When it comes to spam on Google.com and Google Maps, Google is talking out both sides of its mouth.
Background: Spam on Google Maps often comes in the form of hijacked listings, where a 3rd party comes in and edits someone else’s business listing … because Google lets them. Many local search watchers have been railing against this for ages, most notably Mike Blumenthal, who just last week temporarily hijacked Microsoft’s listing to illustrate the problem, and prompted Danny Sullivan to temporarily hijack Yahoo’s listing to shine an even brighter light on what’s going on.
End of background.
Yesterday, Google finally responded. You can read the full reply on Mike’s blog, but here’s the essence of the problem:
“The wiki nature of Google Maps expands upon Google’s steadfast commitment to open community.”
In other words, damn the torpedoes, Google is committed to this openness, this sharing, this community “wiki nature” of Google Maps. Let’s hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” together, shall we? Google’s response is, in my opinion, borderline offensive because it puts a higher priority on this non-existent “open community” ideal than it does on accuracy of information and the impact of inaccurate information on business owners and Google users.
Here’s where the hypocrisy comes in: Late last year, when defending Google’s stance against paid links, Matt Cutts used the example of someone in poor health using Google to get information about the sickness:
“…suppose you just visited your doctor and got a scary surprise: you or a member of your family have a tumor. The doctor is throwing around words like steroids, surgery, chemo, and radiosurgery. Much of what the doctor says washes over you, but you remember the word “radiosurgery” and resolve to find out more when you get home.”
Matt goes on to cite some examples of paid links related to important health terms and how those can interfere with Google’s ability to return accurate, helpful results to a person in need.
Meanwhile, Miriam Ellis wrote last night about how she recently moved, and didn’t have any contact info. for a local doctor, and had a medical emergency come up, so she used Google Maps to find doctors’ names and numbers. Now, the info she got from Google Maps was incorrect, but it wasn’t hijacked. Google’s lucky; it could’ve been. Says Miriam:
You’ve recently told Mike Blumenthal Google Maps has a wiki-nature. Can you see from my medical anecdote here that applying a wiki philosophy to contact information for medical providers is, somehow, inappropriate?
So tell us, Google … if health-related searches are a prime example of why selling links is the equivalent of spamming Google SERPS, and spam must be kept out of the SERPs at all costs because people need accurate information about medical issues, how come you don’t apply the same standard to Google Maps?
It’s time to end this love affair you have with “open community” and put the “wiki nature” of Google Maps to rest. The whole world has no business being able to edit any unclaimed business listing they want. Stop talking out both sides of your mouth: If accurate health info matters on Google.com, it matters just as much (maybe more) on Google Maps.