"Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

"Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

I've been talking to a lot of business owners in the past week that are hell bent on circumventing Google's rules that the address you use must be your official business address. They insist on finding a way to get an address in the specific city they want to rank for. In most cases, these guys are easy to set straight because they're talking fake addresses, P.O. boxes, etc. I just tell them they can't do it - period.

However, a couple business owners asked some really good questions that I couldn't answer with confidence and it's driving me nuts so I'm turning to the pros here for some help:D

Business Owner A: Runs a boat towing company (i.e. when a boat breaks down in the ocean he comes and tows it back to shore)

He operates along the entire coastal shore spanning many miles - with a few major cities along the shoreline. He keeps his boats at a specific marina that is outside one of the major cities and his home address is in another small city outside one of the major cities. He doesn't want to use his home address and he doesn't want to use the marina address either. Instead, he wants to use the addresses for 3 marina's in the 3 major cities on this coast line. Because of his line of work, he knows all of these marina owners and they are all willing to let him use their addresses for his "business locations" and for his Google Places listings. Furthermore, he has a business arrangement with these marina owners in that they process orders for him. For example, if someone wants to buy a yearly boat towing service, they can buy from this guy's company through the marina owner.

Now here's the kicker...all of his competitors are doing the same thing. They all have arrangements with the marina owners and they all use the same addresses and they are all ranking just fine so he figures he should be able to do the same. He wanted my opinion. Quite honestly, I was stumped. I told him technically no but then he said his competitors are doing it and they've been doing it for at least a couple years so clearly Google is o.k. with it. He also argued that technically he is doing business out of these marina locations.

He then asked me what's the worse thing that could happen? I told him Google would remove his listings. He was like, "that's it?" I don't have any listings now so what do I have to lose? So my question is...what does he have to lose???

Business Owner B: fishing guide (you hire him to take you fishing in the ocean)

He doesn't have a physical business location and his home is a few miles away from the ocean in a small town. His fishing trips launch from a major city on the ocean. He wants to have a business location in that city so when people search for, "fishing guides big city," he'll come up. I gave him the usual pitch about Google's guidelines on this and he wasn't having any of it. He said he would find a friend in the big city and use that person's address as his business location. He asked me, "How is Google going to find out? What's the worse that could happen?" Again I was stumped. I said if Google found out, his listing would be removed. "That's it?," he responded. He then pushed me on how Google could possibly find out. Bottom line, he was going to do it with or without my help.

I personally think both of these business owners have some valid points albeit they both are clearly in some murky waters here, no pun intended. When these guys do this, how is Google going to find out? And what is the worst thing that could happen? Neither of these businesses have a presence now anyway so they have nothing to lose so I sort of see their point.

I know as Google professionals here we're supposed to tow the line (wow, this post is filled with puns), but when I put myself in these guys shoes I understand and am tempted to agree with them.

What say you???

Travis Van Slooten
 
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

They are comparing no presence now to no presence if caught. The comparison needs to be a presence in a legit spot that will stay and can be worked on so that they rank well, as opposed to no presence if caught.
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

Well plus unless you are planning to work for free they are paying you to get them to rank and if the listing is pulled, their money was wasted and they are paying you for nothing.

Plus part of the way Google evals whether a listing is legit is citations and mentions on other sites. There would be none. He could pay you to do citations. That would I presume be extra. Then again if it's deleted, they paid all the money for nothing.

Additionally if there are multiple boat services listed at the same Marina, whether fake or real they are prone to be merged. Then the listing he's paying you to optimize may have a competitors phone and send THEM the business. So he paid YOU to help his competitor or some other boating related service that's listed at that Marina.

Plus everyone else is getting away with it is not an excuse. They just didn't happen to get caught yet. It's like if you get a ticket for parking in a no parking zone. You can see others park there all the time and never get a ticket - so you think you can. But it's still against the rules. You happen to be the one that gets caught and get the ticket. Tell the officer "but the other guys didn't get caught" and see if it helps you avoid the penalty.
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

OK so now I have some important questions for you Travis. Hope you don't mind me being blunt.

You talked at end of last year about: http://localsearchforum.catalystema...5-if-you-arent-making-money-local-search.html and appeared to be struggling AND were looking for answers as far as how to build the business and be more profitable.

Now I may be making some assumptions but there are certain types of SMBs that I 'assume' would have extremely limited budgets. Dog walkers, inflatable birthday party companies (whatever they are called), small boating service companies like these.

So in my mind the bigger more important questions really are:

1) How did you get these types of very low end leads? Both in related industry? Did you target this industry somehow and why would you? If you didn't target them specifically, then how did they find you and do you need to tweak your marketing or lead gen methods to attract a little higher end client?

