Google local can be a bit of an achilles heel for the search giant. Today, looking for flights to Chicago, Anthony came across this little number (cheers dude!)
Firstly, I want a cheap flight to Chicago so I’m not even sure why I’m seeing a map of Chicago. It doesn’t seem very relevant does it? Secondly, of those 3 results, 2 are highjacking the system.
The first listing, which displays as chicago-cheap-flights.info goes through some redirects to wind up at www.onetravel.com with a load of affiliate URL clutter that tells us this is somehow involved with Pepperjam – a US affiliate and internet marketing company. Onetravel is a flight aggregator site so at least has some legitimacy, but surely this is really abusing the system?
The second listing (cheapflightschicago.4u2se.com) redirects to cheapflights-4u.com which speaks for itself…
How do people spam Google local? Well the verification system is to take a phone call or a postcard and type in a code. The trouble being, of course that you can buy a local number and get it forwarded, just as you can get an ‘office’ that is a forwarding address. Given the increasing importance of localised results and the emphasis Google puts on them in blended search, it’s pretty clear that people are looking at this as a quick shortcut to the top of the rankings.
How can Google combat this kind of thing? It’s hard to say. In the UK at least, limited companies have registered premises and, of course, website ownership is generally tied to a identifiable person. Moving to some kind of system involving factors like that might put it all on a more legally-binding kind of footing, but in the meantime look out for more Google Local spam as people pick up on the possibilities.