Commentary

Google Maps Incorrectly Indexing Company Info

Google Maps/More about this place

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.

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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.

7 comments about "Google Maps Incorrectly Indexing Company Info".
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  1. Clark Mackey from Sparkdog Better Findability, March 15, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.

    Amen! The emperor, Google Local, has no clothes as far as I'm concerned. I have multiple clients with confused or conflated Google Local listings. It's a mess, and it's not fair to anyone. Example: spend months building reviews and then have those reviews assigned to a competitors listing. This kind of thing is happening a lot - errors in claimed, carefully maintained listings. Google Local needs to start with a way to be contacted about problems, other than post and pray on Google webmaster forums.

  2. Kyle Wegner from BKV, March 15, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.

    There is nothing about Google's local system that avoids spammers. While the openness of adding/editing listings is great for most users, it causes undue headache for many businesses. Since we monitor our clients' listings regularly we usually catch when a competitor or user has submitted incorrect information, but there is nothing fail-proof about that system.

    Right now the only thing anyone can do is check for duplicates or incorrect information within the local system and change them. This bug is no different, it is just even more confusing and difficult to remedy.

  3. Melih Oztalay from SmartFinds Internet Marketing, March 15, 2010 at 6:44 p.m.

    Hello,

    As a Internet marketing agency we have had to work through these problems for our clients. While this article talks mostly about Google, I can tell you the issues exist with over 60 other websites in 4 different categories around local business listings.

    Hijackings are real regardless of website and is discussed quite well here:
    http://melihoztalay.ulitzer.com/node/1266347

    The local business whose time resources are precious doesn't have time for these problems and that is discussed here:
    http://melihoztalay.ulitzer.com/node/1266348

    And lastly there is a security issues relative to a brand name around local business listings that has to be addressed at some point by any of the local listing websites. For now the business has to take the responsibility to pursue this on their own. You can read more here:
    http://melihoztalay.ulitzer.com/node/1301211

    If anything this article along with the issues around Local Business Listings at any of the local listing websites indicates a need for hands on monitoring and management. Passively allowing this to happen to your business really isn't an option.

  4. Julie Gallaher from Things You Should Do, March 15, 2010 at 7:57 p.m.

    Mike Blumenthal is right, Google does need to take responsibility for their errors. Their priority should be as a first step - Do no harm.

    Randomly changing urls, phone numbers, addresses and details on a local business listing the way they do, could end up costing the business thousands of dollars. That's never okay, but with the current economic conditions it's disastrous.

  5. Laura Riemer from Valpak of Greater Houston, March 15, 2010 at 11:41 p.m.

    My experience with Google search is that it happens more often than not to be totally inaccurate when searching company locations online and viewing associated maps that show with search results.

  6. Charles Lloyd, March 16, 2010 at 12:25 a.m.

    Based on our experience in helping to manage hundreds of map listings and resolve this type of problem, Mike's conflation example was very unusual. Typically, we see the conflation problem with more straight forward issues like shared addresses. It is a problem nonetheless and I agree that Google ought to provide either a better verification process or more accessible support. However, we have had success getting help in the Google maps help forums.

  7. David Thurman from Aussie Rescue of Illinois, March 16, 2010 at 9:45 a.m.

    Welcome to the new customer support system, email and complaining, sad state of affairs now that we are in the Internet Age. Google isn't the only one to not allow direct contact, iTunes is doing the same thing as well. Sure wish there was a way to get their attention then have a chance to get matt Cutts to hear you or get someone's attention on the forums.

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