Google Places Now Updating Your Listing Automatically

Yesterday Google Places announced on the LatLong Blog that they would automatically update claimed listings more quickly with information from trusted third parties and end users if Google thought the information was more accurate than information that was in the Places Dashboard. They noted:

But now, if a user provides new information about a business they know — or if our system identifies information from another source on the web that may be more recent than the data the business owner provided via Google Places — the organic listing will automatically be updated and the business owner will be sent an email notification about the change.

The policy of changing claimed listings to match what Google claims is more accurate information is not new. They implmented this program late last year with a 60 day window. Now however the speed with which Google will do the update apparently is.

The previous letters, which also would included notification of impending status changes like “Permanently closed”, were not sent reliably.

Here is a copy of the letter that is being sent. In this example, it appears that the only information change is to add the last 4 digits of the zip+4 number. In another instance I received, Google was suggesting changing the listing to an 800 instead of the local number that was in the Places dashboard:

Your listing on Google Places will soon be updated
Dear Google Places user,Google will soon update your listing data on our consumer properties such as Google and Google Maps to more accurately reflect the latest information we have about your business.We use many sources to determine the accuracy of our listing data and to provide the best possible experience for business owners and consumers who use Google and Google Maps to find local information.

Below is a summary of what your listing(s) will contain once it’s updated in the next few weeks. This will be visible on your Place page and listings across Google properties, but it will not be reflected in your Google Places account:

Blumenthals.com

201 North Union St # 307, Olean, New York, 14760-2740, US

+1 7163724008

http://www.blumenthals.com/

If the above information is not accurate, please sign in to Google Places. You may prevent any of these changes from being made on your Place page and listing by selecting “Edit”, and then pressing the “Submit” button to confirm the correct information about your business.

If you submit data to Google via a feed, please ensure that the data in your feed is accurate and current. Note that you must update listing data in your feed to prevent changes from being made to the above listings.

Note that if you are an AdWords or AdWords Express customer, your ads will be unaffected by this change and will continue to display the listing information you have provided in Google Places. To manage your online advertisements, please sign into Google Places or Google AdWords.

For more information about updates to claimed listings, please visit: http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1318197

Sincerely,

The Google Places Team

(c) 2011 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

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

The program’s goal is to improve index quality. If implemented carefully it can work. It is not clear how abuse proof the program is and how much trust Google will put in end user edits. Obviously many of those, if not properly vetted, could create a whole new spate malicious activity.

There is also some irony that a Google forced change to a listing could occur significantly faster than an owner change to the description or category fields.

I for one though will be grateful to stop receicing those stupid emails indicating that a problem I just reported via the report a problem link on my own record might not be updated because:

You should know, however, that XXXX is an owner verified listing and some updates require the approval of the business owner before they can take effect.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places Now Updating Your Listing Automatically by

59 thoughts on “Google Places Now Updating Your Listing Automatically”

  1. Hi Mike

    In my opinion this new practice will lead to more unnesseray attention a verified business owner has to pay on his listings. As I understood it, everytime a user edit oder a third-party-site information is submitted, an owner has to actively approve oder deny the change. If no decision is made, edits will be updated, no matter if the owner provided information is still more accurate and true.

    What also bugs me is the process Google recommends for keeping your already verified information by re-saving within the edit view of a listing or re-uploading a bulk file. Why isn’t there a list of simple approve or deny buttons in the Google Places backend, next to every incoming change?

    Greetings
    Nico

  2. I was hoping that maybe this was going to be a good update but already this morning, 3 of my clients have received emails from Google that list wrong information. 2 of them listed the fax number as the primary number, 1 listed a cell phone number. I have a feeling this is going to give me a headache.

  3. @Joy Hawkins
    Are they showing multiple phone numbers, or just a single on that is inaccurate?

  4. Ah bummer, I was excited that Alternative Numbers have come back. I didn’t mean to get your hopes up that I would provide useful information.

    What phone number is appearing on the 3rd party listings?

  5. I should add that I just confirmed for the one that listed a fax on that email – his fax number isn’t even listed in the places account. It’s just weird.

  6. Mike,

    Just received the letter this morning. The “supposedly more accurate” info Google wants to update would remove my suite number from my address. Should I just let google do it and then edit later?

