This is a service that MANY local small business have/can join, nationally (almost like an online co-op), precisely because they do not have the time or capability to build an online presence. This service PUTS THEM ONLINE, easily, quickly, and inexpensively - how is this a detriment?
I think G embraces these "national aggregators" because G has the data that shows everyone is happy. Here's the scenario: User does search, clicks top ranking 'national' site, lands on page and sees a list of what they're looking for with reviews and testimonials, stays and makes conversion. VS. User does search, clicks local top ranking site, not happy, wants to compare, goes back G, tries another result, takes down number, wants to compare more, goes back to G, tries another search, checks out a few other local sites, etc.... it's a waste of time and energy.
(sorry to get off-topic everyone)
RonnieG, I'm glad you qualified that with the statement ending with "So it can go either way.", because, if you have access to the data I have, you'll learn that is completely untrue. Costs actually go down for the plumber because 'cost per lead acquisition' is a fraction of the cost and energy of traditional marketing - and in some cases it's even free. And, if a 'truly local' plumber has to raise prices because marketing costs are going up..., is that plumber making wise marketing decisions, when there are less expensive alternatives that obviously work?
If a search is done for 'plumbers in Tampa'... how can a page - with an article about hiring plumbers, and a LIST of licensed plumbers in Tampa - be considered spam? ...even IF that page was created with 1,499 other pages with the same article about hiring plumbers, but focused on other locations. None of them are spam, but the process of creating them might be? I don't get it.
I think the broader issue is 'what is natural?' (vs. unnatural), and that this has to be interpreted many ways by Google to accomodate the many ways which 'natural' can and does occur.
It is natural for an established online business to recognize new marketing avenues and build a new site that exploits them. It is unnatural for Jimmy Teenager in his basement to build the exact same site, just because he recognizes the same market.
'Natural', for purposes here, is subjectively interpreted and applied by G based on observation of statistics that we have no clue of. So, in light of that, I'll tell you in a few weeks if we get banned or penalized. We launch tomorrow. Wish us luck. :)