More threads by Linda Buquet

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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We get reports about fake locksmith spam in the Google Business forum all the time. There are fake locksmith rings and all kinds of fraud in that industry. I'm sure it's one of the toughest areas for Google try to police.

Greg Sterling reported yesterday at Marketing Land about a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Google from a Locksmith that claims to have reported the spam and fake listings to Google numerous times and feels Google purposely let the spam stay live for monetary reasons.

<a href="">Locksmith Sues Google, Others Claiming Spam Local Listings Illegal</a>
(Just a snippet - so click the link to read full post.)

A Northern Virginia locksmith has sued Google, Yellowbook (hibu) and Ziplocal under multiple state and federal laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)...

The complaint alleges that Google and the other defendants permitted illegal locksmith listings in search results causing $8.4 million in lost earnings/profits to the plaintiff...

...The complaint (embedded below) argues that Google and its co-defendants don’t screen out unlicensed listings in an effort to inflate competition for SEO/SEM placement and compel legal locksmiths to “pay a premium” to appear in search results

I've tracked down one of the biggest threads where I believe the plaintiff has reported some fake listings at the Google and your Business Forum. This thread is 18 pages long and just filled with report after report from Locksmiths and others, that have been trying to help eradicate the spam. There are spamfighters with forum users names like: LocksmithVigilante, LocksmithMonitor, Spam Killer and Spaminator...

Locksmith Spam in Denver - Google Business Forum - 445 Posts long

Here's a video about the case from NBC Los Angeles

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What do you think?

Will this suit and the media attention do anything to curb spam and fake listings???

Will the plantiff win the suit???

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The local listings on google, bing and yahoo are a mess with a bunch of dupes, spam, and what I see a lot of, is businesses that have been closed for a while.

At least they should check and see if these businesses are still opened. Dupes should be very easy for the search engines. Spam can be handled.

I suggest on local the search engines erase everything and if a business wants to be on the local maps charge a yearly fee, this would keep the local maps updated.

I keep on hearing the search engines want to be user friendly, but how is that with so many undated businesses, dupes and spam.

You know its not a good thing when you do a search, call or drive to a business and its closed, or when you have so much spam, people find another method of searching.

The other day I had to go too a major t v cable provider in my area, I searched the maps and, one in town (a) I know well so I went and this location closed over a year ago, town (b) I know this location has been there for over 20 years, I go a there next and guess what? its closed. (that's when I started saying things like what a *#@%**$ joke this is) I was able to find the companies new location buy asking people (this is what I should have done in the first place.

Disclaimer: I love the 3 search engines, this is where I get most of my business for a reasonable charge, but a few months ago I started looking at print advertising again after not much print advertisement for my company since late 2011.

I cannot keep all my eggs in the same basket with so much turbulence.
I hope he wins..

Maybe Google will actually put real listings online and at least try to sort out the phonies that multiply by the thousands.

At one point the were a couple hundred locksmith listings in my area but only about 25-30 real locksmiths that are licensed. So do you think Google did not know about those other couple hundred listings?

It would be easy I would think for Google to check for a license in the states that require it to verify a listing.

I don't know why Google would want thousands of phony listings in their index anyway...
As bad as what the spam is, I hope that he does not prevail.

I say that, as this could then open the 'floodgates' for any business taking action against Google for the organic search results if they think they have been harmed by the ranking that Google gives them .... does that make sense?

Its Google's website and they should be able to list sites on their site (just like you and I can on our sites) however they like to (..obviously within reason).

This also opens another issue that is specific to the state laws and the advertising of locksmiths in those states. -- this has the potential to open another can of worms
eg - what if a searcher is looking for, say a dermatologist .... but in the search results a family practitioner shows up who offers skin services; or the local beauty treatment parlor for skin conditions??? What if certain state laws forbid the family practitioner or beauty parlor for advertising "dermatology" - but Google still displays them in the search results for it - can the dermatologist sue Google as non-dermatologists were displayed in the search results??? (I have no idea if this is a good eg or not; or even if such state laws exists, but hopefully you can see the point I make?

The compliance costs to Google to comply with different state laws is going to have to come from somewhere if its not scalable.

...but yes, Google does have to clear up the spam
Whether the locksmith wins or not, this could be a victory for the anti-spam community. It's a huge problem and G just haven't yet figured out how/when to deal with it.

This kind of legal action and bad publicity damages G's reputation and would likely
force a re-think and perhaps re-prioritisation of their "around-to-it" list.

The came up with the manual penalty & zoo critters for websites; I'm sure they can do something for local spam other than pigeon-poo.

just change my name to "eternally optimistic" :D
I agree, "eternally optimistic" :) It would be a huge victory for the anti-spam community.

The problem I'm seeing right now is that Google is advertising like crazy to businesses to "get yourself on the map!" and get a GMB listing. Naturally, a business that knows nothing about Google would go to and do a search for something to see what Google's talking about.... If they see spammy results like "Dr.John Doe Atlanta Cosmetic Implant Dentist" coming up first, they're naturally going to think that its a) OK with Google that they do that, and b) they should copy that strategy. This creates more spam.

What I'm saying in summary is that spam breeds more spam and it would be nice if there was some publicity about the legal ramifications of spamming not only for Google allowing it, but the businesses doing it :) Without enforcement, "guidelines" and "laws" become jokes & myths (Like these: 50 Crazy American Laws You Won’t Believe Still Exist Today | Top Right News)
I've spoken with that person. I'm from that region. Give the fellow credit. He is probably one of the largest locksmiths in the country. He supports, I believe, 18 different locations. They might be small but he pays rent on all of them and has to staff them. He is legitimate. He has been in business for many years.

The locksmith spam issue goes up and down the local ecosystem and permeates all sorts of directories etc. Google has been aware of this issue for years. There have been court cases pursuing false locksmiths.

On the consumer side the fake locksmiths get calls from their ads, promise one thing, send a "guy in a truck" to a location where there is an emergency and then won't deliver the services without huge increases over the false lead on claim on the phone. Its a fraud.

I wish the real locksmith luck on this case.

While the issue permeated local and organic in its early days, now google happily sucks up the money for ads from the faked locksmiths. Its an issue they are all too familiar with and simply ignore to suck up the adwords income.

Their lawyers and their ability to pay lawyers is infinitely larger than Baldino's. It will be interesting to see how this case plays out.
"Without enforcement, "guidelines" and "laws" become jokes & myths"

This online thing is still in the wild wild west days, just now are we seeing some railroads.

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