I know I owe you all Part 2 of yesterday’s post: Google Places Big New FEATURED Reviews – Make that Place Page Stand Out from the Pack

But 1st I have an important quickie to throw out there. I think I may have just found a new penalty state. Well, errr… I actually am not sure exactly what it is. Have not taken the time to investigate much. Just wanted to share and see if anyone else has seen this in the wild.

UPDATE 5/27:  THIS IS NOT A GOOGLE PENALTY as I initially assumed yesterday AM. It appears to be a payment collection extortion attempt by a very shady local SEO company. Please read comments for EXCELLENT detective work by my readers and see how this story unfolds.

I found almost 3,000 Place pages in the US that have “AWAITING REMOVAL” appended next to the Business name. The penalty or warning shows on map search as well as the Place page itself. So it’s NOT just a warning in the dashboard. It’s right out there for all to see. WHAT IS THIS? I don’t think this message means the OWNER has requested removal due to the business being closed, because I found several listing that had just made posts to their pages about specials etc. Here’s a screenshot, then a few observations after some quick research.

I did notice lots of keyword stuffing in titles of many of the listings – but not all. And many that I quickly spot checked seemed to repeat name and city in the description. But again I just quickly spot checked so didn’t do enough research yet to form a conclusion yet. One thing I DID notice that strikes me as VERY odd, is that almost all the listings have really nice marketing type images in the serps. With any random map search you’d see a mix of no images, funky logos, buildings or poor quality images. So one thought I had is that these could all be listings from one big agency? Or maybe these all happen to be listings at fake addresses or postal addresses??? Dying to know.

HOWEVER the way Google is visibly marking these listings for all to see, it almost seems like they are trying to make an example out of these listings or send a strong warning message.

I love playing detective on stuff like this, but don’t have time right now. I need to curate my Google Places News channel on Scoop.it and finish part 2 from yesterday’s blog post. So I’ll see if anyone weighs in and has seen this before or figures out what’s up.

Here’s a link to the search results page on maps so you guys can check it out to see what you can make of it. Curious minds want to know. So tweet this and post back here if anyone figures it out.