Competitive chicanery is tipping the Google search scales

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Local searches have surged online and Google Maps is helping users find he brick-and-mortar locations they prefer – some of the time. Unfortunately, there are a number of “fake listings” misrepresenting store locations, and Google has been unable to cull them out, according to Search Engine Land. Google claims that its search algorithms filter out the vast majority of these false addresses; they further claim only about 0.5 percent of local searches show a falseanswer.

The recent update in Google’s local searches made proximity the main factor. So, when searching for a local 7-11, the results will show those locations near the searcher. One result of the new algorithm update spurred some companies to create multiple false addresses, thereby drawing more attention to their brands.

About 74 percent of the false listings that were discovered and suspended were in India and the United States, according to a Google study. In the US, 54 percent of these were in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey. While a number of industries were represented, about 40.3 percent of the fakes were categorized as “on-call” businesses, such as plumbers, locksmiths, and electricians.

An independent study conducted by a third party revealed a little competitive chicanery that places the proverbial “thumb on the scales” in favor of less than forthright business practices. First, there is the most obvious trick of listing one office or store in multiple locations. Even if these fake addresses are discovered and taken out of the Google search system, the perp can easily set up new ones. Another tactic is using real addresses of employees as individual listings for the company. A third tactic is “stuffing” keywords into the name of the business. If you place the word locksmith in the business name five times, that will get the attention of the search algorithms. Finally, some businesses stuff their site with fake or paid-for positive reviews, which leads Google search to believe it is a reliable company.

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