I am fascinated by the intersection of Local and our every day lives. The Internet has moved from the era of local questions and world wide answers to the era of local answers to world wide queries.
Google Maps, because of its immense reach, is at the center of this confluence. Real people with real concerns are affected in both positive and not so positive ways by its increasing presence in our daily lives and communities. This confluence is changing how we see the world and interact with our neighbors.
The negative outcomes are highlighted and amplified in the forums. The positive aspects of this change are not so readily obvious as they are buried in folk’s balance sheets or kept as secrets in the unpublished tactics of a Local SEO. But the negatives always intrigue me and include events such as disputes between nearby competitors, thefts, the threat of violence, the possibility of gun use against trespassers and even, apparently, real life confrontations all stemming in one way or another from Google Maps and its consequences “on the ground”.
Often, folks assign malicious intent to Google’s all too impersonal algorithmic way of doing things which they lay at the feet of Google or the competitor or the trespasser. I was cruising the forums where I found this post from Sue, a physician in the UK, who seems to think that Google is discriminating against women:
My local listing seems to have been merged with my husbands. He is an osteopath, I am a podiatrist. OK we are married, we live in the same house so have the same home address – this is I suspect not unusual. We have different telephone numbers (although we share a fax number), we work different hours, we see different patients, we do different jobs. We need to be separated again (from a Google point of view that is). We have 2 separate entries in Local Business Center. www.billferguson.co.uk and www.sueferguson.co.uk . At the moment when you search for him you get my website, and when you search for me you get his website. It’s very confusing. If a husband and wife are not allowed 2 local listings then I have to get rid of mine I suppose.
Any response from Google?
sue.f 4:30 AM 9/12/09
This is just making the Google map search look useless and inaccurate. How can I fix this? This is discrimination. I need an answer – are a husband and wife allowed separate entries and if not why not. What would happen if the husband was a garage mechanic and the wife was a beauty therapist – would they have to share a local/map entry?
It makes it worse that a local competitor has an entry for each therapist and one for the clinic as well giving them masses of local exposure.
My answer to Sue:
You have fallen prey to a “feature” in Google Maps that merges businesses’ listings because the Google clustering algo “thinks” that they are the same business. It sometimes occurs to businesses at the same address and/or competitors at nearby addresses.
If it is any consolation it is an equal opportunity algo error (actually it is not an error at all but a lack of granularity in an intended outcome) that affects not just spouses but all sexes, races, creeds and types of businesses particularly if they are in the same field and in close proximity.
The “cluster” assembles its data from primary data providers, internet yellow pages, websites across the internet, the Local Business Center, business records etc and automatically puts everything it finds into this bucket as it were, Information in the cluster that indicates to Google that the businesses are the same overrides the information provided in the Local Business Center that they are distinct. Google euphemistically calls this merging “over clustering”.
It might be resolved by sending signals to Google’s cluster that the businesses are in fact different. For example, changing both records to include a “Suite number” in the Local Business Center like Suite A and Suite B might be enough information (then again it might not). A marriage counselor should probably be used to ascertain which of you gets the “A” to avoid any further family conflict.
It would be desirable to then get the various phone books, the post office, business records, data providers & online directories that Google is using to also recognize this new suite number so that this distinct information is integrated into Google’s cluster for the businesses.
Think of it as a slight change of address rather than a separation. Good luck with your listing, business and your marriage!
This new way of doing business in Local, the switch from a human engineered directory to one assembled by machine
will affect is affecting us all. Many of the outcomes are yet to be seen, some will be good and some will not but all will be interesting.