Customers Beware: Google Place
Spamming Affects Search Engine Results for Business
With the rise in popularity of the search engine Google, new features have emerged. The most important of these, for businesses of any size, is the “Google Places” feature. This feature allows an individual to find not only the services most relevant to his/her search, but also the businesses closest to the geological location where the search was run. Google Places allows a potential customer to read peer reviews of each business, therefore enabling him/her to benefit from the experience of others, finding the business best suited to his/her needs and avoiding those with negative reviews. This ideal concept, however, has the rather large flaw of spamming. In this case, spamming refers to several methods of negatively affecting listings using fraudulent methods. The purpose being for less reputable businesses to gain an improved status or reputation due to what one might call “cyber mud-slinging”, to coin a political term. This is carried out using the following methods:
- Abuse of Existing Listings
– Changing the telephone number, website, or address of a listing to reduce its legitimacy
- Unauthorized Use of Existing Location Listings
– Allocating a legitimate location listing to a business without a website and/or physical location in order to increase legitimacy of reputation
- Creating Negative Reviews for Competing Businesses
– Creating fraudulent disparaging comments regarding the service of existing businesses of good repute in order to diminish their star-rating status
This brings us to the dilemma that Paragon Security encounters. As a business that has offered excellent customer service to businesses and individuals for over 20 years, Paragon is baffled by the recent issues it has run into regarding “Google Places”. The location in question, 86 Christopher St in Manhattan’s West Village, has been the site of Paragon Security’s business dealings since 1989. Moreover, the entire building at 86 Christopher St. is part of Paragon Security’s holdings.
When spamming issues occur, Google has implemented the policy of temporarily suspending the Google Places listing while it is under investigation. Due to Paragon’s great business reputation, this occurs on a regular basis. This so-called “Google Dance” (referring to the fact that customers see the listing one day, the next not, and so forth) has caused Paragon Security’s business flow to be impeded due to completely unwarranted reasons
What can Google do to prevent this kind of scamming and protect its businesses? Some proposed changes to Google’s methods of listing verifications are certainly a good start.
The current methods consist of 2 steps. After a listing is created, Google will call the listed phone number to verify the business contact. Secondly, Google will send a postcard to the listed location in order to verify physical contact at claimed location. Both of these steps require the use of a particular code given by Google in both instances that must be verified electronically post-contact.
While these precautions sound thorough, it seems that further more official means of proof may be necessary. Some proposed verification methods include the required presentation of the following:
- Proof of Residency
– This may be a utility bill, bank statement, or other reputable source, or the Google “street view” image of the correct business sign at address stated
- Legal Proof of Business
– A copy of the business lease or (in the case of property ownership) deed to building where business is operated
- State or Federal Proof of Business
– Copy of the business tax ID Certificate or State Business License
- Proof of Profile from Credible Business Source
– Such as the Better Business Bureau or Dun & Bradstreet (even more secure as a paid membership is required to access the business profiles of this source)
The implementation of some, or all, of these new requirements will not only ensure that deserving businesses will receive the volume of business due to them, but will also increase Google’s user-friendly element while ensuring that users are guided to their desired service with ease and without confusion.
Google Inc., let’s make “Googling” a privilege again, and leave the work to the professionals.