One small step for Google, a smaller step for Mankind

Yesterday I wrote of Google now allowing user correction of unverified business listings in Google Maps. It was reported by Barry Schwartz and repeated elsewhere that I, in part, played a part in this outcome. Well it has been a sort of Charlie Brown moment…. You know, when Lucy holds out the football every fall and Charlie, in his trusting way, goes to kick it…

After further looking and some user reports, it turns out that this feature is much less widespread than I previously thought.

I assumed that “unverified” meant any record that had not been claimed by the owner or one of Google’s partners (like Superpages or Talking Phone Book); a record that had no “details” yet associated with it. Google’s actual definition is clearly much more narrow than that.

In fact, while I can replicate the results (so it wasn’t a temporary test on Google’s part) on a single search, I have only been able to find very few “unverified” records in any other industries or locations amongst the many that I have tried.
The issue of accuracy in local data is an important one (see Greg Sterling’s recent post: Data Quality: The Local Achilles Heel) and there is value in allowing the community to correct any errors. In fact as a tactic, the easier it is to correct an erroneous local record, the less Google will be criticized for (even obvious) errors in the data and the way they are assembled.

However, in this case, the essence of Google’s credibility is at stake. The undisputed king of the algorithm has an algorithm that is, on the very rare occasion, assigning a competitor’s web site to a business’s Map record. This error, while uncommon, shatters the perception that Google is infallible in the search arena. An error like this, creates the impression of unreliability and non-trust amongst users. Google is many users’ single most trusted URL on the web and there is implicit faith in its accuracy.

The problem, while not widespread, is serious and allowing users to correct the problem could be a step forward. Allowing correction of the few “unverified” records (please report if you find more) that I have stumbled upon out of the twenty five million U.S. business records extant is not an adequate solution.

Perhaps, the example that I have found, is but a first step in allowing community input. Perhaps an algorithm that fixes the problem is just around the corner. Perhaps I won’t have to feel like Charlie Brown after all.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
One small step for Google, a smaller step for Mankind by

3 thoughts on “One small step for Google, a smaller step for Mankind”

  1. Still not seeing the option to correct listings as per the example you show.

    Could your example be a G experiment to determine how this might work? I’m wondering how much of this is currently on the web for various types of local searches.

    Dave

  2. Hi Dave

    It is available on a very limited number of “unverified” listings. My example (replicate the results here) seems to be available but the option is not offered on very many local records. So few as to be not very valuable.

    Hopefully, it is the first step in a larger process. We shall see.

    Mike

  3. Gee Mike:

    Rustybrick was very right. Not only did G respond to your writings but they are experimenting with a much needed change in your neighborhood to see how this would work.

    Hope it propagates quickly.

    Dave

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