Google Maps could start generating substantial revenue for the Mountain View, Calif., company and related businesses, but the search engine will need to more closely tie the app to geographic-location targeting on mobile and work out the bugs. According to several SEO professionals patiently waiting for a fix, citations have been spotted showing up under the wrong business in Google Maps.
Matthew Hunt, founder of Small Business Online Coach, first pointed to the problem after noticing the disappearance of citations he posted under the More About This Place section in Google Maps for Diana's Seafood.
After searching, Hunt found phone numbers, addresses and reviews that had been indexed and sourced under reviews under a completely different business unrelated to his client. Hunt explains that one workaround for the problem requires the business to claim the information in Google Maps under "business owner." But that means disrupting the listing of the business under which his client's information now appears. Some indexed information in Google Maps comes from Yelp, which provides user reviews and recommendations of top restaurants, shopping and Entertainment.
The glitch could have a negative influence on search query rankings, Hunt says. He believes citations play a factor in rankings for Google Maps when the local company serves up information in organic search queries on google.com.
One conspiracy theory has been that hackers hijacking the listings have got the upper hand, but SEO Google Maps guru Michael Blumenthal knows better. At one time Blumenthal thought he generated the page that confused Google after tracking back and fixing errors that caused misapplied citations on two of his clients. Many other similar incidents have occurred as he waits for the six- to eight-week cycle for Google to index information, so he's wondering if there's another way to force the change.
Search engines need to take some responsibility for errors in organic queries. Blumenthal says Google's aware of the problem, but he's seen no word yet from the company on a solution. Imagine if your company listed incorrect telephone numbers, address or reviews. Blumenthal says the biggest problem occurs when people search for information on emergency services -- hospitals, pharmacies, or ambulances -- and get wrong information. It happens.
Blumenthal tells me issues with citations in Google Maps first surfaced a couple of years ago, but the company quickly solved the problem. Then in fall 2009, as Google began to categorize social commentary as reviews commentary, capturing more data and adding it to clusters, the result was also misapplied citations, he says.
"It wasn't one piece of the database cluster that moved, but a whole tree or branch of the cluster," Blumenthal says, acknowledging he lacks expertise in database design. "I'm not sure technically how that happened, but it did. When Google indexed the link on my site, when it made the initial mistake, they brought all the other citations over."
Citation, one ranking factor, hasn't affected Blumenthal's clients. He believes Google somehow accessed the information from social commentary more liberally and disrupted the placement of citations.
"This is Google's secret sauce, their black box, a way to avoid spammers," Blumenthal says.