Fascinations and Frustrations
Google Local Business Center and Google Maps
The Google Local Business Center and Google Maps are by far the best performing advertisement you can have for your business. As Google has steadily improved their ability to present relevant search results for specific keywords and keyword phrases, so has their ability to recognize the public need for specific information related to local businesses. I am extremely thankful for having the presence of any Local Business Center listing with Google, and know from first hand customer feedback that these listings are quite effective in generating new calls to my businesses. Google continues to fascinate me with their approach to information and the ability to dispense it in a logical manner.
At the same time, any locksmith who desires to have even one Google Local Business Center listing and an associated Google Map showing clearly their physical address, knows full well that Google is presenting many, many false addresses that create an extremely unlevel playing field for those of us who insist on only advertising a valid address. This is extremely frustrating. I have done much more investigation into this blatant abuse of the Google LBC and Google Maps than anyone else I know. These listings would never have made it into the LBC if the listings were not initially created with the telecommunications companies that allowed the listings to be created in the first place! As anyone who has conducted a thorough investigation knows, Google is only presenting the same information that was allowed to be created in the phone directories. While Google is definitely taking steps to eradicate LBC listings with false addresses from the LBC, if you look closely, they are simply using their own published quality guidelines for LBC listings to either leave the listing active or remove it.
I receive many calls from people who want to improve their search engine rankings on the internet, and one of the first things I will ask them is if they have a Google Local Business Center listing. If they are a locksmith, there is a very good chance they will not see their listing, as valid as it may be, for quite some time, as Google has placed the locksmith category under high scrutiny. Thank God for that. My best advice to anyone who is as disgusted as I am with the blatant abuse of the Google LBC is to focus on the Google Quality Guidelines for LBC listings. Many problems with LBC listings stem from disregard of the quality guidelines. As difficult as it may be to focus on rules for ourselves while others apparently have no rules, it is imperative that honest, reputable locksmiths maintain the same approach to the LBC that they would have with any other form of advertising.
The blatant exploit of the Google LBC by criminal organizations, including the hijacking of trade names and use of false addresses, all stems from the initial creation of the telco listing with its associated phone number. If all locksmiths impacted by this blatant abuse of the LBC were to agree to prove the impact that this exploit had on their income, then it would be much easier to prove damages to all of us and take action against both the telco that created the listings and the companies that paid for the listings.
It is important for anyone who is not completely aware of all the details of how these listings appear to know the facts involved, and to conduct a thorough investigation before claiming that any one but the criminal organizations and the telco that allowed those initial listings to be created is at fault. Without legal action against the guilty parties, it may become impossible for Google to fully eradicate the LBC of these false advertisements. A thorough investigation discloses that hijacking of legally registered trade names is a common practice for these criminals, and it would do well for all of us who want to improve the LBC to take notice that a listing that appears to be someone you know may in fact be a hijacked listing, or hijacked trade name, using a phone number going to the criminal organization's call center. What makes this especially confusing to anyone is the manner in which their dispatch centers will handle your inquiry for someone by name. Confusion is par for the course with these nefarious souls who are focused only on booking a job and caring not at all for whomever is harmed in the process.
If you want to help improve the Google LBC, and level the playing field for all involved, the most important course of action is to take legal action against the criminals who created the listings and the telecommunications companies that allowed them to be created. If you have discussed this with many attorneys, as I have, then you will find that damages must be proved and the best course of action is to combine forces amongst us and prove just how much this illicit activity has harmed our businesses. Until anyone is ready to join forces with me to take this legal action, my only advice to you will continue to be:
1) Always conduct a thorough investigation before casting blame on anyone, especially those who have proven to be leaders in the locksmith field. Be aware that confusion is often created when a call is placed to any of these fraudulent listings. Be extremely suspicious of anyone who refuses to give you their name or who cannot prove that they are that person.
2) Follow the Google Local Business Center Listing Quality Guidelines, and have faith that Google does take an unbiased approach to all listings. Be patient that eventually a better standard will be in place.
3) Be prepared to open your books to a full accounting of how much this massive exploit of directories, the Google LBC and Google Maps has had on our locksmith businesses, in the interest of joining our class action against the criminal organizations that created the listings.
An enemy of my enemy is my friend
It has become increasingly difficult to maintain an effective internet presence as this massive exploit of Google has persisted. If, for even a moment, all legitimate locksmith companies were to cast aside their own motives and put differences aside, it would become abundantly clear that we have an excellent case for class action against the criminals who have created this problem. If you fail to conduct a thorough investigation and choose to broadcast misleading, inaccurate information, I will forgive you for not knowing all the details but I am not prepared to forgive you for being part of the problem. Even casual users of the internet know not to acknowledge anonymous contributors to blogs and such. If enough locksmiths were to take as much time and devote so much of themselves to this problem as I have, then it would be far easier to pursue legal action. Part of the overall effectiveness of the entire Google Maps exploit has perhaps been the understanding that so many legitimate locksmiths fail to work together! Do you understand completely what has happened and are you prepared to do more than blame someone else? Do you understand how damaging it can be to have your name hijacked on the internet? If you don't, you could be next! Do you want to prosecute the criminals who engineered this massive fraud and stop casting blame on those who had nothing to do with it? My leadership in this field has proven itself again and again. At this point, I must state that you are either for prosecuting the criminals that created the listings or you are not, and that our enemy is in fact the same enemy. Try to rethink whatever you have been told about this matter and show your willingness to take the proper steps in eradicating illegitimate listings from the Google LBC and Google Maps.
Respectully, Harold Fink Locksmith
Owner, Allied Locksmiths of Maryland