Was Google’s Promise to Correct GeoSpatial Data in 30 days Too Optimistic?

My test* of Google’s ability to correct and update geospatial data is in. They passed, but just barely. While a passing grade may suffice in French class, I am not sure that it is sufficient in this case.

Google’s long term business plans are predicated on the ability to deliver local ads to mobile users. For that to happen accurately, Google needs to know not only about the existence of a business but where it is located on the globe. To gain control over this critical underlying information, Google, in early October, replaced TeleAtlas’s road and street data with their own. As part of that upgrade Google promised that reports of Map errors would be fixed in 30 days.

On October 30th, I reported the fact to Google that the address 201 N Union St. was located roughly 3000′ to the north of its actual location. This resulted in the 30 some odd offices located in the building (with the exception of mine which had been changed in the LBC) all showing as being located at the other end of town. On November 3, Google acknowledged the accuracy of my claim with a timely email. Corrections appeared to moving along as planned.

The good news? Yesterday, at 1:50 pm, Google reported that the reported issue has been fixed. The bad news? While the street address resolves correctly in Maps, none of the businesses yet do. This is likely an indexing alignment issue and will resolve itself in another week or two. Does it matter to the user getting bad driving directions? Not a bit, they will be angered regardless of the technical explanation.


My grade on their efforts? A C+ or maybe a -B. Much better than TeleAtlas ever did by a long shot and with reasonable user feedback. That being said here is why I am downgrading them to a C.

Firstly, it has been 45 days, not the promised 30 to a fix. My father (a retail animal) always instructed us to under promise and over deliver. That should be a dictum that Google adopts as its own. If it is going to take 45 days then say 60 and folks will be surprised at how quickly it was done. Saying 30 and taking 45 on the other hand, just engenders scorn.

Secondly, finish the job before reporting out. Just because one index is updated, the whole problem needs to be solved before it is really solved.

Thirdly, and this is why the grade might be on the lower side, getting Maps right is the future of Google. Behave like your competitive lives depend on it, because they do! Say what you mean, mean what you say and execute.

Google bought into a huge maintenance and upkeep problem when they decided to replace TeleAtlas as their provider of underlying geodata. It was obviously perceived as a critical technology to bring in house and justly so. That being said, if they are going to do it, do it right. The market is a tough task master and I do not think anything less than an A+ will suffice to keep Google in a market leading position going forward. Any lesser result will mean failure.

*My sample size is one, arguably too small to make a judgement. I have more requests into Google which I will follow as well. Perhaps larger metro areas have been prioritized and fixed in the time offered.

My response: Even if one is this late, that is too many. The user base does not understand sampling and the time to completion stated should be the maximum time in any case.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Was Google's Promise to Correct GeoSpatial Data in 30 days Too Optimistic? by

15 thoughts on “Was Google’s Promise to Correct GeoSpatial Data in 30 days Too Optimistic?”

  1. What’s worse than over-promising and under-delivering? Not delivering at all, and claiming you did.

    I forget the exact timeline, but a while back I submitted five error reports to Google. I got responses to them yesterday. Of the five errors I reported, only two had been actually fixed. Google claimed all of them had been fixed. I ended up reopening those error reports.

    I have probably reported a dozen errors to Google. In the beginning, they lived up to the 30-day promise. But as time has gone by, their performance has slipped. I can forgive them being tardy with a fix, but it is difficult to forgive them for saying they fixed something when they didn’t. It makes me wonder if a technician was overwhelmed and claimed they addressed the error when they didn’t.

  2. Mike:

    The way I learned the adage, and I heard it a lot, was “under promise, over perform”. Whatever. I heard it from a lot of business people, primarily small business operators.

    I don’t think it holds true for big businesses though. They promise. They may or may not perform. The weight and momentum of their size often overwhelms instances where customers are unhappy, where they don’t meet expectations.

    Sometimes it catches up to them. Sometimes, catching up to them takes years, or even decades (as is probably the case with GM) but pure size and power overwhelms individual….and even a mass of individual dissatisfaction.

    Its just a feeling, but you aggregate all the smb’s that complain in Google groups for maps and small businesses; you take all the dissatisfied small businesses that simply don’t complain of errors in Google Maps because it is beyond them….then you aggregate them against all of Google’s new SMB customers. I bet the volume of new customers outweighs the volume of dissatisfied.

    That is just a guess…but Google has been generally rolling out regular marketing to the SMB world….and it keeps coming out and is growing/expanding in its efforts. I bet it is working.

    Now I wish they would “service customers” better. I’ve tried to be provocative in pushing that. I don’t see it occurring though in the big market place at this time.

  3. If people have been living without the updating for years already, a few weeks isn’t going to make a big difference.

    Bottom line is that if you’re not impressed with Google’s tech crew, you can go use Bing or Yahoo and try to make them more popular. Otherwise, you need to accept that they’re working hard and that problems don’t just magically resolve themselves.