2) Are you charging enough in general - if this type of client can afford you???

3) Specifically in these fake location scenarios are you charging enough EXTRA to justify the additional work to get them ranking in fake locations? And charging enough for the lost sleep if they pay you to list them, get a taste of ranking, get some reviews, then in 6 months lose it all. And at this point they forgot everything you told them about why this was a bad idea to begin with. All they want to do is yell at you for letting their listing disappear and blame you for hurting their business?

4) How much time will these VERY low end clients take away from more profitable clients?

5) I'm thinking these clients may possibly fall into this bucket?
http://localsearchforum.catalystema...1169-just-say-no-bad-local-search-engine.html

6) Last but not least a very pointed question.

Are YOU running your business? Or is your business running you?

Are you working too hard for too little?


(Not saying you are, just asking and these are good Qs to ponder starting a new year.)

Now IF the answer is "Ya but I'm strapped for cash and just need to take whatever I can get right now."

Then my comment would be "If you keep on doing what you've BEEN doing, you'll keep on getting the same results. If you keep being so busy working too hard for too little, then you can't expect things to change."

PS Pardon me for waxing all philosophical on ya, sorry for being blunt or making any wrong assumptions. Just feel I know you well enough to ask these Qs and this discussion also could help others maybe in a similar spot.
 
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

You should also let him know that until recently Google was just working on getting all the information on the map. As of late the have started initiatives to refine the data. Map Maker was opened in the US, and the number of local experts is rising quickly, meaning he's not just trying to fool someone on the opposite side of the world. I shut down spam in my area all the time based that might not have been caught if not for my knowledge of the area, and if there are not people like that near them then there will likely be soon. In addition, Places has added the quality checkers that phone people. Google has the Ground Truth project going, which is finding a lot more of such people. Then there is large backline teams editing the map.

My point is that past success by competitors is in no way an indication of how future listings will fair.
 
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

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Business Owner A: Runs a boat towing company (i.e. when a boat breaks down in the ocean he comes and tows it back to shore)

He doesn't want to use his home address and he doesn't want to use the marina address either. Instead, he wants to use the addresses for 3 marina's in the 3 major cities on this coast line. Because of his line of work, he knows all of these marina owners and they are all willing to let him use their addresses for his "business locations" and for his Google Places listings. Furthermore, he has a business arrangement with these marina owners in that they process orders for him. For example, if someone wants to buy a yearly boat towing service, they can buy from this guy's company through the marina owner.
Owner A has to use the address where he conducts business, ie ?central office? as stated in the Places Quality Guidelines. The arrangement isn't going to pass the Google smell test if someone calls him on it because he's running a separate business from the marina and because he's towing boats (not meeting customers at the mooring/pier) then he runs the risk that Google merges his business into the marina's if they advertise the business as their own.

Now here's the kicker...all of his competitors are doing the same thing. They all have arrangements with the marina owners and they all use the same addresses and they are all ranking just fine so he figures he should be able to do the same.
Well, they won't initially be ratting one another out to Google, but it just means all of them will get taken down since the trail/pattern will be there.

He also argued that technically he is doing business out of these marina locations.
He really isn't doing business out of these locations, rather he is just parking his boat there. It would be like if the local plumber parked his van at the central parking garage in the city where he leases a space and used that as his address. Its not his business location, unless that's his central office (which people are going to be extremely dubious about).
The only time I can see allowing someone to use a marina as a physical address is if they have a mooring & office and meet people there to do tours, fishing trips, etc., as it is the principal location of the business since that is where the public does the business. Owner A can't use the marina just because they're referring business to him.
So my question is...what does he have to lose???
His location being wiped off the map.

My commentary for Owner B would be the same as for Owner A. Unless they have a physical location where they conduct business with the public, ie an office by a pier, then he would have to use the central office location of his business, which is likely his house.
 
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

Actually, for client A it sounds as if he doesn't even keep his boats at those marinas, but rather a cheaper, out of the way one. At the most, it sounds like he keeps his boats at one marina. So he's more like a tow truck driver that wants to get listed at every single mechanic shop location, based on the fact that he will tow you there if you like.
 
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

@Andrew & Flash - thanks for the insightful information. This is the exact type of info I needed so I can be better prepared to explain this stuff when I get these types of calls. Thanks!

@Linda -

I love it when people are blunt. I wouldn't want it any other way...lol. Like you, I'm an open book and I don't mind talking about anything and don't take offense to anything either. And for the record, I am not doing business with either of these businesses. I think they both realized I wasn't too keen about trying to game the system.

