JCH Spotlight, Written Posts


25 Comments 19 October 2010


First, I went to go check the analytics on our places accounts for our properties, and I was greeted with violation notifications stating that the listing don’t meet Google’s “quality guidelines”. These listings have been up for years with no issues, and I have made off and on adjustments and edits this year (none recently) with zero issues.  I have NO clue what the deal is here, but this is a CROCK!  I can’t wait to get another automated message back from them that gives no specific explanation why this has happened.  Just GARBAGE, CRAP, WASTE OF MY TIME trying to figure out why some crap change to their system has now decided to block my listings.  I’m just IRATE!

Next, my lovely friends at ForRent.com have claimed our properties on CitySearch.com while putting their logos all over the listings.  I’m still researching to find out if this is something they are allowed to do.  All I’ve found so far is a way to PAY for listings on CitySearch.com, and that’s not going to happen from my perspective.  I would guess that For Rent is paying for those listings, but I still don’t thing that is right.  I guess if I have ads with them then I hope they are trying to drive traffic to those ads, so I can deal with that I suppose.  BUT … That’s not even what ticks me off.  The WORST part is that because they have these listings on CitySearch.com, their image auto-posts to my related Place page on Google!

BOOOOO GOOGLE!!!!  Put ridiculous “Quality Guidelines” on listings that up until recently were just fine, and then allow one of my competitors (yes, ForRent.com is a competitor when it comes to getting web traffic) to get their image onto a Places page that I have claimed!!!  This is terrible, and I am so hoping that somehow this all isn’t a coincidence that has caused my Place pages to be flagged.  Now I have to WASTE my time figuring out this garbage when all had been just fine for as long as I can remember with these listings.  Hey Google!  Are you listening?  Do you even care?  Or will I just get an auto-response?

  • I wonder if the CitySearch ad is interfering with your Google Places. More than just getting mad at Google I would want to know why ForRent.com is creating ads on other websites. Sure… I get it… creating links, SEO, blah blah. But they don’t own your listing… you do. Wait.. or do they?

    • I just saw this in paidcontent.org seems to pertain

      Trademark Lawsuit Against Google’s AdWords Hits Appeals Court

      Joe Mullin
      @joemullin Nov 2, 2010 11:09 PM ET
      Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has worn down most of its legal opponents over the years, but one of them isn’t going away so easily.
      Over the years, Google has been sued more than a dozen times by trademark owners over Google’s policy of allowing rivals to the trademark owners to buy their keywords and then use those words to advertise against them. To take a hypothetical example: Pepsi could buy the keyword “Coke” in AdWords, and then anyone who searched for “Coke” would see an ad that said: “Buy Pepsi.” In these cases, the plaintiffs have argued that Google infringed their trademark.

      While Google has settled a few of those cases, none has compelled the company to stop selling ads based on trademarked keywords—and Google has not lost any of the trademark cases in court. In fact—despite the likelihood of additional litigation—Google has expanded its policy of selling trademarked keywords to Europe, arguing that it produces competitive ads that better serve consumers.

      Now, language-learning software company Rosetta Stone, one of the companies that sued Google for trademark infringement and lost, has appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The company filed suit against Google back in 2007 and lost in August.

      No appellate court has yet issued a major ruling on a lawsuit regarding trademarked keywords, in part because Google has beaten—or simply worn out—so many opponents over the years. AdWords is Google’s flagship product, and a huge money maker for the company.

      In its appeal, Rosetta Stone argues that the Virginia federal district court that found in Google’s favor got it wrong on numerous counts. The company says that the lower court should have been swayed by its evidence that searchers were confused by AdWords, and alleges that some of the advertisers paying for sponsored links keyed to its trademarks sold counterfeit Rosetta Stone products. Google has yet to file its response brief, which is due Nov. 26.

      A number of large brands have indicated they will file two separate briefs supporting Rosetta Stone, including Viacom (NYSE: VIA), Ford Motor Company, Carfax, Blue Destiny Records, The Media Institute, ConvaTec, Guru Denim, Monster Cable, PetMed Express and 1-800 Contacts. While none of those companies has sued Google over trademark issues, the filing of the briefs supporting Rosetta Stone indicates they have objections to Google’s trademark policies.

  • I know with your determination you will certainly get to the bottom of it. That really is retarded but Google is not the best know entity for customer service unfortunately. They kind of plow through anything they want. Pound it …crush it ..smash it. You will prevail

    • Just a time sucker. I hope no one else has to deal with this, but I’m sure it won’t be just me.

  • I’ll be very interested to see how this gets resolved Mark. I wish you the best of luck. Google takes a lot of time to manage, I can understand your frustration.

    • I don’t expect this to get resolved very quickly, but hopefully For Rent will be able to help some.

