Locksmith Spam Listing Issue

by Chris Silver Smith

I recently wrote a piece about how to bite back at local scam businesses over at Natural Search Blog, but one of the more difficult variety of scams are the faux local business listings that Google Places fights. And, ever since people first began scamming listing rankings in print yellow pages, the worst sector affected is that of Locksmiths.

Quite a number of locksmith listings are for business locations which do not exist or do not have locksmiths’ offices there. Some listings are blatent — they are locations where there are no businesses at all — while others are more subtle, being shopping centers or office buildings which have no locksmith shops in them.

Why do the scammers do this? Well, they figured out that in order to have placement in local search results, they needed to have local business addresses with which to register. You might ask yourself why a company would want a business address in a place where they do not have an office or a store, and the answer is that they’re still able to conduct some sort of business with this arrangement. Some of the companies involved are referral services, taking a cut for each phone call they get then passing the job over to the actual local locksmiths. Others are more sinister, being unlicensed locksmiths who need to cloak their actual whereabouts, as well as full-blown criminals who may change your locks and then extort you for a much higher amount to give you the keys afterward. There’s indication that Russian mafia may be involved in a concerted effort at using this as a protection racket scheme!

Google has been fighting the problem for quite some time (along with many other companies), but the issues persist.

Meanwhile, I’ve had complaints about it from a number of bona fide locksmiths who can’t gain tracking in local listings against the bad guys. Some of these real locksmiths even get lured into attempting to use the same blackhat tactics as the bad guys, attempting to fight fire with fire. It’s very frustrating to them to see others swooping in to take the local business from them, after they may have been operating successfully for decades.

The Associated Locksmiths of America, a national organization, has gotten involved, attempting to represent the locksmiths’ local search issues in a more concerted effort to bring attention to the proliferation of the bad guys as well as pointing out how the well-established, upstanding guys are struggling with the local rankings.

Another casualty in the faux listing wars in local search are businesses with PO Box addresses. As I’ve pointed out in articles, some of these are very real businesses which Google Places sandbags as a means of trying to fight the false listing problem.

It’s not clear how this war is going to turn out. As things stand, Google is struggling to find a solution that can yank the false listings. They’re mainly just trying to make it inconvenient and unprofitable for people to generate scam listings. But, the innocent casualties are the small businesses who cannot really figure out how to achieve proper representation for their companies in local results, and can’t really afford a professional to help them out. These folks continue to be left out in the cold.

It seems unfair for Google to punish the innocent along with the guilty — it’s an unAmerican concept! Yet, that seems to be what’s happening in the case of address-less businesses.

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  3. Local SEO 101: Step One, Claim Your Listing In Google Maps


 
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7 Responses to “Locksmith Spam Listing Issue”

  1. Nyagoslav says:

    Interesting that you mention the Russian mafia, because a few days ago a supposed “locksmith” contacted me and asked me to help him with a listing of theirs, because he understood from someone else that I know how to make so that a new listing could be verified by phone. He was a Russian Jewish as far as I understood from the name and he said that he is the owner of the business, though he had quite broad knowledge in local SEO and Google Places. He proposed me $500 to do the job and I asked him for the physical address and for the website. After I did a short research I understood that he is exactly one of these you are talking about in the first part of the article – getting random fake address and spawning listings all over the state. The address was in some shopping center and I asked him if he had a physical address there. He said he STILL didn’t. Then I said I am not getting involved with fake addresses and scam, and he got angry and said what more I want than $500. I told him good luck and blocked him.

    I am not from the US, although I have many clients from there but I understand that the problem with the locksmiths (and not only) is really major. I spoke with an owner of a burgers caravan, who (obviously) didn’t have a real business address, but only a PO box and he was really frustrated with all this story. His location was completely real and he was doing business from there for quite some time. It’s really sad to see how often the “villains” are passing by and the “heroes” are being screwed. So, so sad.

    Nyagoslav

  2. Jim Rudnick says:

    @Chris….yup, I’m in total agreement here that one of the very biggest spam channels is the locksmith one…and up here in Canada, it’s exactly the same, eh!

    http://www.canuckseo.com/index.php/2011/02/yelp-ca-spamcity-for-locksmiths/

    – is a link to a post I blogged on my own site, about how someone was spamming our Yelp.ca directory with just that kind of spam! I’ve got many other links in that post too, that point to other similar stories…sigh….

    Locksmiths and spam…seem to be joined at the hip…& what a real shame, eh!

    :-)

    Jim

  3. Yam Regev says:

    Each word is true, Chris !

    couple of quick facts:

    1. ALL the spamy locksmiths companies are Israeli companies. They are based in the States & most of them are receiving all their calls to 1 call center which from their they are dispatching their technicians & sub contractors (which are located in many places around the nation in bigger cities only).