Let me address your questions:

1. No, I definitely didn't target these leads. They just came through my website. And the fact that they were somewhat related was totally coincidental. They found me because my site targets Google optimization in general so any business looking for help in this area finds my site and calls me. My site doesn't send a clear message either way in terms of who I work with so I suppose I could refine that - like specializing (as I've been going back and forth on for weeks...months actually) OR giving a more clear signal that I work with a certain type of business.

2. Yes, I charge what I'm comfortable with and if I think a job is going to be more work than it's worth, I'll just pass on it - OR charge a lot more than I normally would.

3. Again, I am not working with these guys and I don't have any clients that have fake addresses.

4. Again, not working with these types of clients. IF I was, I would charge them accordingly to make it worth my while.

5. Yup...that's what I've been doing.

6. That's funny you mention that. I meet monthly with my mentor here in town and we talk business. He's older than me and has a lot more business experience so it's usually a coaching session for me;) He says that phrase to me all the time. I'll admit, right now the business definitely runs me but it's all good. I enjoy what I do and I'm making some money now finally and I'm confident I'll turn things around.

Thanks for asking!!

Travis Van Slooten
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

Awesome!

I took your original post to mean you were trying to find a way to make this work so you could get these clients. So that's where I was coming from with my line of questioning.

Now it sounds like you'd maybe already decided to pass on them and were just asking the questions in more general terms.
 
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

Yup...that's exactly the case. I just felt I didn't explain to these businesses well enough why doing these things was a bad idea. I needed to be armed with better info for future reference. That was the basis of my questions.

Thanks!

Travis Van Slooten

Awesome!

Now it sounds like you'd maybe already decided to pass on them and were just asking the questions in more general terms.
 

Phil Rozek

Top Contributor
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

He then asked me what's the worse thing that could happen? I told him Google would remove his listings. He was like, "that's it?" I don't have any listings now so what do I have to lose? So my question is...what does he have to lose???
I probably would have had to stew for a minute on this one, too. But eventually I would have told Business Owner A something along the lines of:

?Well, aside from throwing a little bit of your integrity, you will be wasting many hours of your life playing the mouse in a cat-and-mouse game with Google.

?Sure, you?ll probably be able to use the fake addresses for a while, and maybe you?ll get a few customers out of the deal, but eventually Google will nab you. Then what? Do you spend even more time trying to take shortcuts, or do you decide only now to use a real address? If it?s the latter, you do know you?ll need to spend a lot of time cleaning up your address info all over the web (or pay someone else to do it), right? And you do also know that during that time your rankings will be zilch ? right?

?So, ethics aside, my question for you is: how much do you value your time ? and how much of it are you willing to throw away before you conclude something isn?t working??

Just my take. Great discussion here.
 
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

I love that response. In my head that's what I was thinking and I sort of said that too them but not nearly as clear:D

Travis Van Slooten

I probably would have had to stew for a minute on this one, too. But eventually I would have told Business Owner A something along the lines of:

?Well, aside from throwing a little bit of your integrity, you will be wasting many hours of your life playing the mouse in a cat-and-mouse game with Google.

?Sure, you?ll probably be able to use the fake addresses for a while, and maybe you?ll get a few customers out of the deal, but eventually Google will nab you. Then what? Do you spend even more time trying to take shortcuts, or do you decide only now to use a real address? If it?s the latter, you do know you?ll need to spend a lot of time cleaning up your address info all over the web (or pay someone else to do it), right? And you do also know that during that time your rankings will be zilch ? right?

?So, ethics aside, my question for you is: how much do you value your time ? and how much of it are you willing to throw away before you conclude something isn?t working??

Just my take. Great discussion here.
 

Phil Rozek

Top Contributor
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

I hear ya. I?ve had my share of George Costanza ?jerk store? moments :)
 

Nick.SEOSpark

Local Search Expert
Re: "Fake" Addresses for Google Places Listings - What's The Worse That Could Happen?

I haven't got much more insight on the "address problems" than people have already mentioned.

I'm more interested in commenting on what Linda said in relation to "poor quality leads" and "spending too much time" on them.

I think for us working in Local SEO, we will tend to get a lot of business wanting our help for the lowest contribution that they can afford. This in a way is human nature. Us, as small business owners would do the same.

I'm not sure about you guys but I have a sixth sense for when a job is going to be a tough one, and this sounds like one of those. It's sometimes very evident if the job is going to be a breeze, moderately difficult or a nightmare. To the degree of information that these leads would like, it sounds like they need to hire you first. The information and knowledge that you hold is valuable and a specialist skill, and I think that when the information is becoming detailed and you are expending time and energy, they need to hire you.

One more thing, I think in the SEO Industry, there clearly lots and lots of "sharing" of information. For us, that makes it a pleasure to be part of. However, we also have to make a living, and while a "free seo health check" is a nice free trial for a prospect, I think they need to hire for specific problems such as these.
 

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