This was a search done earlier this week in a prominent zip code in Manhattan, New York. All three of these listings in the three-pack are fake.
In fact, when digging further, 18 out of the top 20 for this search result set were not real businesses. When looking through two cities for one of my attorney clients this week, I compiled a list of 273 fake listings in the top six pages of results for just two different keywords. Many SEO Companys who work with attorneys are noticing this. Brian Barwig of AttorneySync tweeted earlier that he looked through over six pages of fake listings that had no websites attached to them.
Whoever is behind this has realized that there is a huge flaw in Google’s ranking algorithm. Listings that are ranking on the first page of local results have:
- No website
- No backlinks or online mentions online of any kind
- No reviews
So how are these listings ranking? It’s simple, Google’s [stupid] local algorithm strongly favors listings that have words in their business name that match the searcher’s query. So the fact that these listings have the words “car accident” in them and are close to the user searching is making it possible for them to rank…with absolutely no other factors needed.
Dave DiGregorio also points out that the listings are starting to get flooded with fake reviews as well. The same users are leaving reviews for various listings.
When you call the phone numbers on the listings, they take you to lead generating companies that ask if you need a personal injury lawyer. If asked, they will not identify what company they work for. Several attorneys I work with have told me they are being inundated with requests from lead providers who are selling these leads for hundreds of dollars each.
Stewart Guss, an attorney in Houston, Texas, reached out to me about how horrified he was to see that his office was being pushed down in Google as a result of these. He decided to have some of his employees call the phone numbers and pretend to be in need of a car accident attorney so he could find out which lead providers were selling the leads. If you’re an attorney reading this, here is his advice. “Vet your paid lead sources. Just ask them flat out how they are finding and funneling their leads through their lead generation system. Make sure that you’re not doing business with a pay per lead vendor that is cannibalizing the very same leads you should already be getting via organic local search results.”
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.