Google Places Verifying Business Listing Discrepancies with Owner

A number of users have sent me copies of a recent email communication that Google Places is sending to claimed business where there is possible problem with the listing. The emails detail potentially conflicting information with the listing when compared to information that Google has about the business in the “cluster”.

In one email example sent to the owner of a merged record, Google suggested a category that Google thought was more appropriate. The category was obviously for the other business in the merge and was inappropriate for this business. It was fascinating that Google was not accepting on face value the categories entered by the business owner.

In another example noted in the forums, Google couldn’t verify the street address that the business was using, perhaps because of the improper abbreviation of the word terrace. Google noted:

You provided:   20814 Houseman terr, Ashburn VA 20148, United States
Google was unable to identify the correct physical address for this business. This address is required for verification. Please edit your listing, and add the real, physical address. You can later choose to hide it from your Place Page, if your business doesn’t have a storefront or office.

Here is the copy of the email I received this evening for a listing that I manage:

Please review your listing

Hello from Google Places,

To help people searching for businesses like yours, Google is always working to improve the accuracy of local business listings. While reviewing your Places listing for Sundahl & Co Insurance, we found that this business may be permanently closed.

Is this place closed?

Sundahl & Co Insurance
58 Derrick Rd.
Bradford PA 16701
United States

Please log in to your Places account and let us know if this business is still open. If we don’t hear from you before January 31, 2011, we may remove this listing.

Thank you,

The Google Places Team

© 2010 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

Email Preferences: You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Places product or account.

The email is a refreshing effort to verify discrepancies with the cluster BEFORE a drastic, business affecting change takes place. It is also an effort to align the content of the Places page with Google’s best known information about the Place.

In my case, there has been a persistent record popping up for the business at their old address which was marked as closed. It is possible that the information from the old address, although closed, merged into the cluster for the current listing. Google’s misunderstanding in the situation is understandable.

This new outreach allows Google to double check information in the cluster against the person or people best able to suggest its accuracy… the business owners. It is a welcome step and one that should minimize improper closings, mergings and other errors and use owner provided data at lest when Google trusts the owner’s input.

Props to Google Places!

Here are the screen shots from the process of providing Google from the owner’s point of view…

Appears at the top of the Places List view:

The individual record is highlighted:

When the “Review and Correct” link is chosen it takes you to this screen:

This shows up at the end of the edit session:

Here is another interesting example of Google checking a phone number sent to me by Steve Hatcher of Axemedia, a local search marketer, where Google questions a phone number based on information from the client website. Steve noted: “A phone number listed on their website, with word Seattle next to the number, was different than their number listed in the Places listing. Elsewhere on their site they use the Places phone number, plus that Places phone number is used at all their citation sources. Just in one prominent place on their site they were using a different number for their own tracking purposes.”

Here is the screen shot:

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places Verifying Business Listing Discrepancies with Owner by

27 thoughts on “Google Places Verifying Business Listing Discrepancies with Owner”

  1. Thanks for the post. I’m with you, Kudos to Places for actioning this, I have a few clients who will be very happy to hear this is on their to-do list!

  2. @Gramicvs

    It looks like a serious effort to improve the quality of the content in the index and one that actually reaches out and communicates! It is worth its weight in goodwill even if no problems are prevented but the mechanism appears on the surface to actually help improve the cluster going forward…. if that is the case, this new plan is a winner!!!

    Let me know what kinds of things Google emails your clients about…

  3. That’s nice but again, the outcomes online are far from being understood… One of my clients received a call more than a month ago, verifying a one of his listings that came from 3rd party source- the listing was open for editing & had no website. My client verified the listing & gave goole rep. the right website but nothing changed online…
    So maybe in this case, we’ll see the changes in the account & in the listing but what about open listings that have no accounts?
    Are those phone live verification getting somewhere?

  4. I am very glad to hear that Google is working on Places. I would really like to see them do some more work on the reviews thoughs. I had one disappear a few weeks ago that never returned and I have one that was left there that is spam that I can do nothng with. Just wish they could move it along some.

  5. There are so many bogus emails that it is easy to wonder whether you’re getting phished or if the communications are real. Seems like a poor way for Google to get action, but then how are they going to do it.

    As a service provider, it would be nice to have a single log in where you could overview all your client listings and see action items at a glance, but my experience is that you can only list 25 different businesses in one account. Is that still true or are there ways around this restriction?

    Google Analytics is a little better in that you can create a unique business account and then link it to a master account. Then, you log in once and see everything. If the client later wants to take control, they just log in with their user id and remove your administrator rights.

  6. @Abby

    It is not clear exactly how Google is using the phone follow up data… hopefully, as above, to improve the overall quality of the index… but you are right that it is hard to see the affect. In this case, they are dealing with already claimed listings in an automated way rather than the listing just sitting in the Places area rejected or in some other intermediate state.

