Google and the PlusBox Blues

The Google Maps for Business Group has had countless requests for help with erroneous Plus Boxes like this one:

TOPIC: “+” Sign shows Wrong Address & Phone # in Google Search Results! HELP!
Date: Mon, Mar 3 2008 12:10 pm
From: rjfny
Hi Jen,

Here is the link to our search results page

Top Hat Dance Studio is listed on the search results page twice. Thelisting at the top of the page has the correct address which is….

Correct: 10771 Bustleton Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19116

However, there is an incorrect listing with a “+” Sign that shows the wrong address.

Incorrect: 3114 Willits Rd Philadelphia, PA 19136

We have tried for a year to have this address changed to no avail. The address has been changed in Google local business, Google maps, the business web site, and on search engines throughout the internet. No one seems to know how to change the “+” Sign Google address or determine the source of the incorrect listing data.

Thanks in advance for your help!


Most writers to this group assume that since the information in the PlusBox is local in nature that Google must logically be taking the information from a verified business listing in the Local Business Center. One would naturally come to that conclusion. The assumption is that the most reliable local data would be taken from the business controlled and updated record in the LBC. That appears to not be the case.

Google’s PlusBox has evolved on the organic side of their house and seems to use its webcrawlers as the source of the erroneous data not the presumably more reliable manually entered data in the LBC. Bill Slawski has written about how Google gathers local data in this 2005 patent review at Cre8asite and in the Patents involved in the PlusBox at SeobytheSea and noted:

The elided data may be extracted and associated with the target document in a repository created by a crawling engine that “crawls” content, copies the content in a repository, and then indexes the content.

Here is the screen shot from the search Top Hat Dance Studio, Philadelphia:plusboxdata.jpg

The Google site: command + address for the TopHat site clearly shows that Google still has the erroneous street data in their index from the Top Hat site that the site owner had thought they had removed:plusboxsitecommand.jpg

Google appears to make this indicator the primary source for the PlusBox. In my experience (limited sample size but 100% to date), it is the primary site associated with the PlusBox that Google is referencing for the PlusBox Data. The business owner needs to remove the pages with the bad address and have them removed from Google’s index. If my theory is correct, the PlusBox problem will disappear.

There are a number of other sites on the web that reference Top Hat’s old address and I would suggest to the business owner to attempt to correct those as well for the customer’s sake. However, my experience indicates that those signals only reinforce the information from the Top Hat website populating Google’s PlusBox. Some tests are being run now to validate these findings.

One wonders why the PlusBox algo doesn’t give precedence to the Local Business Center data as opposed to the web index. It certainly should signal the PlusBox with updated data. It appears from this example and others I have seen that the PlusBox and the Authoritative OneBox use different sources for their data.

The other question for me is, if my observations are even partially correct, why has Google not said so in the forum?There have been many cases, like this one, that have been dragging on for extended periods. In at least one reported case, there has been negative customer reactions and business outcomes as the erroneous plusbox address indicated a downtown address and the school had moved to the burbs.

These problems deserve attention, communication and ideally resolution from Google.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google and the PlusBox Blues by

13 thoughts on “Google and the PlusBox Blues”

  1. Mike:

    I’m glad you are bringing these issues to a larger audience than within the more limited google groups for business owners. Your reference to a host of comments and complaints in the adjacent post summarizes and gives a reasonable feel for the volume of problems that business owners experience.

    One aspect of this that is most problematic is that the structure of google groups for business owners is “sort of a tease”.

    As noted above in your references, business operators are writing into google groups and addressing these letters to a google employee.

    Unfortunately, in many cases the answers aren’t being provided and never in my recollection, by a google employee.

    Once in a while a group member not associated with Google uncovers a solution and publicizes it for others to see.

    That happened in the case of coupons, wherein if one offered a coupon without an expiration date it would get published, while many kept complaining that every time they publised a coupon it never got published. I personally tried a coupon last summer that never got published. It had an expiration date. Now if I want a short term coupon I need to take two steps. Publish the coupon without an expiration date. That enables it to get published. Then go in and edit the coupon to establish an expiration date.

    Ahhhhhh. If only google had explained that a long time ago. I suspect they’ve known the answer all along.

    With this latest commentary, you and I have discussed the potential correction to Top Hat’s problem. I hope that works. You discovered this solution a while ago. I’m trying to assist the second group you referenced with a link.

    The answer “may” lie with the patent work Bill Slawski provides to all of us in describing “how the search engines are thinking”. It might well lie with what Bill described in his plusbox patent writings wherein the engines are crawling organic results for this address information.

