No. 233
March 6th, 2009

Google Maps Now Lets Random Users Close Businesses

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  😀

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 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 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?