    @ohm
    reviews are obviously an area where Google is still very much a work in progress… as for me, I am glad that they are actually putting some horse power into getting discrepancies squared away… like I pointed out to Abby it is certainly better than them rejecting a listing and the owner being totally unawares…

    @Mark
    Your complaint about a lack of multiuser access to the information is a valid one and one that has long gone unfixed… the limit within a single account is (i believe) 99 listings but putting them in a single account only compounds the issues with Places….and makes other things harder (adwords, credit cards, etc). I, like you, would love an analytics type interface and sharing of the access but who knows when or if they will provide it.

    In this situation though, given that this email encourages users to go to THEIR google account it is more likely to be believed than the phone calls that users were getting…. (although I wouldn’t doubt that it precipitates a wave of phishing as well).

    It will have the affect of 1)cleaning up the index 2)minimizing which listings get rejected 3)Engaging or reengaging the owner with the Places dashboard increasing the likelihood of a Tag or Boost sale and 4)all the while being perceived as positive communication…. I only wonder why it wasn’t done sooner.

  7. I’m with you, I see this as largely a good thing. The only problem I see is that most of the listings that I’m reporting are pure, unadulterated spam. For instance, a search for “San Jose Lasik” gives a top result that isn’t an actual business at all. It’s clearly residential, not an ophthalmologist’s office, and the business phone goes to the voicemail of someone named Tony. So I report this, of course – controversy on whether SEOs should report or not aside, what I see happening within the context of your report is that Google contacts a spammer and says “Hey, are you guys a real business?” Of course the spammer is going to say, “Yep I sure am!” and Google is unlikely to investigate any further because a verified “business owner” has asserted to them that their bogus operation is legit.

  8. Howdy Mike,

    I received notifications about two issues this morning…

    1) Google wants to overwrite the main phone number with a number from another location, to which I will choose ‘leave the listing unchanged’

    2) Google wants to remove a Slip # from the address AND write out Drive vs Dr. If I remove the Slip # from this listing the address will then be the same as many other businesses in the marina, so I’ll likely choose ‘leave the listing unchanged’

    In both cases if I accepted the changes Google wants to suggest the net effect would be the listings would most likely merge with other listings which is NOT what I want to happen. I’m curious as to how permanent my choice will be with regards to my listings, i.e. will I get the same email next month?

    The ‘Drive vs Dr’ issue is also bothersome to me as I’ve worked really hard to make sure all my listings’ data is consistent everywhere on the web so it makes it easier for Google and others to perform the match/merge process. It would be great if Google would publish guidelines (maybe using USPS standards) for address information.

  9. @Rebecca

    This is obviously an effort at improving the quality and consistency of results…and as you point out that is for the most part a good thing.

    Any transparency on Google’s part as to problems they are having with a given legit listing is also helpful. I wish it went further and allowed a business a glance at the cluster so that bad info could be corrected directly at the source.

    Whether it will help some bad actors improve their standing in and of itself is not clear…. hopefully the many new spam fighting tools that Google has implemented of late will help…. certainly filing reports via the report a link method seems a sysiphisian task.

  10. Its about friggin time. I wonder what happens when Google sends a letter to a place that has been closed for a couple of years and the building has been torn down. Which reminds me…Google has a satellite view of my work neighborhood which is at least 7 years old, showing an undeveloped block which has had a full building on it for the past 7 years. Its not a downtown, but it is a very dynamic close in suburb to a major downtown.

    …….whine whine whine :D

  11. Hi Jennifer

    How are you? Hope all is well. Nice to hear from you.

    On the Dr vs Drive issue Google is smart enough to understand those sorts of abbreviations across the rest of the internet and assign that information correctly. Street address and even business name to some extent are tolerant of this sort of ambiguity in Google’s understanding of the world.

    The fact that they want to overwrite the number from another location, implies to me that Google is thinking of merging the two clusters…. I would check to be sure that both entities have strong offline AND online signals.

    The point of view, what is best for the user should define your choices… ie Drive is probably more clear than Dr and probably better reflects the underlying map. The phone number change on the other hand is not. The removal of the slip # is also problematic and reflects Google’s lack of understanding of your world.

    We don’t yet know the impact or the permanence of the changes or whether this is a one time blast to get things cleared up….

  12. Hello!
    I received an e-mail from Google Places and was worried about part of it. I Googled a phrase from the e-mail and your blog posting came up at the top :)

    In my e-mail, it says:
    “Edit Address
    You provided: [edited out for privacy]
    Google was unable to identify the correct physical address for this business. This address is required for verification. Please edit your listing, and add the real, physical address. You can later choose to hide it from your Place Page, if your business doesn’t have a storefront or office.”

    I left out my business’s actual address in this comment, but what I’m confused about is that they had my actual, correct address in their e-mail to me. The address is my home address and I run a photography studio from my home.

    If I Google my address, exactly the same as they specify it in their e-mail, it pops up on the right place on the Google Map and even brings up my Place page.

    A few weeks ago, I did “report a problem” via my Place Page because previously they had a marker on the Map for my Place Page in the middle of a park. It was in the wrong place before. Now it appears fixed, but the e-mail suggests they think it’s an incorrect physical address.

