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  1. #1
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    How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    I’ve often wondered how spammers were so successful at creating multiple listings on Google Places when Google requires you to verify each location by receiving a pin in the mail via postcard. Apparently I don’t have the mind of a black hat SEO professional because the process is easier than I thought. Dan Austin filled

    Read the rest at the Imprezzio Marketing blog...
    Colan Nielsen l GMB Top Contributor
    Vice President, Local Search at Sterling Sky
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  2. #2
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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    I'm wondering how Google could possibly stop this. I mean it seems like the only solution would be to involve the post office. I wonder if there is a way to indicate on a letter that it cannot be forwarded if the location has moved?
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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    Yikes! Thanks for sharing guys.

    Kinda always wondered. Kinda didn't want to know either.

    Hey FYI your blog post is messed up for me on FF. Chrome is fine.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    Yeah I was a little shocked when Dan showed me that photo. I didn't realize the frequency that the spammers were doing this. All those postcards lying on the floor shows that you can do it a ton of times and since a website isn't required for a listing, and changing an IP address is easy, I can see them getting away with it for quite some time.

    Thanks for the note about the FF issue - I just sent it to our web developers.
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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    Dan just registered here, so assume he saw this and is coming to share more info.

    Can't wait!
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

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  6. #6
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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    The PIN card mail diversion problem is widespread, and was pioneered largely by the...you guess it...locksmith spammers. Google has know about this for a long time, and just chooses to drag their feet on it rather than address it. This is wire and mail fraud, incidentally, federal crimes punishable by 20 years in prison.

    The original photos came about because the relative of the spammer contacted Mark Baldino of Baldino's Lock and Key. They were having a dispute with the locksmith spammer, and wanted to enlist Mark's aid to publicize this.

    The simplest solution to this problem is to append Do Not Forward to the cards. Presumably, the Post Office (PO) machine readers that scan the postcards will honor that request and return the cards to Google. I'm not sure why Google doesn't do that...? Also, many of these addresses are bad addresses. Mini malls require suite numbers, don't they? So why isn't Google flagging the PIN card on that basis alone?


    Of course, spammers will switch back to using UPS Stores or virtual offices. That ratchets up the difficulty level for Google. Nonetheless, Google should already have all the UPS Store addresses, PO, and Regus virtual offices in their spam database, and flag any existing or new POIs against that database.


    Google needs to switch from comparatively simple and easily circumvented solutions to more comprehensive local spam filtering, similar to how they deal with email. The idea is to make it harder for the spammers to do their job, so that they have to spend more time and money to build out their spam networks. It's inconvenient for legit businesses to jump through those same procedural hurdles, but most businesses only have to do it once, not a 1000 times. If you can slow the rate of spam, and make it easy to remove, then keeping up with the spammers in your area becomes much easier.

    The other solution is to return all POIs, including SABs (service area business with hidden addresses) back to Map Maker (MM), and give the MM community the opportunity to delete listings at will, with the manual approval of MM GRs (Google Reviewers). The Places GLEs (Google Listing Editors) who are supposed to approve changes to claimed listings are unfortunately too incompetent, their training regarding spam too limited, and their tools too buggy (they use a different set of review tools than GRs) to be effective at this task. Like Google+, the Places Team just doesn't know when to cut their losses for their (usual) catastrophic failures, and the GLEs have caused nothing but trouble since they were initiated over a year ago. Since Google has largely given up on mitigating spam via Maps Report a problem, how else are you supposed to report and remove spam POIs, except via MM? It's been one of the few successful ways to remove spam quickly and efficiently, but unfortunately, due to the intransigence of both Google Places, and the timidity of the easily steamrolled MM staff who agree to almost every dumb idea that Places has, along with a number of unresolved bugs that were reported several years ago (good job on fixing those bugs, Google), Google has all but guaranteed that a vast majority of spam POIs are more or less engraved into Google Maps. Given that Google Places can't even keep longstanding, easily verified listings up, Google has created quite a situation for itself. The rudderless Local Data Quality team, which is responsible for Local spam, hasn't helped either. They seem to have neither the expertise nor the leadership to successful counter the spammers, to the point that they're mostly irrelevant to this point, unless there's another hotel or Secret Service listing hijacking disaster.