  • Guest

    If I were to speculate,

  • If I were to speculate, the reason they flagged your account was because of the competing ownership claims made by you and For Rent. I had a similar situation with RentWiki. I love them. I really do, but it sent me over the edge to see their picture on our listing every time I logged on. No way to get rid of it, even after going through the proper channels to claim the listing.

    Like you, I understand why For Rent and RentWiki focus so much on connecting their listing around the internet. Coincidentally, it’s the same reason I want to do it and I don’t think we should be competing with each other. Most of the sales reps that you deal with from these companies don’t really know/understand/realize all of the things that their tech departments have started doing. That makes it hard to get things like this fixed after they happen (and having all the information necessary before signing advertising agreements with their company).

    • I would agree with you David. I think the two issues may be linked as they seem to have occurred near one another. I have Erica Campbell at For Rent looking into things from their end. That may not resolve everything with Google, but I’ll fix that in time I’m sure. Just a waste of my time.

  • CitySearch is all paid listings from what I see. If people want to pay for them representing someone else I guess they can. I’ve asked For Rent to make some adjustments. We’ll see what happens.

  • Without looking at their agreement with their advertisers, ForRent should not have any right to own content on their client’s listings pages. Between this and brand-specific bidding on keywords in PPC campaigns, I can see that we’re going to have to make some serious changes to the ways ILSs behave “on behalf of their clients.” It’s driving up costs and costing everyone a lot of wasted time.

    • I agree here Mike. To me this crosses the line. Curious to hear how this gets resolved Mark.

  • This is certainly something to keep an eye on… Most management companies would not even catch this in my opinion. I am sure this happens more than we know and will continue to happen as the data-feed from larger ILS is distributed across more online spaces. The question of ownership of the listing is a big one and the consumer experience is another big one… If the listing on citysearch redirects to forrent.com then it opens the door to viewing competitors and that is not what anyone wants to see happen. I look forward to hearing more about how this impacts the consumer and whether this diverts traffic from your space onto forrent.com. I played with it and it seems that all traffic does end up on your site which is good… (or less worse). I also saw that the first link (on the left hand side) went to rent.com… Not sure I would like that either.

  • Chad Waite

    It’s funny how automated processes can make life either super easy or super frustrating. Looks like you got the latter this time around. Hopefully you can get things all worked out.

  • Jrosseth

    Thank you Mark! I had the same melt down a week ago when I pulled up one of my google place listings and saw that the primary photo was the FOR RENT logo! Big FAT BOOOOOOOOOOO! It drives me insane that Google already brings in my apartmentratings content as one of the first things a prospect sees… even though I am the one who claimed the listing and posted all the material to it, but the fact that I get to carry a logo on my listing and that it can slip into the primary photo spot is ridiculous!!! I also couldn’t claim several of my listings on Foursquare because they were already claimed by Apartment Home Living. Thanks ILS, but NO THANKS! How about asking paying customers what we think before doing all this?????????

    • Janet, you need to raise hell regarding your Foursquare listings. I raised hell with them as their pages were coming up in Facebook results as well. I’m about to tell all the ILS’s to pound sand. That’s just me and my model. I’m sure plenty of companies won’t ever know.

  • I did not see a link to Rent.com anywhere. Please let me know where you saw that. I’ve just about had it with all this. Somehow I get flagged for for guideline rules and all these ILS’s that are posting listings everywhere don’t get tagged as spam? Something is not right.

  • Facebook Comment from Erica Campbell at ForRent.com:

    Mark- Thanks for your call this morning. I spoke to our SEM team and I have some answers for you.
    ForRent.com has more than 200 partnerships on major search engines, affiliate networks and directories to provide premium exposure to our advertisers’ listings. One of our partnerships is with CitySearch.com where we syndicate our advertisers’ listings to their network of sites. Google Places and Bing happen to be two of their distribution partners.

    ForRent.com encourages its advertisers to claim and verify their own listings on Google Places however; Google will pull CitySearch listings into Google Places regardless if businesses have claimed their listings or not because CitySearch is the number one trusted classified provider. CitySearch has no control over what Google pulls. They simply make their content available for partners and they can pull reviews, photos, and other data of their choice.

    Regarding your concern about the ForRent.com logo pulling into your Google Places account, we have a solution for that. CitySearch is not able to pull the main photo for each our listings so we used the ForRent.com logo. Two weeks ago we changed the logo on CitySearch to be a blue outline of an apartment community with a smaller ForRent.com logo on it. This change has reflected on CitySearch however it has not been reflected on Google. We do not know how long it will take the spiders to come back and re-index that new logo.
    We completely understand your opinion about the logo so as of this morning we have sent new creative to CitySearch which will just be a blue outline of apartment community with NO ForRent.com logo. Please see example here: http://tinyurl.com/37wpo9l This change will be reflected on CitySearch in 24 hours and again we do not know how long it will take to change on Google.

