Study estimates millions of business listings on Google Maps are fake

Posted on June 24, 2019

According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Google Maps is now littered with business listings and contact numbers that are not genuine, with many rerouting to competing companies.

Thousands upon thousands of new, fake listings appear on Google Maps each month and the Wall Street Journal believes that the service could have as many as 11 million fake business listings on the site at present.

Back in 2017, Google itself self-funded an academic study into this subject and concluded that only 0.5% if local searches were not genuine listings. However, the Wall Street Journal’s investigation says otherwise. The Journal searched for business listings of plumbers based in New York City and it found that more than half (13) of the top 20 business results were false listings. Furthermore, it found that only two were genuine businesses that adhered to the guidelines set out by Google. These guidelines stipulate that all pushpin listings must detail locations that are open to customers.

The Journal’s research suggests that companies not based in the locations suggested by their listings are likely to include repairers, car towing companies and contractors. Google internally refers to these businesses as ‘duress verticals’ as they are the types of businesses people would turn to when they have an emergency and wouldn’t spend much time looking into the business’ credibility. The research was diluted by Google’s inclusion of hotels and restaurants, which are nearly always at the location detailed in the listing.

In order for a business listing to be verified, Google sends out a numerical code to these companies – either through an email, a phone call or by mailing a postcard – to show that they are genuine. However, it is thought that this system is fairly easy for scammers to get around by providing fake phone numbers and addresses.

This loophole in the system can damage genuine businesses and their potential customers, while the scammers, and even Google, seem to benefit. In the time since the Journal’s investigation, Google has removed the fake listings, with a spokesperson for the online giant stating that the company has since added new defences for business categories classed as high-risk.

Google has also announced that it will be giving businesses more options to customise their business listings through the My Business feature. Though this, companies can offer first-time visitors a discount on products and services, set a cover photo, and claim a shorter URL.

Furthermore, in a blog post, Google has stated that it will be working on new ways for people to report any suspicious business listings they find.

Posted by Alan Littler

Has Google been caught ‘red handed’ in song lyric theft?

Posted on June 20, 2019

A song lyrics website is claiming that Google is stealing its content, and believes it has come up with a clever way to prove it.

Since 2014, Google has been providing lyrics to songs within its search results, sometimes including links to buy the song or album via the Google Play store. This is another example of (more…)

Posted by John Murray

Around half of UK unaware Google funded by ads

Posted on June 4, 2019

A new report from watchdog Ofcom has revealed that nearly half the country does not know that online giant Google, along with (more…)

Posted by Alan Littler

Google to set mobile-first as default for new sites

Posted on May 31, 2019

Search giant Google has recently announced that all new websites previously unknown to the company will be defaulted to the new mobile-first indexing as of July 1.

Furthermore, older sites that (more…)

Posted by Alan Littler

Did Google Trends predict the EU election results?

Posted on May 29, 2019

Last week, I looked at Google Trends traffic to see if it could give us an insight into what would happen at the EU Parliamentary Elections that took place last Thursday.

I felt I should follow up on this regardless of whether the predictions were good, bad or indifferent. As it turned out, they were (more…)

Posted by John Murray

Google admits storing passwords in plain text for over 10 years

Posted on May 23, 2019

Search giant Google has recently disclosed that it has discovered an issue whereby a number of G Suite users have had their passwords being stored in plain text format.

According to (more…)

Posted by Alan Littler

Predicting the UK European Elections results with Google Trends

Posted on May 22, 2019

In the crazy year that was 2016, we started looking at the links between what people were searching for on Google, and how they were voting.

This started when I read that considerably more people had been searching for ‘Leave’ related topics than ‘Remain’ in the run-up to the UK’s referendum on European Union membership. Of course, the UK then (more…)

Posted by John Murray

Google to show more ads on mobile devices

Posted on May 16, 2019

Search giant Google has announced that it will be introducing new types of ads that will start to appear in the (more…)

Posted by Alan Littler
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