• January 18, 2010

    Google Maps Scraping for Content

    Critics of search engine optimization have long claimed that the practice of SEO would be eliminated as Google proceeds to introduce increasingly personalized and localized search results to its users. Those critics should spend some time reading cutting edge blog posts like this one by Mike Blumenthal. Google Maps: Now Adding Reviews from News Sites, Hyperlocal Blogs and Other Non Traditional Review Sources Writing in his Understanding Google Maps and Local Search blog, Blumenthal takes a deep, technical look at Google's new practice of scraping content from local news, review and event websites and applying that content to business listings generated through Google Maps.

    With their newly implemented sentiment analysis, Google Maps is apparently now reaching across hyperlocal blogs, local portals and news sites and retrieving blog entries, general editorial reporting and even blog comments for inclusion as reviews on their Places Pages.
    When it feels the need to add content to a local listing generated by Google Maps, the search engine might extract information from review sites, blog posts, blog comments or local news and events sites without the author's permission. In other words, Google is using general comment as editorial advice and recommendation in local business listings found on Google Maps. This method of information retrieval raises several levels of concern for consumers and business owners alike. Especially of concern is Google's practice of presenting someone's writing without context. In many cases, if a writer understood his or her views were going to be used as the basis for a business listing at Google, they might have chosen different wording. In his blog post, Blumenthal cites several examples where Google uses information scraped from unrelated websites to fill into a listing generated by Google Maps and outlines how readers can check out if Google has used similar techniques in their local areas. Naturally, SEOs and reputation management specialists will be interested in the effects of posts, comments and reviews in local news and event sites on small business listings though not necessarily for the same reasons. For SEOs, this practice gives another opportunity to boost a client's business through another search channel. It also gives SEOs something else to help small businesses guard against.