Clarification re: Clarification re: closed listings on Google Places

This clarification from Google arrived late yesterday afternoon in regards to my articles on the Reported to Be Closed feature and perhaps did not receive the visibility that it deserved. When I showed it to Joey, my PR guy, he felt that a clarification to the clarification was necessary. Google’s and Joey’s clarification follow.

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Clarification re: closed listings

Hi Mike,

I saw your recent posts about business listings that are reported/marked as closed and wanted to reach out with some clarification.

Every year, thousands of businesses open, close, move, change their hours, get a new website, or make other types of changes. We can’t be on the ground in every city and town, so we enable our great community of users to let us know when something needs to be updated. The vast majority of edits people have made to business listings have improved the quality and accuracy of Google Maps for the benefit of all Maps users. However, we’re aware that abuse – such as “place closed” spam reports – can become an issue, and we’re working on improvements to the system to prevent and flag any malicious or incorrect edits.

To be clear, the system currently displays the UI message “Reported to be closed. Not true?” when there is a pending edit that marks a place as closed. Only when that pending edit is reviewed and approved goes the UI message change to “This place is permanently closed. Not true?” We know that accurate listings on Google Maps are a vital tool for many business owners; we take these reports very seriously and do our best to ensure their accuracy before updating a listing’s status.

Hope that helps, and thanks for your understanding,
Deanna


Deanna Yick
Global Communications and Public Affairs

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Clarification re: Clarification re: closed listings

Howdy Deanna

Mike passed me your clarification about business listings that are reported/marked/erroneously tagged as closed and he wanted me to circle back with you re your clarification with some clarification from the SMB point of view. The executive summary: A little communication on your part would go a very long way.

It is true that every year, thousands of businesses open, close, move, change their hours, get a new website, or make other types of changes. It need not be true that every year thousands of businesses are erroneously marked as closed on Google Places. A business on the ground can’t constantly be in the ether monitoring these occurrences as we are too busy taking care of our great community of shoppers. These shoppers stop into our stores on a regular basis and they also seem too busy to alert us to your carelessness.

We have empowered Google to both assist in marketing on our behalf and to use reasonable judgement when something needs to be updated on our listing. We are now distraught that we need to put in place ONE MORE process to be on the watch for any malicious or incorrect edits that you have allowed to occur on our Places listing.

To be clear, the very large yellow flag that you have placed on our listing might just indicate the rumor of closing and not the actual closing itself. It does however send inappropriate signals to potential customers that are considering shopping at our location. It creates unnecessary effort for monitoring on our end and leads to endless stress contemplating which competitor is scheming our undoing. We depend on the accuracy of the listings on your service and we take these events very seriously.

Hope that helps you understand the unnecessary aggravation that you have caused. Thanks for your understanding.

Joey


Joey The PR Guy
Local Jack of all Trades and brother in law
email: JoeyThePRGuy@blumenthals.com

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Clarification re: Clarification re: closed listings on Google Places by

20 thoughts on “Clarification re: Clarification re: closed listings on Google Places”

  1. I love Joey’s response!

    Also, isn’t it funny for a company that just spent 12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility to claim they “can’t be on the ground in every city and town”? It’s not that they “can’t” – they just choose not to. Other companies (InfoUSA, Groupon, etc.) seem to have an idea or two on how to handle that.

  2. heya Jimmy

    A billion here a billion there…. soon it adds up to real money… sheesh all I am asking for is a measly email checking in with the owner of the record prior to a big yellow flag… my solution takes a small bit of code, a touch of testing and eensy bit of bandwidth… more like $12.6 or $126 oh OK $1260.00 dollars..

  3. Mike: nice response by Joey, the PR guy.

    Nice corporate response by Google. Look, though, if I have 12 bagel schmear shops including 1 or 2 near Google’s massive offices in NYC I have to spend a tremendous amount of time on actual business. I can’t afford to check my google places listing 2 or 3 times a day just to check to see if some SOB schnook competitor sent in 2 or 3 messages to Google so that now the largest advertising entity in the world is telling my customers that I might be closed.

    So meanwhile the wonderous googlers from manhattan decide to take a break during their days and walk around Manhattan and they turn right rather than left and go to that SOB’s bagel place with the inferior bagels…just because the world’s largest advertising medium decided that another algorithem was more vital than a human.

    hire a couple of humans. Make sure what you put on your big web is accurate. Don’t put the rest of us at risk because you think algo’s are more vital than people.

  4. I think Google has some conflicting positions when it comes to listing issues. I have been successful in some cases to get certain clustering issues (two businesses at the same street address) elevated to the “technical team”. In one specific case, I received communication from a Google rep several weeks after reporting a rather serious conflation of competitive brand names, where legal action was threatened because one brand believed the other was the culprit. Google claimed that the issue had been corrected. That was almost 10 weeks ago. Delayed indexing? That’s what a circle back communication claims. Yet in another case, I was told by a rep that an places issue could not be elevated, the reason, he cited, was that Google considered place pages to be a free service. More disconcerting, was the manner in which he emphasized his position. This directly from a Google employee.

