pm

According to this "SEO ethics" remains a non-sequitur. One SEO has to ask if this is ethical, and the "prominent SEO" replies "sure". It is NOT ethical, its cheating those who deserve the ranking and those who are searching and want to be taken to those who deserve the ranking. This kind of attitude reminds me of that other popular "if I don't do it someone else will" bullshit that people use to justify not taking their share of collective responsibility. SEO is still a magnet for juvenile-like behaviour then! Is it ethical? Ethical my arse. Love Mark


02/20/2011 08:18 am

I don't see anything wrong with this. There is a city that I service and the only two places in my category are out of business. My account was suspended because I wasn't using a local address. How is that fair to the person searching for a business. They get two businesses that no longer exist but don't see mine. Google has made it this way. There is only one way to rank on Google and that's to cheat. Its there fault for treating businesses the way they do. When they decide they don't like you and kick you off the front page for no apparent reason or suspend your account all together they are messing with real businesses trying to make it.

Scott Ludtke

09/16/2013 09:36 am

I agree 100% Mark If your business is NOT at the address on the verification card, then it is cheating, and an unethical - Black Hat - tactic that I strongly recommend against. Woe to those who get caught in this menagerie of postal manipulation and their business listing gets punished for 6 months - likely to NEVER again appear in the top 7 pack.

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