    In regards to your Google Places account being flagged for quality guidelines, we have sent an email to both our CitySearch and Google teams to see if they have any insight into that. Google Places has its own set of guidelines for what is considered valid content. However, we did notice that you are using a vanity URL, “homeisstonebridge.com” that 302 redirects to “http://stonebridge.homeisjchart.com/jchart/page/lifestyle”. The problem with that is it’s a 302 redirect which means temporary and is not actually correct in the case they have set up. Given that the URL is one of the primary fields that could be one of the main reasons. The property name is also different on ForRent.com where it looks like it needs to be fixed on our site.
    I’ll be sure to get back to you on any updates from our Google team. Thanks!

    • I’m not sure how I feel about their “partnership” with CitySearch. As you know, I’m a Yelp fan, so I don’t use CitySearch. I logged in today for the first time in years and explored a little. In Atlanta there is a social media directory (http://atlanta.citysearch.com/browse/social-media-directory) and I noticed several apartment communities on the first page. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention, but I saw that one of them had @aptsforrent listed as their Twitter account.

      At first I didn’t connect it to For Rent Media Solutions because I was more curious that they picked that username [before I could], but I digress…

      Anyway, pretty much every apartment community in the directory is linked to FRMS’s Twitter & Facebook accounts… plus a toll-free tracking number.

      I have a few issues with this…

      First, CitySearch posts the most recent Tweets from the linked account, so FRMS instantly gained a huge Twitter distribution. Any of us would kill for that level of amplification.

      I don’t know how they are using the toll-free tracking number, but if I were to speculate I doubt they are reporting calls through this number separately. Instead, it’s probably included in the call report for ForRent.com. That artificially inflates their numbers and is misleading to advertisers who might be paying for an online listing that isn’t as effective as they believe.

      I could go on, but I think you get the idea…

      Does it really matter? I doubt most communities are utilizing social media well enough that missing out on CitySearch’s exposure would actually be a detriment to their marketing. They probably don’t care that they’re paying a monthly bill to FRMS AND giving them free advertising to rebroadcast its messages.

      I guess it’s good that these listing were claimed by FRMS on behalf of the communities, but I have to wonder what was provided prior to all of this happening. I doubt the listings were non-existent (except for new construction). They were probably there with limited information and in most cases that was probably okay. Either way, that should be my decision and if FRMS is going to do it for me they need to notify me. Ideally, I think they should ask permission before doing anything that isn’t directly related to ForRent.com, but I’ll settle for a heads-up.

      • These listing have completely trumped the Google Place pages I had claimed and built out. It’s wrong!

  • Did I mention we’re considered a “Favorite Place” on Google (http://markjuleen.com/2010/06/08/google-local-how-does-your-business-become-a-favorite-place/), but yet we’ve now been flagged for not following their guidelines. Something is fishy!

  • Here’s the link to the presentation that Steve Taraborelli (UDR) gave at AIM last year – http://www.slideshare.net/AIM_Conference/online-brand-and-reputation-management-steve-taraborelli-udr-2009-aim-conference.

    Take a look at slides 11 on in particular … UDR has implemented a “right of first refusal” clause that ILSs “must seek UDR’s approval to distribute UDR’s content to non-owned ILS websites that would compete against UDR’s website.” There are more details in the following slides.

    There are laws in place that can help you protect your content … this is not much different from record companies that go after consumers who use their songs on YouTube. It’s a process, but in the end, you’ll have a more consistent online presence and a much better idea of where your leads are coming from and what value your ILS partners are really delivering.

  • Erica Campbell

    All- i just wanted to reach back out to let you know the status of why Mark’s Google Places Account is being flagged. This is coming straight from our Google Places Account Rep. ” His account was suspended for “title spam” – meaning they are violating our quality guidelines for business titles:
    ‘Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. The name on Google should match the business name, as should the address, phone number and website’.

    For example, the business title ‘The Waverley 151 South East St.’ should be ‘The Waverley.’

    Unfortunately, requesting a re-review is all you can do.”

    In addition, i asked Google to clarify that the ILS’s were NOT responsible for this and they said “Correct. It is how he registered his business name on Google Places when he verified the listing. Google does not check on ForRent.com as they are not an official classifieds site where they would pull a listing info from like citysearch, yellowpages, axciom, etc.”

    I hope this clears everything up for everyone on the sting. Thanks!

    -Erica Campbell
    Director of Marketing
    For Rent Media Solutions

    • What’s important for everyone to know in this situation is that making sure the way the name of your business is listed on every online source is consistent. This includes phone listings, ILS listings, and others.

      While the ILSs are not directly responsible for this issue in my case, the fact that they are syndicating our property information is still a concern. Insuring your data and information is consistent is an important key in making sure your official listings are not trumped by data being sent out from the ILSs.

      I’ll be putting together a more thorough follow-up post, and thank Erica and her team for helping me research this issue.

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