Fake Google Places Pages: When a Wiener Joke Outranks You…

March 15th, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

internet is serious business

SEO largely depends upon undisclosed and constantly evolving criteria for page authority, making it inherently unpredictable. Google makes the rules; the industry responds accordingly.

Local results in the SERPs exemplify this. Whether they appear, as well as how they appear, is entirely at Google’s discretion. That being said, Google’s discretion is sufficiently discreet in most instances. Furthermore, most people pay more attention to local results in the SERPs than they do to organic ones, which vindicates their prominence. However, local can get pretty sloppy sometimes. Unrelated businesses weasel into the results here and there.

I recently saw a meaty example of this in a 7-pack for the term “pools dothan al.” By virtually all measures, that is an unremarkable keyword. I was understandably not expecting anything noteworthy.

Primarily, the businesses in the aforementioned 7-pack sell and install pools, but a couple listings are for billiards halls. Pool is a homonym, which makes it difficult for Google to distinguish which “pool” a user is looking for. Regardless, I would guess exactly 0 people in Dothan, AL are looking to play some “pools” at the local bar this weekend.

This made me realize what problems homonyms and homographs create for local search. For example, take the keyword “bank” and the location Westbank, a suburb of New Orleans. If I search for “westbank bank,” no relevant local results appear. If I then click on the Maps tab from that same results page, Google drops me onto a Wendy’s in Iowa. I’m sure there are a million other similarly dysfunctional examples; that’s just the first that came to mind. Joseph, our Maps guy, noticed a strip club twerked its way into the 7-pack for “new orleans pools”. But I digress.

What really caught my eye in these results was a listing titled Penis Pool. Yep. Penis Pool. I’ve seen plenty of features sophomorically revised in Mapmaker before (for example, one enterprising young cartographer removed the J from a feature previously titled Janus Automation), but I’ve never seen a Place page like that.

Penis Pool

I was very curious how Penis Pool snuck its way into the bottom of the 7-pack. I asked a few people to check it out, and Joseph quickly pointed out that the pool does in fact show up on the satellite view. Once I saw it, I couldn’t really disagree with the name or Penis Pool’s status as a landmark in Dothan.

How did this happen? Presumably, somebody spotted this on the map, added a Place page, and subsequently shared it with all of their friends. Glowing reviews ensued and the link eventually found its way to a few different blogs. Considering this cannot be an especially competitive field in a very small town, Penis Pool’s local authority grew into a veritable Leviathan, and perhaps even rudely whipped some other business out of the rankings.

Penis Pool satellite view

Should you be worried about a Penis Pool near you? Maybe. It is safe to say the internet’s propensity for wiener jokes > your local SEO efforts. With the right mix, it’s easy to imagine similar examples popping up elsewhere. Just hope nobody starts digging a phallic-shaped pool in your city.