US: Practice of map spamming has recently gained the attention of government regulators in the US. In one example, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum sued Florist in Miami, Inc., a New Jersey company, for creating the false impression of 53 locations in Florida.
What is map spamming?
Map spamming is the evolved new version of directory spamming which involves the falsification of information within Web-based map directories. The term describes the practice of dishonest advertisers using popular Web-based map directories, such as Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps, to create the false impression of a business’ local presence.
How do they do it?
There are three general methods that spammers use to create the false impression that they are a local business:
1. The spammer uses another business’ address.
2. The spammer makes up an address. The fictitious address may show up in an unexpected place on the map – for example, in the middle of a city park.
3. The spammer uses a series of P.O. Boxes which forward to the spammer’s actual address.
Why it’s wrong?
It is pretty obvious that lying is wrong. However, some businesses often argue that “if we do business in the area we claim to be in, why can’t we advertise a physical presence?” Better Business Bureau (BBB) standards address the issue in two ways.
First, the BBB Code of Advertising states, that “advertisements that are untrue, misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent shall not be used.” And more specifically, BBB online standards state that “online advertisers should use Internet technology to promote the customer’s knowledge of the products or services being offered and should not use technology to mislead customers.”
Essentially, it should be the consumer’s choice whether to do business with a local company or an out-of-area company. Any practice which would try to gain a marketplace advantage through false statements is prohibited by BBB standards. These standards are designed to protect both consumers and business competition.
To file a complaint regarding map-spamming, one can contact local BBB’s advertising review department.
Why do they do it?
In the new Web-based world, consumers have the ability to access information on-the-go. Consumers are much more likely to search for a business’ contact information using a PC or Web-enabled phone than a hard-to-carry-in-your-pocket yellow pages directory.
So, the directory scam has moved to the World Wide Web, a place with a name that even suggests global scale. Yet, there is still a large and dominant population of consumers who enjoy the thought of doing business with the local down-the-street merchant. This is the prime target for map spammers.
Despite the fact that map spamming can also increase a company’s search engine optimisation (SEO), the primary unfair advantage is achieved with the stockpiling of inbound business leads. And, it doesn’t take an MBA to figure out that more leads is equal to more money.
Source: Better Business Bureau