Original Poster
Linda Buquet ~

JohnMu & Matt Cutts Important Algo Problem - Gives Spammers a ONE-BOX, Locking SMBs out of Search

NOTE to TCs: 

Please DO NOT MOVE to Google and your Business Forum - This is NOT a Local Algo problem, even though at 1st glance it may appear to be, it's not.
(But please help me escalate to John, Matt or another Googler.)

I am a Google and your Business TC. I've reported this major problem to Jade numerous times and she's been reporting to someone on the organic side, but I don't know who. 

THOUSANDS of small businesses WORLD-WIDE are being locked out of search due to a bad algo tweak that happened around 8/22.

This new algo change causes PURE SPAM fake business listings to get a one-box (like what shows for a branded search) just because they have a fake keyword stuffed business name (City KW), which in itself is a Google violation. Many are violating numerous other Google guidelines. Many even are totally bogus with non-working phone #s and dead websites. 

So in addition to promoting spam listings to one-boxes AND blocking out all the other honest businesses that were in the 7 back - these bogus listings with dead phones and websites are creating a bad user experience. Consumers call the "only Dentist in town" only to get a disconnected # or a little girl's cell phone. How relevant is that?

AGAIN, even though what I'm about to share is happening to local businesses and affecting the 7 pack results - THE PROBLEM IMO IS DUE TO the ORGANIC SEARCH ALGO.
(Sorry, didn't mean to shout, but I've been sending users here to post and their posts get moved back to the Google Business forum, when this is an organic algo problem. I've been trying and trying to get someone to understand how big this problem is and that's it's not happening on the Places side of the house, but is due to the organic algo - even though it's affecting local listings.)

PROBLEM SUMMARY: This is a wide-spread problem and thousands of SMBs WORLD-WIDE are being locked out of search in favor of spam listings that score a branded one-box.

The dial was tweaked too high that tries to show a single (one box) listing for a branded search.

If the name is Alpine Plumbing and you search for Alpine Plumbing - Google properly shows you one listing - Alpine Plumbing. (All good)

But when someone has an exact match FAKE city + keyword business name like "Atlanta Dentists" and you search for "Atlanta Dentist" then that single listing gets a one-box even if it's a FAKE keyword stuffed name and is a totally spammy listing. It's getting a one box just like a brand search would. Then all the other honest Dentists in that market lose their listing and are locked out of the 7 pack.


EXAMPLE #1: Google search: Plumbers San Diego (Note: you may need to set location to the city of search to see most of these). 

You'll see it shows only ONE Plumber in San Diego.  This listing got a ONE-BOX and knocks everyone else out of the ranking.
Fake name (Places violation), geo stuffed categories  (Places violation),  address visible  (Places violation), city repeated 3 times in description (considered local KW stuffing). 
Phone is out of service. In Map Maker the record goes to a painting company?

 So again why does this listing deserve a one-box and how is it relevant to searcher - if call the only Plumber listed and the # is dead?


EXAMPLE #2: This one scored a one-box and locked out all the other Dentists in Sevierville, TN - https://plus.google.com/118167590104640721819/about?gl=us&hl=en

I called the number and it's a young girl's cell phone. Her Mom answered and was totally perplexed. (So not only bad result for consumers, but results in unwanted phone calls TO a consumer, not a business.)

Street view looks like this is residential - way out in the country - it's not even a Dental office. The site is not even built. Just boilerplate CMS, no content!.

How does this rate as the only/best/most relevant Dentist in Sevierville? It's not even valid. It's only a one box because it has City + KW in the fake name.


Those are just 2 of many, many examples I've reported in the thread below. 
I started reporting 8/24 but 1st noticed the problem on 8/22. Since then tons of examples have been posted at the forum below and at the Google Business forum. 

Attack of the Bad Google Local One-Boxes! (44 posts about this at  the Local Search Forum)

NOTE: Each report negatively impacts at least 7 local businesses, and who knows how many consumers that are trying to find a valid service provider, so you need to multiply for full effect.

(Some of those at my forum are resolved now, but NOT because the info got to the right person on the organic search team and the algo got corrected. I think the ones that were resolved were ones where Jade got the spam team to delete individual listings. BUT the algo problem that's causing this is still the underlying issue.)

More examples and reports from the Google and Your Business Forum:

(Google "Phoenix DUI Lawyer" goes to one box with a listing linked to an SEO site about SEO services. It's not even an attorney - but is listed as the only atty in Phoenix???)

There are many more reports at my forum and the Google Business forum. Above is just the tip of the iceberg. (I happen across more every day, without even looking, more than I can bother reporting.)

Can a TC help me by escalating to the right person/team?

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All Replies (64)
Long post. May help to keep it short and avoid so much text decoration so it's easier to read though examples are helpful. 
I moved this to Chit Chat in our forum though since you're not a webmaster asking about your site. Don't worry, that subforum still gets plenty of attention. I've also escalated - but that doesn't mean you'll necessarily get a Google response. 

Original Poster
Linda Buquet ~
Thanks Ashley,

Since I'm advocating on behalf of so many webmasters and business owners who have been affected, I thought ranking/indexing was the right place.

Sorry for the length, colors and shouting. I've been trying so hard to get the attention of the right team and everyone keeps thinking this is happening on the local side. (Actually there is a part that the local algo plays in that listings with fake KW stuffed names should get caught in a filter and not go live or should be suspended for violating the guidelines.) But the issue I'm trying to bring to light here is the algo that creates branded one boxes is dialed too high I think.

