No. 1332
January 17th, 2012

Is Verizon a Data Supplier to Google Places?

Obviously, I’ve claimed my consulting business on most of the major search engines and data aggregators, and done my best to make sure that my NAP information (Name, Address, and Phone number, for those of you new to Local Search) is consistent everywhere.   Sure there are a few minor variations of my official DBA (David Mihm Web Design / Local SEO) due to various aggregators’ limitations on length of business title.

But, I recently came across a crazy bug on my Google Place Page!  I couldn’t believe it.  My phone number had all of a sudden changed from 503-560-2755 to 971-400-6360.

At first, I was straight-up freaked out.  Some nefarious third-party blackhat (*&^$@%$ spammer had hijacked MY listing!  The cheek!  I was pretty much furious.  I called the number, fully expecting to chew them out in realtime before going all Search Commander on them and permanently ruining their online reputation.

But even more surprising than seeing the number in the first place…when I called it, I got my own voicemail.  Very strange.  I logged into my Places Dashboard to see if I could figure anything out.  Clearly, it was a bug in Places–the number didn’t match what I myself had entered.  But where in the heck was it coming from?

For the last three days I’ve been racking my brain.  Did I set up a call-tracking number with Google Places just to see what its effect would be?  Was Places somehow conflating a Google Voice number with my actual number because I’d verified my actual number to receive passwords in the event of emergency?  Was I testing out an Edit in Google Mapmaker?  No to all of the above.  My usual number (503-560-2755) was still listed in all those places.  I vaguely recognized the rogue number (971-400-6360) but simply couldn’t remember where I recognized it from.

The answer finally came to me last night.

First, a little background.  Some of you may remember my iPhone was stolen in Birmingham, England several months ago. (Not that I’m still bitter about it or anything, Ramsey.)  So, one of my first orders of business in June when I got back to the States was to visit my local Verizon store (n.b. their customer service at the Downtown Portland branch is excellent) and get a replacement.  I hadn’t purchased insurance, so by default I was going to be stuck buying a new phone at full retail price ($699).  Then the sales rep got creative.  She said I could get a second “dummy” line, get a new phone for $199 on that line, forward it to my main one, and only pay an extra $10/month. Sold.

And what was the number of my “dummy” line?  Why, 971-400-6360, of course.  Entered into the Verizon database on June 2, 2011.

And that, my friends, is literally the only place in the world–digital or real–that that number is associated with my name.

Mystery solved. (I think.)

What do you think–have any of you guys and gals ever seen Verizon client data flow up into the ecosystem?  Is there anything else that might explain how that number got onto my Place Page?

And if Verizon is indeed a data supplier to Google, is my experience due primarily to a bug in the clustering algorithm? Or is Verizon such a powerful supplier that it would overwrite my business-owner-verified data?