Google Maps Now Lets Random Users Close Businesses

MIHMORANDUM NO. 233 | March 6th, 2009Reader Comments (7)

Barry Schwartz reported this on Search Engine Roundtable this morning.  

“A few weeks ago, I wrote a story named Google Maps Closes Down Business When it is Still in Operation. In short, Google labelled a business in Google Maps as being closed, when it was actually in business and servicing companies. Back then, I thought it was an issue with a user not correctly setting his or her Google Local Business Center information. But I was wrong. It seems to be a bug with Google’s Local Business Center.”

(emphasis mine) 

The Google Maps team already knows how I feel about the importance it places on Community Edits, but I need to vent to the rest of you  :D

Google has insisted that its filter is strong enough to pick up bogus closings.  I beg to differ.  Less than a week ago, I got an email from a GetListed.org user saying “My listing score was at 55% yesterday; today it’s zero…where did it go?”

I responded: “We’re looking into this.  It appears to be a bug, but of concern is that Google Maps says your business is closed” and then directed him to the URL for his Maps location to show him what Google said about it.

Now, the reason GetListed.org returned a zero percent listing score is that there was an invalid address attached to his LBC listing and we couldn’t match his business up with the ones on the other search engines. 

At the time, I had assumed that he had mistakenly tried to suspend that listing and add another himself, and that the new one wasn’t getting picked up by Google Maps yet.  Now, I am not so sure.

Judging by the ease with which Barry was able to close Microsoft, it’s entirely possible that a competitor of his made a community edit (or several) to change his business information (the phone number was different as well) and then closed it.

Community Edits alone opened up a can of worms that I did not think Google wanted to get into. Community CLOSINGS are even more dangerous.  

When the business community doesn’t even know something exists (the Google Local Business Center), how can they possibly be expected to understand how to fix an incorrect community edit (and now closing)?  And if a seasoned search marketer like me can’t even discern why a business is showing up as closed with a serious inspection, how is a business owner supposed to be able to?

7 Responses to “Google Maps Now Lets Random Users Close Businesses”

  1. MiriamEllis says at

    I couldn’t agree with you more, David, and what a keen illustration this is of the fact that Google’s Wiki mentality will not cut it when it comes to the sanctity of local business information. Shoot…nasty, competitive behavior just got a new tool. Thanks for the post, David.

    Miriam

  2. Joy Kim says at

    hmm… Google’s Wiki way of building the maps as a community all together is certainly creating a chaos for not having a gatekeeper. I think though, this is also an advantage of Google Maps. The potential richness of Google Maps for its user-generated content can be enormous.

    I think we all were skeptical about wikipedia at first, and the more people participated, the better it got, and also we all learned how to use it properly (Never quote it when writing for official documents!). lol.

    I know some small business owners who are not tech-savvy enough to have started their own listings, but they were certainly glad to find out that their businesses were listed and being reviewed online once I told them. Now, if the Maps were not a wiki style, local enthusiasts won’t be able to share their favorite places, and it would be completely up to the owners to start their commercial listings.

    This is not to say that Google doesn’t have to improve their Maps. It seems very odd to me how Maps would send postcards to verify phone number changes to the verified owners, but display such crucial information of the business closing out without the verified owners’ permission?!

    So, it seems that if they had claimed the business listing, then Google Maps shows “removal requested”, and if they had not claimed the business, then it says “Place Closed”??

    Meanwhile we should do our job as a local search marketer and tell everyone about the importance of claiming their local business listings and letting viewers know that the business is not closed using the Mpas’ description tag.

    In any event, I definitely agree with you, David about that Google shouldn’t let community edit request for closing a business go through automatically. I also think they shouldn’t display either “Place Closed” or even “Removal Requested” automatically without verifying with the business owner.

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. David Mihm says at

    Joy, thanks for stopping by. I want to clarify something: I do NOT think it is possible for a community edit to close a claimed business. This is only possible for unclaimed listings. My point is that SO few business owners know about claiming and not claiming that it leaves tons of them open to this problem.

    I would also say that a person’s Wikipedia entry is not in the same stratus of importance as his physical storefront. Wikipedia also has a VERY dedicated community of editors to police itself, something which Google Maps (at least so far) does not have.

  4. Stever says at

    I really can’t understand the logic behind letting the “community”, as in random John or Jane Doe, be able to edit the specific details about a business?

    As possibly flawed any original source data (YP data and other business listing services) could be, usually just outdated info, that source data already has a substantial filtering system that pre-qualifies that business info. A business owner at some point had to provide that info to a phone company, or some similar data collector.

    Except perhaps in extreme cases, such as we’ve recently seen in the locksmith biz, that original data, with some flaws here and there, should be more trustworthy than relying on completely unqualified random web surfers to change a business name, location, or phone number.

    Sure, let them leave their reviews, positive or negative, but allowing them to change any of the info about a business is just plain foolish. IMO.

  5. Estelle says at

    There are two listings for our business in Google Maps, one listing puts us entirely in the wrong place and I can’t edit it or remove it. Very frustrating, followed the instructions for re-creating the location as a new listing with exactly the same info and then removing it, but the problem is the postal code is only partial in the listing and the google form won’t let me put in a partial postal code, so I don’t know how it got there in the first place.

  6. Stever says at

    @Estelle, Canadian data for Google Maps is coming from YellowPages.ca so the partial postal code probably came from their end.

  7. Mike says at

    Multiple customers have told us that their iPhone listes both of our family businesses as “permanetly closed”. When I contacted iPhone support, they said their maps come from google. How is it possible they could list a business as closed? We should be able to sue them, as this has hurt our income. Does anyone know how to fix this or how to contact the person responsible for making these decisions? Thank you for you help, Mike c/o The Northern Winds, Phoenix, Az

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