Fake Google Maps Locations Gone Wild


One thing I’ve always prided myself on as a business owner is my honesty. From the moment we started Netvantage one of our goals was to not make false promises. As such, I find it absolutely infuriating when I find “local” competitors in our space or our clients’ spaces using fake listings in Google My Business to show up in Google Maps. Perhaps just as infuriating is Google’s utter inability to police it. Regardless, it’s deceiving to customers, and that’s what really pisses me off because, y’know, I can be a customer, too.

As a business owner and an SEO, I like to do the occasional checkup by doing some searches for the cities we have offices in to see if there is any new local competition. On one recent checkup I decided to do a search for “SEO Lansing” and to my surprise, there was a listing for a company named Lewis SEO. Interestingly, they had no local address but were still showing on maps. A few quick searches on Google, and a toss into SEMrush revealed what’s likely only the tip of the iceberg, as I uncovered 152 subdomains, all of which seem to have Google Maps listings associated with them. Here’s my initial list!

abilene.lewisseo.com elpaso.lewisseo.com newark.lewisseo.com
akron.lewisseo.com evansville.lewisseo.com newbraunfels.lewisseo.com
albuquerque.lewisseo.com federalway.lewisseo.com noblesville.lewisseo.com
amarillo.lewisseo.com fortmeyers.lewisseo.com norman.lewisseo.com
anaheim.lewisseo.com fortwayne.lewisseo.com oklahomacity.lewisseo.com
anderson.lewisseo.com frisco.lewisseo.com omaha.lewisseo.com
annarbor.lewisseo.com gainesville.lewisseo.com orlando.lewisseo.com
arlington.lewisseo.com garland.lewisseo.com overlandpark.lewisseo.com
athensga.lewisseo.com georgetown.lewisseo.com oxnard.lewisseo.com
atlanta.lewisseo.com glendale.lewisseo.com palmcoast.lewisseo.com
augusta.lewisseo.com grandprairie.lewisseo.com palmharbor.lewisseo.com
auroraco.lewisseo.com grandrapids.lewisseo.com pearland.lewisseo.com
austin.lewisseo.com greenville.lewisseo.com pembrokepines.lewisseo.com
battlecreek.lewisseo.com hillsboro.lewisseo.com peoriaaz.lewisseo.com
beaumont.lewisseo.com holland.lewisseo.com philadelphia.lewisseo.com
beaverton.lewisseo.com houston.lewisseo.com phoenix.lewisseo.com
bellevue.lewisseo.com huntingtonbeach.lewisseo.com plano.lewisseo.com
bellingham.lewisseo.com huntsville.lewisseo.com portland.lewisseo.com
billings.lewisseo.com independence.lewisseo.com portstlucie.lewisseo.com
birmingham.lewisseo.com indianapolis.lewisseo.com providence.lewisseo.com
bloomington.lewisseo.com jacksonville.lewisseo.com richmondtx.lewisseo.com
boise.lewisseo.com jerseycity.lewisseo.com richmondva.lewisseo.com
boston.lewisseo.com johnscreek.lewisseo.com rochestermn.lewisseo.com
bradenton.lewisseo.com katy.lewisseo.com rockford.lewisseo.com
brokenarrow.lewisseo.com knoxville.lewisseo.com roswell.lewisseo.com
brownsville.lewisseo.com lakeland.lewisseo.com salem.lewisseo.com
bryan.lewisseo.com lansing.lewisseo.com santaana.lewisseo.com
carrollton.lewisseo.com lasvegas.lewisseo.com santaclarita.lewisseo.com
cedarpark.lewisseo.com lawton.lewisseo.com santarosaca.lewisseo.com
cedarrapids.lewisseo.com leaguecity.lewisseo.com savannah.lewisseo.com
chandler.lewisseo.com lehighacres.lewisseo.com scottsdale.lewisseo.com
charleston.lewisseo.com lexington.lewisseo.com siouxfalls.lewisseo.com
charlotte.lewisseo.com lincoln.lewisseo.com southbend.lewisseo.com
cherryhill.lewisseo.com littlerock.lewisseo.com spring.lewisseo.com
chicago.lewisseo.com longview.lewisseo.com springfieldmo.lewisseo.com
cincinnati.lewisseo.com losangeles.lewisseo.com stafford.lewisseo.com
clarksvilletn.lewisseo.com louisville.lewisseo.com stlouis.lewisseo.com
clearwater.lewisseo.com lubbock.lewisseo.com stpetersburg.lewisseo.com
columbiacity.lewisseo.com macon.lewisseo.com sugarland.lewisseo.com
columbus.lewisseo.com madison.lewisseo.com tampa.lewisseo.com
columbusga.lewisseo.com marietta.lewisseo.com thewoodlands.lewisseo.com
concord.lewisseo.com melbourne.lewisseo.com torrance.lewisseo.com
davenport.lewisseo.com memphis.lewisseo.com troy.lewisseo.com
davie.lewisseo.com milwaukee.lewisseo.com tucson.lewisseo.com
dayton.lewisseo.com minneapolis.lewisseo.com tyler.lewisseo.com
daytonabeach.lewisseo.com mobileal.lewisseo.com vancouver.lewisseo.com
denton.lewisseo.com montgomery.lewisseo.com waterbury.lewisseo.com
desmoines.lewisseo.com muncie.lewisseo.com wichita.lewisseo.com
edison.lewisseo.com murfreesboro.lewisseo.com wichitafalls.lewisseo.com
edmond.lewisseo.com naperville.lewisseo.com winstonsalem.lewisseo.com
elkhart.lewisseo.com naples.lewisseo.com