    I'm not sure why Google is purposely limiting their tools. I think they're trying to adopt the simplest protocols for dealing with local spam on a global scale, which would preclude using more comprehensive filters. On the other hand, they seem to have hours and hours to devote to changing color schemes on Maps, but not much time to actually make the data reliable and accurate, so there's differing priorities at play.

    Can you imagine if Gmail was run like Google Maps? Emails would be missing all the time, or they would just randomly disappear and then show up "when they felt like it". The inbox would be full of spam, and the spam folder would be full of good emails. No one would tolerate that crap. Why should anyone tolerate Google's approach to Google Maps, which is built on top of not only free data that they scrape from the web and solicit from the business community, but volunteer users who have contributed tens of thousands of hours to make the craptastic Google Maps better, that Google doesn't want to pay for (and even worse, don't respect)? (You didn't think Google did it all by themselves, right? They had the help of numerous and often unacknowledged partners to build their base maps data, including the US Census Bureau, MM volunteers, and the US GIS Maps, to name a few sources.)

    Google Maps should be better. What happened to iteration? Does it not apply to local spam?
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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    Thanks for joining and for weighing in on this one Dan.
    And for contributing info and that telling picture in the original post.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

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    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".
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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    Hey Dan, Joy and Colan,

    You may already know this, but I just discovered something I was unaware of.

    You know how with Classic maps, edit details and report a problem won't work for hidden address listings, just throws that error because the listings are not in MM?

    Well I ALWAYS use Classic for everything. But was just trying to help a user here report a problem and tried it in new maps and even with address hidden you can report spammy listings, close listings or report data errors there.

    I give the instructions in this post.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    Report a problem in new Maps only works for POIs that are heavily trafficked. I discovered this after reporting a bunch of spam over a multi-month period, which was subsequently ignored, and then reported an issue with a hotel, which was almost instantly fixed (48 hours). This led me to surmise that unless the POI is high value or has a lot of traffic (think Central Park, Pack 10, hotels, Disney World, Googleplex, etc.), Google will just put the report on the back burner and more than likely an algorithm eventually discards it.

    The New Maps Report a problem worked for about a week after the SS scandal, after Google PR announced to the media that you could report and remove spam, and then Google decided that the problem had died down enough that they could ignore any spam reports going forward. So technically, not a lie, but still Google BS.

    Google did this, I think, in response to the huge backlog of reports in their system that they had accumulated over the years that got cleaned out during the summer and fall of 2013 during the Maps transition and database merge. According to a source that worked on Google Report a problem issues, Google had a 3-4 year backlog of Maps Report a problem. That's a lot. Although they employ mod bots and auto-approve some edits, Google probably decided that they couldn't devote enough resources ($$$$+training) to respond to Report a problem adequately, and figured no one would notice if their report just disappeared. I think Google's overconfidence in their spam algorithms also played a part, in that it could be used to automate spam removal so that they could reduce their dependence on field reports.

    Unless you can track the reports attached to your Maps (now, MM) profile, and see what has been done with the report (which you were able to in the past, since all past reports used the MM interface), I don't have a high degree of confidence in the "new" Maps Report a problem.

    However, your experience may vary.
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  10. #10
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    Re: How to Create a Listing on Google Places Without a Real Address (Black Hat Style)

    Sorry, RAP worked on new maps, didn't mean to imply it works, as in, any action will be taken.
    I know RAP is usually always iffy or broken as far as anyone following through.

    I simply meant a mechanism to report a problem exists on new maps where on classic maps edit details on the listing and RAP on maps gives that error if it's a hidden address lisitng.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".
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