    2. Most of those Israelis are super creative-survivors artists that have 0 knowledge in on line marketing but they figured out how Google Maps can be tricked. I belong to a group that ‘got born’ after the bad scammers took over the Google Maps packs 3 years ago. My group, are the ‘good spammers’, meaning- i figured out how the bad ones are manipulating Google Maps, i revealed their techniques to Mike Blumenthal & Google Maps & i used some of the less aggressive (but highly sophisticated) techniques in order to fight back the bad ones & save my locksmith companies customers a live. I did it b/c no one in Google did an actual action to smother down the bad scammers, thus my legit-good-guys got smothered down as leads volume got decreased dramatically.

    - This is a regular case of “How the West Was Won”- a lot of competition & not a lot of enforcement, caused all parties to develop faster & faster. Google enjoyed from cut of the edge techniques to trick them & by that they improved their Maps feature on a weekly basis.

    3. After Mike & I revealed the scammers’ techniques, Google took an aggressive action in one of their May Mega Updates 2 years ago & they just cleaned all their index from what they thought are spammy listings. Although i revealed the technique of hijacking a claimed listing & couple of more tricks, and i sent to Google’s Maps guides all my listings info (i used to have 100s of listings back then), they cleaned ALL my listings as well. sad times.. indeed..

    - The differences between my guys & other ‘good spammers’ to the bad scammers are that we’ll never ripoff customers, all of us are working under the state’s law, with working permits, locksmith & contractors license, paying taxes, etc.. the bad guys are doing none of the above!

    4. You are right that there is still not a proper on line solution for Service Based Bizs (bizs that are coming to your place & not selling products). As i told before, if you are located in Berkeley, a plumber from Oakland can be better/ more relevant for you even if he a bit far a way from you. Most directories didn’t find the best solution for that case yet.

    5. Google is doing a mediocre-good job to stop the locksmiths’ spam- they are cleaning 1000s of listings from time to time, verification by letter is much harder to trick than a phone one & as for now, all my locksmith clients’ (& i know that other locksmiths as well) Google Places accounts are under Pending status for over 3 weeks now. Probably something big is cooking somewhere.

    6. The only easy way to kip tricking Google Maps now is to learn who are their 3rd parties listings providers (SuperPages, Thumbstack, 411, YP Book, etc..), create many listings on those directories & wait couple of weeks till they’ll flood the Maps index.

    Hope i helped to shad some light on the issue.

  4. Yoni Kariv says:

    Hey Silver
    As Local expert, who’s been tracking the community for over two year , let me tell you something about Google effort against Locksmith Spammers
    Every year around May 27th Google is cleaning its Index & Changing its Local Algo. As a result Many Locksmith listings, which are now on top results, will be offline. After this Armageddon, those companies we’ll recreate their Google place listing, however they will do so without the Locksmith Category- Meaning they are nowhere to be found where looking for a Locksmith in their service area. In the Beginning of 2012 those listing will Automatically gain the “Locksmith” category, which will assure them 4-5 Month of good activity. However in May 2012 there will be another Algo update so they will fall again
    Google Maps 2011 May Update is just around the Corner. I believe that the next few days will be super crucial for the Locksmith industry

  5. Mishi says:

    Hi Silver, There is also a problem with mobile locksmiths. Not many are aware of this business model, but there are few companies who offer their locksmith services from inside a van and at the location of the customer thus don’t need a physical location – Locksmith store front inside an equipped van. Google has no answer about that either and mostly treats them like spammers…

  6. Dan Austin says:

    Sorry I’m (extremely) late to the discussion, but most locksmiths can help themselves by reporting the locksmith spam in their area on Google Maps (through the More>Report A Problem>Listing contains incorrect information or spam>Comment (i.e. ‘Locksmith spam, no storefront.’)>Send email when the problem is reviewed (check)>Report problem. Do this repeatedly until the listing is taken down. It might take awhile, but eventually the listings will be removed, even if they’re owner-verified. Local locksmiths know better than most what’s real and what isn’t, and they can verify listings using a wide variety of resources: government licenses, spam reviews on the Place page, etc.

  7. Google is still taking money from the scammers. I search ‘locksmith lawrenceville’ EVERY ad is from a scammer. I have been in business since 1997, so I am all over the search engines. It’s not like I popped up yesterday. But google still hits me with pending, then suspends the account. Two years ago I was undercover in the backroom of an Israeli run ‘sub-contractor’ call center in Atlanta. Where four guys were spoofing IPs and using up competitors PPC budgets. So the legit guys now have to use adwords to get listed, then the scammers ‘click’ up their money to get them unlisted and ALL the featured ads are scammers. Did I mention that google is still taking money from scammers?

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