    Is there some way for me to contact Google to ensure they leave the Place page and address as they are now?

  13. @Brian
    Is there some way for me to contact Google to ensure they leave the Place page and address as they are now?

    Unfortunately, no.

    Without seeing your address that Google wasn’t able to identify, we don’t really know what Google was thinking vis a vis your listing… it could be that the grammar of the address was different than the database they were checking against…it could be that they have difficulty resolving the address for some geographic reason…

  14. Okay Mike, thank you for the reply.

    It may be grammer/matching. I live on a road named _____ Place. Sometimes that is abbreviated to Pl and other times it is just Place.

    Oddly though, if I google my address, it comes up fine on Google Maps. It comes up the same (as Place) regardless whether I spell my road with Pl or Place. Perhaps they are using a different location database for Places than Maps.

    My other guess is maybe they actually fixed it as a result of my report a few weeks ago, but communicated that wrong in the e-mail as a result of it being a form letter.

  15. @James
    I am with you on this one!

    @Brian
    I think the Place vs Pl issue is in fact the case even though Google themselves can correctly resolve the phrase correctly.

    I could be that Google is looking to standardize on the real world, most descriptive word… Terrace instead of Terr. (see Forum posting) , Drive instead of Dr. (see Jennifer’s comments above) and Place instead of Pl…

  16. Good stuff, Mike. I like it every time I hear about Google improving Google Places. I just hope they don’t make it too hard to get valid listings approved. Recently, I was working on a client’s listing for months and never got it approved before our contract ended. I tried everything to get it through, but it kept getting rejected for no apparent reason.

  17. So Mike ~ Do you now think it’s a good idea to “report a problem” when there is a problem? Will issues get addressed by Google before many months have passed? Thanks

  18. @Wes
    It can be a frustrating beast that’s for sure and a tough way to make a living (I think this is by design on the part of Google)

    @Jeffrey

    My sense is that the work done by the Indian phone callers over the last several months in response to “report a problem” filings was providing examples & training for this new automated system. My other guess is that if you reject the Google suggestion a person will in fact look at it or it will be somehow elevated.

    If the report is truthful about a legit listing then I don’t see why you would not want to report it.

  19. I did a post on this yesterday afternoon when I first noticed some of these emails coming in to clients. http://www.nevermoresearch.com/blog/google-places-you-will-conform/

    In regards to addresses it appears that Google may be trying to finally create some uniformity when it comes to things like Suite vs Ste vs # by asking many businesses to opt for the # to designate a suite.

    We did come across a few trouble examples though; in one instance Google asked to change the company name from the existing name to the exact same name. In another instance they asked them to change an address from trail to drive, which would be a completely different address. And finally in another they asked to change the business name since it probably wasn’t 100% guideline friendly.

    I see pros and cons to this. The positive obviously being if they ARE in fact trying to provide a universal format for addresses it should help with a lot of discrepancies that often generate duplicate listings. Another plus would be that since they are in many instances requesting business name changes it may in fact help combat spam. Especially since they are threating to limit data if you reject or ignore the recommendation.

    On the flip side we know Google’s algorithm’s aren’t perfect, which means there is a high margin for error and in many instance I fear we might see many businesses who are playing by the rules being impacted negatively.

    Great post, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one seeing these things.

  20. I think this phone number notice could be potentially a big problem. First, they almost have to modify and be specific within their guidelines, clearly stating that the local number that appears in your place page listing must also be the same as the primary local number on the business’s website. But then what? Must be in text, which formats are acceptable, home page, landing page, page position, can it be graphic element? What about Java script rewrites for call tracking?

  21. @Frank,

    I had suggested to my client, the one that got that phone number correction suggestion, that they either display the number already in the Places listing, same number they used across multiple citation sources, or change from displaying it as HTML text and instead use an image file, if they felt it was important to keep that number to try to track calls off the site. But I also told them that by telling Google to leave it unchanged they might then be flagged for a human review that might notice the number as an image file.

    On other parts of the site they were using the Places phone number for the purpose of citation match-up and I suggested that the extra number for tracking might not be giving them the tracking they wanted since some might be calling from the other number listed elsewhere on the site.

    The number Google took issue with was up top in the header. More visually noticeable by people (the tracking aspect), and much higher up on the page’s html code base for the robots to notice first, as the other number was lower on the sidebar (mid page – moderately noticeable by users)and again down in the footer (small and not very noticeable by users).

    Also, they have other phone numbers on the website for other nearby cities in their service area. Each one has the city name right next to it’s phone number. Header even has a second number for 2nd biggest area outside their main city. Google was able to pick up on the right number that had the city name next to it and suggest the correction be for that one, not any other of the phone numbers on the site.

  22. Sorry, off topic, but I figured there are some great local heads on this thread. Looking for answer on whether impressions for blended results are appearing in places graphs.

  23. @Gyi

    I presume so.

    @Andy
    No phone calls in this case, just an email… Is that OK? If it is I let them know and have them send you one. :)

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