Coloradoug

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In the last few months several big lead gen companies have produced 'Best Of' lists for companies in our category/market, and their lists have started to rank well organically (top 3 spots).

Here's one example...
25 Best Heating and Furnace Repair Services - Denver CO | Heating and Cooling

Obviously, the lead gen outfit only includes companies that buy leads from them in their 'Best Of' list, which is fine. But they don't disclose the fact that they have a financial relationship with the companies on their list anywhere on that page. Would failing to disclose the financial relationship be a violation of Google guidelines given the nature of the content?
 
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For those of us in the local space, it's easy to get into the habit of thinking of Google as a somewhat attentive custodian, putting together a curated list of businesses in a given area, and editing or penalizing sites that don't follow guidelines. It's not perfect, but there's someone at the helm.

For Organic though? Not so much. I remember a year ago seeing that Google specifically created a knowledge panel answer for 'how old is the earth?' because the top site was a young earth creationist result, and the reddit hive mind went nuts when that fact hit the front page. That story mostly stuck out in my mind because of how unusual it was, Google very rarely edits their organic results manually. I've seen Google remove plenty of search results due to copyright infringement or other illegal results, but even there I doubt Google pulls them after civilian complaints. For the most part Google is very committed to keeping organic results algorithmic, without much human tweaking on a case by case basis. After all, Pirate Bay still shows up in results too.

If those lead gen sites are breaking guidelines, it's not Google that's going to care, it's the FTC. If you want to start the wheels turning and see if you can get them pulled, the FTC is where you should start instead. That or a lawyer. Course, if anyone's had personal experience fighting this kind of spam, I'd love to hear about it.
 

MichaelJ

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Wow and they own three of the first 10 organic positions in the Hartford CT metro market too. That is one huge formidable foe, but certainly relevant to the search term. David & Golieth comes to mind. Can't imagine how we might help but please reach out if there's something others can do.
 
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To add one more thing to the conversation, SEL had a good 'state of the union' type article last week on what we can expect from 2017. Directory sites, especially obvious lead-gen sites like this have been getting smaller and smaller pieces of the pie, a few years ago the opportunity was much bigger. As infuriating as it might seem that sites like this have taken these particular keywords, it's only a small selection of keywords, and even those might become impossible for them to maintain as Google marches towards their goals. The fact is, lead gen sites like this on a small scale aren't worth their time to manually fight, but on a large scale it doesn't fit Google's goals for the future. I think a year from now, even if they still show for some keywords, their revenues and exposure are going to be much smaller than they'd like.
 
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