If you’ve ever spent 37 minutes cursing at the wheel of your Kia Sportage in an empty parking lot where Google Maps said you’d find an exotic pets dealer — you’re not alone.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, 11m listings on Google Maps are fake at any moment. These false listings aren’t mere mistakes — they’re crafted by conniving cartographers to manipulate Maps users.
Con artists have a place to call their own
Unscrupulous business owners register strings of fake businesses across large areas, bumping their companies to the top of Google search results.
Then, these fake businesses get more calls than competitors that are actually closer to customers. Misleading mappers then charge customers higher prices, starving legit businesses of customers.
But Google is making Maps into MORE of a game
Google recently enabled businesses to pay to prioritize their listings in Maps in a bid to diversify Google’s revenue beyond search.
But since Google profits off these problems, it has little incentive to remove fake businesses — and so far the company has chosen to turn a blind algorithm to rampant map mayhem.
For legitimate businesses, one of the best ways to avoid getting spammed is paying Google for ads.
Google reportedly removed more than 3m fake businesses from its Maps app last year — but search consultants say Google-funded research suggesting that Maps fraud is only a small problem is “bogus.”