In Sunday’s “Your Money” section of the New York Times, “The Haggler” writes about the locksmith industry and focuses his article on two things – a real guy, Ballard Lock and Key’s Bob Strom, and Google results.
In the piece, The Haggler points out that many of the locksmiths that come up in search results aren’t even based in Seattle. “They are phone banks, typically set up in far-off places, often in other countries. Call them and they’ll dispatch a locksmith. Some are legitimate, but others may all too often do shoddy work and/or charge two or three times the estimate,” The Haggler writes.
Many of these companies are lead generation companies that spend their lives working the Google algorithm to have a high ranking.
The Haggler asked Doug Pierce of Digital Due Diligence, an Internet research firm based in Brooklyn, to look into it. Mr. Pierce found that lead gen sites use some interesting gimmicks to charm and hoodwink Google’s algorithm. Some basically hijack the local addresses of other entities in or near the middle of town. A business called 24 Hour Speedy Emergency Service, for instance, uses the same address as the King County Administration Building.
According to the article, Google is aware of this and working on the issue. The fixes can’t come soon enough for Strom. He tells the New York Times that he’s lost about one-third of his revenue since these lead gen sites started popping up a few years ago. Customers are paying the price, too.
“We showed up at a job last week,” Strom tells the Times, “and this woman told me, ‘A young man came yesterday, quoted me $49 to open my door, then he drilled my lock, charged me $400 and left — and now I need a new lock.’ I hear something like that almost every week.”
You can read the entire article here.