    In any case, the problem that often arises in Google Groups for business owners is the following:

    Many members in that group read through the information and direct their postings to the Google staff members as did the Top Hat person above.

    BUT… staff members rarely respond…and don’t respond in a way that describes how google works or how to solve the issues.

    It is a tease. Its incredibly frustrating. It skirts the issue of responsability.

    In any case I’m happy you are bringing some of these issues to greater light. There are many instances where erroneous information is presented, there are many instances where the complaint about erroneous information has been brought up countless times, and unfortunately they simply sit unless and until some third party member of groups, or you in this blog bring light to the issues.

    I understand that google doesn’t want to explain its algo’s. I respect the right that they have to privacy.

    Regardless, their’s and other engines patents are being brought to light at seobythesea and other sources. The competing engines certainly have the skill and manpower to disect these patents.

    In light of the fact that there is some clarity and some level of revelation with regard to google’s patents to the public……they could at least make some effort to respond to questions and help some of these posters/commentators at google groups.

    Meanwhile we will see in a short period if these “corrections” we have discussed work for the second group you referenced.

    It is a challenge, isn’t it 😉


  2. Dave, I join you in toasting Mike for writing about these issues.

    I have dealt with so many small business owners who are confused about one issue or another regarding operating on the web (not necessarily about Local Search) and it is so frustrating for them when they try to get answers to their problems but aren’t sure where to ask, who to trust, what to do.

    I think it’s a real shame that if local business owners eventually do make it to Google Groups in their quest for answers, they are unlikely to receive transparent, effective assistance so that their problems can be solved.

    I really appreciate what Mike is doing in documenting, in a rather sane and thorough manner, what some of these issues are. I hope that local business owners are finding their way here so that they might see their
    challenges outlined in a realistic and informative way.

    Mike – that brings up a question. What do you do when you discover something like this indexed material for the Dance studio? Clearly, they’ve got pages they either need to delete or alter. Do you ever call these folks if you think you can help them?

    Also, I wanted to ask about this:
    “my experience indicates that those signals only reinforce the information from the Top Hat website populating Google’s PlusBox. ”

    I read this as you saying that correcting the information will reinforce the incorrect information in the Plus box. I can’t be reading that right. Can you explain?


  3. “my experience indicates that those signals only reinforce the information from the Top Hat website populating Google’s PlusBox. ”

    What I meant was that there are other websites, not TopHat’s, that Google has found that still have the old address. It is conceivable that these sites are either the primary provider for Google’s PlusBox data or supporting signals to reinforce the data in the PlusBox.

    It is my theory that these are supporting signals to the PlusBox data that comes primarily from the TopHat website.

    For my lack of clarity.

    As for getting in touch, I did post back at the Google group in response to TopHat and in the other case, Dave has been in contact with them. They are removing their extra pages and Dave will let me know the results.



  4. Miriam:

    I agree. I think Mike is doing a great service with regard to commenting on G Maps and Y local.

    and yeah….;) I do feel better, Mike

  5. Miriam:

    Every so often I contact people at groups whose issues arouse my curiosity. Its nice to know that Mike is doing this.

    I don’t review it as much as I did a year ago….but there is this constant repetitiveness of issues that keeps coming up from new writers.

    I’m not current on the issue of inputting coupons into the local business center so I don’t know if Google effected a fix or if one still has to first input a coupon without an expiration date for it go live and be seen. If one wants to then attach an expiration date, then one has to amend the initial coupon.

    That fix was discovered and publicised by an independent writer into google groups. He evidently experimented and came up with a solution.

    I think we are experimenting with the “mixed signals and wrong address/phone information” in plusboxes and maps that show up in organic searches to see if we can find “solutions”

    I bet google already has the answers. Its actually a shame, IMHO. Its not a matter of ranking first or second in results….it is a matter of getting accurate information on the web to web site owners and the people who visit these sites.


  6. Mike,

    Thank you for your detailed investigation into the problem. I thought that all references to the old address were removed from the business web site, alas it looks like we missed two pages written awhile ago. We changed the web pages to the new address and have put the URLs in our sitemap file for the google indexer. We also resubmitted the sitmap to Google. Hopefully this will fix the problem. Thanks again.


  7. Hi Robert

    Sorry to make so public an analysis but I thought your problem was so typical and Google’s response so inadequate. Given that they invented the site: command, they should have alerted you to the problem. Would you mind describing how you previously attempted to contact Google and what measures you had taken to try to solve the problem?

    Please keep me posted if this resolves your issue (in 6 to 8 weeks :)).

    Are you going to get those other sites to change your address as well? If you don’t mind waiting at this point, it would help resolve any ambiguity about what Google is doing.


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