Thanks again for your help!
Just to be clear - is this what you're referring to?

I dunno what a 'one-box' is and never saw anyone post about it here. I looked at the san diego search and it looks fine to me...several plumbers listed with different addresses.

If you escalated it to your CM and the CM said she's on it, I think you should be patient and then of course as you know they can't always tell us what's up. As you know, sometimes the answer is "that's the way it's supposed to be" and that's it.

but I looked at your one example and it's fine for me.
Linda - 

I believe I know what you're talking about and can repro with other queries on my end. 

I don't really know what to suggest at this point. Normally I'd say the knowledge graph is separate from local results, however in my tests when the knowledge graph appeared the local results didn't - so I can understand the issue.

It could be something Google is testing since they're always tweaking the SERPs. It could be a sign of how they plan to restructure results. Who knows!

I understand business owners are sensitive to this, but at the same time it's organic ranking. They don't own any placement and Google is opaque and dynamic. You have to learn to roll with the punches and focus on making the best website you can and hopefully you keep showing up on page 1 regardless of how Google structures results. Easier said than done, though. 
Incidentally, I did the san diego plumber one, and the one guy came up, but then I did it again and Maps showed with all the locations. 

They must be testing this out...just a thought and a guess!
Original Poster
Linda Buquet ~
Ashley thanks that's it.

Lyris "I dunno what a 'one-box' is and never saw anyone post about it here.  I looked at the san diego search and it looks fine to me...several plumbers listed with different addresses."

You need to change location to San Diego to see it.  What the local searchers would see searching for Plumbers San Diego is what Ashley showed. 

There is a single listing and it's a bogus listing - instead of 7 businesses to choose from in the 7 pack with reviews and map markers. All the business listings you are saw at 1st for legit business do not show up if you are searching from that actual locations.  

Edited to add: Yes they just fixed that one for SD Plumber I think individually after reading this post. But many others are still out there. So they fixed one, didn't roll back the update that caused this. 

Original Poster
Linda Buquet ~
Ashley I totally get rolling with the punches when the algo changes.

But in this case I believe the algo to be faulty. Google wants to serve relevant results. How is it relevant to make one site rank like's it's the only one in town when it a totally fake listing, or violating guidelines or the number is out of service and the site is dead? How can it rank as the only/best listing? 

The algo did not universally change and drop all local listings. It only affects markets where there is a spammer breaking the rules. Then it gives them an exclusive spot, even if it's a bogus listing and locks everyone else out. Just not good for users, businesses OR Google. 

Here are a few more that have not been fixed that are fake or violating guidelines and knocking every other business in that city out of the pack for that phrase:

(FYI you need to change location to city to see it)

dentists denver (Domain is dead, parking page. One reviewer said this might be a locksmith not even a dentist. Street view looks like a warehouse. No Dental office there.

atlanta personal injury lawyer (fake name, domain expired, phone disconnected)

phoenix personal injury lawyer (spammy site, fake name and location)

Dentist in Sevierville TN (phone is a young girl's cell phone)

Phoenix DUI Lawyer (Site is an SEO's marketing site, not even attorney)

Plumber in Baltimore (parked domain not even live site)

Philadelphia dentist (site dead)

So again, not a matter of boo hoo, algo changed and my ranking dropped - it's a matter of BAD results showing and ALL the other local listings are missing in these cases.

That's just a few there are tons more.

And folks have been using the "Feedback" link on the knowledge graph/one-box?

That seems like one of the best ways to make sure the right people have visibility. 
Original Poster
Linda Buquet ~
"folks have been using the "Feedback" link on the knowledge graph/one-box?"

My concern is not so much the knowledge graph for that one result. I think if I did feedback on knowledge graph they'd think I was just reporting that listing, which would not get to the bigger issue that's at the core of the matter.

My bigger concern is the one box in the main SERPs that is replacing the 7 pack that should be there. But I guess maybe the feedback link at the bottom of SERPs would report about the regular search results being off, to that department.

Thanks for the suggestion Ashley. I'll start telling everyone to try that too. 
Original Poster
Linda Buquet ~
I have an even bigger longer post at the Local Search Forum that is now 92 posts long.  Attack of the Bad Google Local One-Boxes!

Since the Google local team watches my forum and I reported that thread to them - for a long time the local spam team was fixing one offs that were pure spam listings. (I reported these 2 in that thread too.) 

When this problem 1st started many that I reported had dead sites, disconnected phone #s, tons of violations. They were just old spam listings that were dead and surfaced. Mike Blumenthal attributed it to Hummingbird stirring up a bunch of old dead junk that had been previously buried from view.  He called it Hummingbird Guano. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2014/01/08/mining-for-google-hummingbird-guano-in-so-cal/

Iin past it was just exact KW matches that the algo got confused about and thought a search for Atlanta Dentist was looking for atlantadentist.com. But these last 2 examples show the algo is doing some type of broader match now.  

"In the Game Barber Shop", has their real name on the G+ L listing, so is not a spammy fake exact match name, like most previous cases have been. PLUS the name is not even an exact match for "Huntington Beach Haircuts".  I'm going to investigate some more when I get time, to try to figure out why Google thinks it's such a good match to award it #1 and think it's the only match in town.

But I've said all along, for every listing I report there are 100s that go unreported. So fixing the one offs is pretty pointless. The algo that created this problem and is confusing generic city+ KW searches with a brand search --- needs to be tweaked.
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