  5. Mike you didn’t actually intend to publish Deanna’s cell on here did you? ;) Ooooh. Let’s try to offer some helpful suggestions of how to get this matter cleaned up. What are some ideas?

    1. Marking a business as “closed” requires someone to log in and agree to release of email identity. (terms of service).
    2. If a listing is marked as “closed” – a notification email automatically goes to the Google Account email associated with the listing – “Your business has been marked closed, is this true?”
    3. Additionally, this communication could report the email account of the person marking it as closed. (as agreed in the terms of service).

    There could be other options listed to better serve the customer:
    A. Closed (Out of Business – Permanently Closed)
    B. Moved to Another Location (list the location maybe?)
    C. Closed for the Season

  6. @Jeffrey…gosh, I never even noticed that both office and cell #’s are posted!

    wonder how long it’ll take Google to move this whole thread up in rankings — wait — it’s already #1 for that phone number, eh!

    would I call her? might just do that if I’ve ever got this same kind’a issue too!

    :-)

    Jim

  7. The simple fact is that until Google tells us otherwise, these days I check the veracity of my different google places record every day, in fact at least twice.

    its time consuming. I have a bunch of records to check. The thing I’m afraid of is spammers/attack businesses simply and easily setting up the algo to signal to customers that I might be closed. Some of them are going to read it as I am closed. Some of them are going to be turned off by the message.

    The thing is its not reality….”its google algo reality” and we all know that is often far from true.

  8. Joey’s response tells it like it is from Google’s bread and butter: the business owner whose data makes up the stuff of Local. I think the point he raises that a rumor of closure is not good for his business is totally valid. Well written.

    BTW, Mike, I wrote a post on this subject yesterday at Search Engine Guide and the first reader to comment reacts to what he felt was a malicious closure of his business by a competitor. Interesting to read exactly how this makes people feel:

    http://www.searchengineguide.com/miriam-ellis/nuking-local-competitors-a-dirty-rotten.php

  9. Have you seen Google’s new help center for Places?

    http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/static.py?page=ts.cs&ts=1386120

    I submitted a report about a report a problem I sent regarding duplicate listings yesterday and received a personalized response today (I say personalized because they actually looked at the duplicate listings).

    Your blog post is also listed in the help center:
    http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=1012278&parent=28059

  10. Mike —

    Earlier this month, several of my Places accounts started getting emails saying “your listing has been marked as closed” with instructions on what to do if the location is still open. You haven’t seen any of these?

    Also, a side question: do you know how Google handles deletes from a bulk file?

    If I manually delete a location, I can choose to (a) just remove from my account or (b) delete from Google Maps.

    If I upload a new complete bulk file and leave out a location that is currently in the account, does Google treat that as a or b?

  11. @Mike

    I have seen the emails that are sent but they are only sent when the listing has been noted as “Permanently Closed” not when they are in the status of “Reported as Closed”… from where I sit, if Google is going to put a big Yellow flag on a listing as in the case of Reported as Closed, they should take the time to send an email as well.

    I do not know how Google handles the situation. I will see if anyone else does..

  12. @Mike Bunnell

    I have checked with several others and their response was similar to my first thoughts. They and I think that it is A and if Google finds strong signals for a given listing elsewhere, will show albeit unclaimed.

  13. I’ve been complaining about Google Places for years. It’s one of the biggest scams on the web. Google steals of the data they use on there, they wrap it with ads to make money off other people’s content, and then just to kick you when you are down they display your local competitors on your own Place page so that your customers can find your competitors. That wouldn’t be so bad if they also didn’t knock your listing down to display their local results when people query a search for your local business. On one hand they say it’s all about unique content, quality, yada yada yada, but their own tools steal other people’s content, wrap ads around for the sake of making money off other people’s info, and they don’t add any additional new content to the pages. To me, Places is a content farm thats sole purpose is to keep people on Google and clicking on ads or listings.

  14. Social is bad for search, and search is bad for social.

    Back in October 2010, Google started merging “Places” results into web search results. Spamming Google Places was known to be easy, but until last October, few people bothered, because spamming the search engine for Google Maps wasn’t worth much. After the merger into web results, SEO-generated places spam via social inputs went mainstream. It’s cheaper than link farm building, which requires setting up web sites. For social spam, Yelp, Citysearch, Twitter, Facebook and Google host your spam for free. The typical small business only needs tens of spam entries to rank higher, not the hundreds or thousands of bogus links needed to gain equivalent rank. That’s how social inputs have messed up search results.

    These attempts to pollute search are filling the “social” world with junk. Read reviews on Citysearch for heavily spammed areas such as carpet cleaning. Many of the reviews are fake. (Search for “They did a great job on our carpets. It looks like new “, and see how many reviews for different firms in different cities use that text.) Some reviews even mention the wrong company; those were presumably scraped and repurposed as spam.

    Most of those fake reviews aren’t intended to be read by people. They’re just there to be counted by search engines. The same is true of “likes”, and “+1″s, which result in the creation of bogus social accounts for spamming purposes. Too much spam can kill a social network. That’s part of what happened to Myspace, Craigslist, almost every online dating site, and now, it’s hitting Facebook. One wonders how many “Google+” accounts are fake.

    This is why search is bad for social, and social is bad for search.

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