  4. I am running into this same problem with my new business. I just recently added it to Google and when I punched in my address Google tried to say I was 3 miles away from my actual location. So I thought I would go ahead and fix the problem for them to give them more accurate information. What I didn’t know was that they would not show my listing until they verify that info. So as of now my business is still pending review and not showing on google. Anyways they still have more time in their 30 day promise but I will let you know if they end up making it in time.

    Also had a question for you experts. Do online listing services like Universal Listings work to get your business info out to the different search engines? I submitted my business to their site and paid my $30 but haven’t been able to see any results. Any thoughts or comments on that?

    Thanks for all your great articles Mike. I love reading your blog.

  5. @Manhattan

    I am impressed with Google’s tech crew. The job of creating and maintaining the geodata is a huge one that has been mostly well executed…that being said there are data issues with the change over and they need to be dealt with rapidly for both consumer satisfaction and safety.

    While always impressed with Google’s technical prowess, I am much less impressed with their communication prowess. I didn’t set the 30 day to fix deadline, they did. I also didn’t ask to be notified before it was actually working….those are not technical errors they are communication errors.

    The issue is not whether I work on Bing or Yahoo or choose to stay with Google, it is whether the millions of people world wide decide to do so and whether the millions of businesses decide to advertise there…

    As for living without the correct updates for “a few weeks isn’t going to make a big difference”, I would whole heartedly agree…I just don’t like to get promises that aren’t kept…

    I have found the UBl does do a good job of getting your listing into several critical lists that are otherwise difficult to access (ie Axciom) and into a fair number of other perhaps less important ones as well. The question really is how are you measuring the results?

  6. Mike,
    Thank you for reporting how this went. This is the first mention I’ve seen of whether the new reporting features work or not. Maybe Google ought to set their date at 60 days and then expectations would not be disappointed with a 45 day fix.

    You know, someone at Cre8asite was talking about a new major bridge in Canada that’s been up for 6 months and is visible on StreetView but still missing from Maps. Would be a good thing to report to Google

  7. @Earlpearl

    You are right that the momentum of large organizations frequently subsumes some of the quality issues. And as you note, they are also masked by growth, as it hides many sins.

    My sense is that while Google has some time to fix these issues they will not be able to avail themselves of GM’s 9 lives strategy to a painful death strategy.

    A switch to a different Mapping provider does not have a 5-10 year replacement cycle. While there are emotional barriers to switching, they can and do hit the tipping point in technology much sooner than in hard goods. Think Visicalc or even Lotus 123.

    Supreme arrogance often accompanies the Greek drama of corporate decline….that, at least to my observation, has not yet occurred in Google’s case.

  8. @Adam: I wonder the same thing about Universal Business Listings. I have submitted a number of businesses to them; each at the $30 price.

    I check this stuff quite rigorously. I don’t know if they deliver or not. I tend to think they don’t. It would be nice if someone from UBL commented here.

  9. @Mike

    One error was a college with its grounds shown in polygon form that has been closed since the 1970s. They first said I was right, then said they fixed the error. The college is still shown on the map. What is irritating is I gave the name of the business now using the college’s grounds and buildings and there is even a point of interest down the road for this business, yet Google did not make the fix.

    The other errors are roads that are actually driveways (one into a gas station, another into a school bus yard).

    I reopened these error reports and this morning received another notice from Google that my error report was correct about the bus yard’s driveway not being a street. So their communication is good, it’s just a matter of them actually fixing what they say they fixed.

    Correcting points of interest and businesses is fine and dandy, but I think it is more important to be fixing incomplete, incorrect, or extraneous roadway data. Since Google is all about advertising, the POIs are more important to them than the underlying roads and place names.

    I looked back at some older submissions regarding incorrect street names and turn restrictions, and they were addressed quickly and correctly the first time. It would be interesting to know how many error reports have been submitted. Reporting the number would be a two-edged sword. If it’s a high number, it will make it look like Google’s data set is junk, but if they say they fixed a lot of errors in a timely manner, it may sound impressive.

  10. @Marty

    Thanks for swinging back and filling us in.

    As you can see in my post today, many business listing errors are in fact caused by geospatial errors. Its hard to tell where one leaves off and another starts.

    That being the case, fixing the POI might in fact lead to the more important geo fix.

    The other thing I noticed in my example above is that they fixed the geo but not the error in business listing. I would argue that both are in need of repair and that the job isn’t really done until both are done.

    Google, in taking over responsibility for the underlying geodata and road geometries, took on a huge responsibility. Their initial go at the set is probably filled with inaccuracies more so in the rural areas than in urban (are yours urban or more rural?).

    It could take years to get this data in some sort of shape. One wonders if the rate of change of the data will be low enough that they can actually get it to a more useful and safe point given the way that they are assembling it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments links could be nofollow free.