“Clearly, this is the biggest SEO franchise on planet earth,” I said to myself.

I couldn’t resist. I picked up the phone and called the 517 (which is local to Lansing) number. A guy answered the phone and I told him I was driving into Lansing today and I’d like to meet at their office if someone was available to discuss my non-profit (I really do work with a non-profit, and I’d love some other SEOs to help me out!). He paused, then said he’d check to see if they had an office in Lansing, which seemed like an odd statement since I had called their “Lansing” number. After some loud keyboard typing in the background, he hopped back on the line and said they only have a “residential office there.” He went on to tell me they have these types of “offices” in a lot of cities, but that he’s located in Indianapolis and he sometimes makes it to the area if we’d like to have a meeting. I told him I was only in town briefly (also true) and said I’d have to find another time.

They go above and beyond

Any good SEO company knows that reviews for your Google My Business listing are important so I wasn’t surprised to see a review for the Grand Rapids location (wherever that may be). Continuing my curious streak, I clicked on the reviewer to see which other companies they reviewed and it appears that they’ve reviewed four of Lewis SEO’s locations throughout Michigan and had such a great experience they gave the SAME EXACT 5-star review for each location.

It’s even worse than I’d imagined!

Despite the already damning list of fake locations I had found from searching for the cities in the subdomain list above, I was even more floored when I went to Google Maps and zoomed out to the state of Michigan and did a search for “Lewis SEO”. They are everywhere! While they have no map pins, listings DO SHOW UP and you can click on them to see their localized (obviously forwarding) numbers and the city they supposedly are located in. THEY HAVE ONE FOR WAYLAND FOR GOD’S SAKE!

For those of you who are unaware, Wayland, Michigan is a thriving metropolis of 4,237 citizens.

Just for fun, please have a look for the listings in your state…you’ll be amazed. The time and effort to build this elaborate hoax of locations is truly something to marvel at! Seriously, I’m not even mad…


via GIPHY

This is a Google problem

Ultimately, I don’t mean to shame Lewis SEO here, they’re just taking advantage of a clear quality control problem Google is having with their Maps product. The bigger question is how and why Google would even allow Google Maps listings without a physical address, especially in the 3-pack. The entire idea of local search results is to provide users with access to local businesses, so how in the hell does this make any sense?

#craponthemap

Lest you think this is some old timer screaming “Get off my lawn!” I’d implore you all to take a look at the Twitter hashtag that’s taken on a life of its own (and Google apparently pays attention to) #StopCrapOnTheMap. Lots of people having some issues with shady Google Maps listings once you start poking around. Here’s a perfect example of egregious local spam from Nathan Driver.

How to kill Google Maps spam

So what can an outmatched individual do against this overwhelming tide of spam? Well, I’d dive into all of the details, but a lot of people have already picked up the torch and laid out the instructions for you. So, rather than steal their thunder in a less eloquent way, I’ll leave it to those who have come before.

Show us your SPAM!

spam

For my money, I haven’t seen anyone go as hard with local spam as my example above, but I’d love to see bigger, or more head-scratching examples of Google Maps spam so others can experience the shock and awe.



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