Google Maps UGC: End User Edits Now Require Google Review

It is the end of a Grand Experiment in user generated content. Google has just announced that user edits of unclaimed business listings will need to be reviewed by Google before showing in the Map index.

In March of 2008, Google Maps added the capacity to allow users to edit business listings. It caused a great deal of consternation at the time and shortly thereafter, as many (myself included) thought that allowing unverified user edits of business records would lead to a decline in listing quality and an increase in spam. If nothing else it felt like a violation of sacrosanct data.

After my fall 2008 hijack of Microsoft’s unclaimed listing to demonstrate the potential for damage, edits no longer showed instantaneously in the main SERPS. At the time though, Google ‘s response was the now ironic and somewhat hypocritical: “The wiki nature of Google Maps expands upon Google’s steadfast commitment to open community.”

Google though created an environment that essentially gave permission to all local sites to allow unclaimed records to be edited by anyone. It is a practice that became the industry standard. While it has always been unnerving and has lead to criminal activity, abuses and horrendous spam, it was never totally clear whether allowing unverified edits lead to a net quality gain the index or not…until now.

Here is the body of the announcement made this evening in the Maps forum:

We recently made a change to Google Maps to require all community edits to be reviewed before they are shown. In the past, some “pending” edits were shown immediately on Maps and only moderated (and sometimes denied) later on.

We’re taking this step to ensure that changes to Google Maps pass the high quality bar our users expect, while preventing SPAM and other problems from showing up before being reviewed first.

We want to empower you to be a valuable local expert by making it easy to fix and report problems you find on Google Maps. We realize it is inconvenient to wait for edits to be reviewed, and we are working hard to streamline our review process to reduce this waiting period.

Google is obviously concerned with improving the quality of the business data in their index. To some extent their future depends on it. Recently they announced the hiring of 300 temporary workers to help catch business listing and geo errors. By preventing unverified edits, Google is obviously taking another step to insure the overall quality of their data set. The change will allow them to catch fast changing information on the ground and update their index more quickly without experiencing the relentless pounding of scammers and spammers.

It marks the end of an experiment in the “wiki nature of Maps” which I am very glad to see end. There are times when the value of editorial review supersedes the “intelligence” of the crowds & community.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps UGC: End User Edits Now Require Google Review by

17 thoughts on “Google Maps UGC: End User Edits Now Require Google Review”

  1. This is a very welcomed change. I’m hoping it will lead to quicker resolution of issues submitted via the “report a problem” link.

  2. I was a bit surprised two days ago when I noticed this happening. I made a community edit, and the changes went live very quickly (less than half an hour).

    When I went in to view the edit history, sure enough, it showed:
    “Changed on May 24, 2010, 1:23pm by Jim…” followed by the details of the change, then:
    “Approved on May 24, 2010, 1:55pm by Google Moderator Charisse”

    Here’s a screenshot of the edit history.

    What I find even more interesting is right underneath the details of the edit, it lists “interesting noted about this edit.” For this particular edit, there are two notes:

    1. “Edits in this region always need moderation.” – does this mean there are also regions that don’t need moderation?

    2. “User has entered risky data in the past.” – that one kinda makes me chuckle, and at the same time baffles and angers me. 99% of the edits that I’ve made on G-Maps have been to one business (with hundreds of listings). The edits have all been consistent, and easily confirmed. Perhaps because the business is a hospital, that makes it risky? Or maybe it’s because I don’t have a long history of making previously approved edits? Either way, it was approved in less than 30 minutes, so I guess I can’t complain!

    Kudos to Google for taking another step in the right direction.

  3. @Justin

    I am not sure that this change will speed things up…note their comment: “we are working hard to streamline our review process to reduce this waiting period.” In fact if anything it will put additional load on an already slow system of geo changes and problem correction. The addition of 300 staffers might help that out but if they are in fact getting 10,000 corrections an hour (7 million a month) it might take them a while to catch up with the backlog. :)

    @Jim

    When I edited a record today I found the following edit history:

    *Edits in this region always need moderation.
    *User has entered risky data in the past.

    *Changed on Dec 5, 2008 9:40pm by mblumenthal
    –Name: Walter’s Computer Plus Sales and Repair Walter’s Computer Plus
    –Interesting notes about this edit:
    –Name is longer than average.

    If I am the risky editor I would love to know who is a safe editor. It appears that WNY has the same reputation as Pittsburg as being a region that needs moderation. I would love to know which regions don’t…

    @Jason

    Its been almost 2 years of allowing edits. I wonder how many tainted records there are now in Maps….

  4. Mike,
    I am likewise puzzled by your knighting as a ‘risky’ editor. What have you been doing? Haha.

    Yes, this is a good change. I never liked that idea of real business data being wiki-in-nature. Applause for Google.

  5. You know me. I am always as pure as the driven snow….I think I did hijack Microsoft’s, Apple’s and Google’s listing at one point (all in the name of science)…maybe they are holding it against me. :)

  6. Good change by Google.
    BTW,does anyone have some rough statistics about how the % of clicks spreads between local search and organic result?

  7. What happens if the listing you want to claim is caught in Flagged — Waiting status, and there are multiple listings of the business that need to be removed? Does it make sense to just wait for something to happen vs remove listings? Or remove listings but add in the link to the correct listing even though it’s flagged?

    To the point about edits now needing to be reviewed, we tried to update the correct address listing so it would at least have the correct phone # and URL, but alas those are caught in needing to be reviewed status too so no progress in over 3 weeks!

    Any ideas or are we just subject to Google being under-manned?

  8. Hi @Mike – do you know if this change also applies to consumers who review a business on the businesses Google Places page? In other words, will Google reviews be reviewed and moderated by a real person as well?

    I ask this because we have several clients who are extremely distressed about negative reviews that have been posted to their Google Places page. In some instances, they know the review is posted by a competitor, but Google will not respond to their requests to have the review removed.

    Right now the only advice I provide is for them to post a review themselves stating that they do not have a record of this customer and for the customer to please contact them directly so they can address any issue.

  9. @MKelly

    I do not think that they are ever going to be vetting reviews at least not manually. I do think that they are studying reviews and building algos that are going to be better able to spot spam…that being said the lone review by the single competitor may or may not ever be caught.

    I would recommend that rather than responding themselves that having their customers speak on their behalf is an even stronger response.

  10. What is the process to get the most unfair “user has entered risky data in the past ” removed.

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