  7. As someone who manages 6 Places accounts with over 6000 locations total for our various business lines, this has already been a disaster. The email states “For the sake of brevity, we’ve listed only up to 25 of your listings in this mail. There may be more listings that have been updated”. Just from looking at the random sample of 25 in the emails, business names have been wrong, websites are wrong, businesses that we do not own are included in the email. Given the # of locations we have, it’s impossible to use their method if the changes aren’t accurate. We can’t log in to every Places page and edit.

  8. I received many of these today as well for all of the client place pages we manage.

    However, one customer emailed me a copy of this letter she received and asked what it meant. This made me think Google is cc’ing this letter to the main email listed in the place page as well as the account holder email.

    But then, I noticed in the email, that Google sent this letter directly to her personal Gmail account which I have never seen before and it has nothing to do with her business.

    How does Google know her personal gmail account and why would they connect it to this place page?

    I am wondering how many of my other clients have received this letter in their personal gmail accounts (if they have one).

    ???

  9. @ Trina – I would have your client login to her gmail to see if her places listing is maybe also claimed in there along with wherever you have it claimed? She might’ve set it up a long time ago before working with you perhaps…

  10. I received one this morning myself. My first reaction was a feeling of impending doom, but the change suggested was a very slight variation to business name and nothing ominous. Although, I can’t help but worry. :)

  11. I blogged this late yesterday and no one replied for awhile. I started to think maybe I’d blown the potential problems out of proportion and assumed the worst.

    The problems above are EXACTLY what I was afraid was going to happen. This is going to be a mess!

    Haven’t checked my email or the GP forum yet. Now I’m afraid to!

  12. Ok just quickly scanned email and have 4 forwarded from clients so far.
    Both with minor changes BUT changes that will cost them tons of citations.

    For instance one client when I took over her account her title was:
    Jane Doe PC

    I checked and she had 1200 citations for Jane Doe DDS and only 200 for her practice name Jane Doe Dental. So since both names are legal names and more directories list as the Dr. name I changed it to Jane Doe DDS.
    Now G wants to change it to Jane Doe Dental.

    BUT HERE’S THE PART THAT REALLY CONCERNS ME:

    “Below is a summary of what your listing(s) will contain once it’s updated in the next few weeks. This will be visible on your Place page and listings across Google properties, but it will not be reflected in your Google Places account”

    So are they saying that if someone misses the email or an SMB does not realize it’s a change that can hurt them. once the change is made it’s NOT in the dash, therefore the business owner or someone like me won’t be able to correct it later.

    You know how if G adds a bad category or images to your listing you can’t edit because it’s not even in your dashboard?

  13. I am traveling today so my responses might need to be brief. I apologize for not responding individually and hope that you will keep up the commentary so that we can all better understand what is going on.

    The situation that Meg refers to will be untenable thats for sure.

    For most it will be a minor annoyance. For some that don’t pay attention, Google may change the listing erroneously. For some it will be a wake up call to fix their upstream data.

    Because this system has been in place since last fall but has not functioned regurlarly or correctly there will be a flush of the emails and where possible resolution. For some like Meg, it will be painful. For many it will be a non event.

    It is after this initial dam burst where the story will develop. The index might just improve in quality and folks might just get notified that their Place has been closed.

    But like many of the halfbaked ideas that have made their way into Places, there may be a whole new vector for disruption and turmoil.

    Mike
    To linda – your concept of the “ghost” record is not technically accurate and creates a misunderstanding about how Google Places works. Google stores all information about a single business in a single cluster. That includes ALL current AND past information from the full range of sources that they have access to. Google will surface the data that is most trusted at any given point in time. Any content that is in the cluster that is outdated might surface if the history of the listing is spotty or if Google now has more trust in the data or thinks that the data better answers a searchers query.

  14. Mike thanks for that explanation and let me explain better and see if we are on the same page. Example:

    New client: Title is John Smith New York Dentist live cats include New York Dentist, New York Cosmetic Dentist. I explain they have violations. But then after they become a client and I log in the name is fine and those cats are not in their account so I can’t delete them.

    We email back and forth and they swear they don’t have a 2nd place page and no one ever created one so I can’t get rid of the violations. Then a month later they remember an old webmaster that may have created a Place page. We track him down, I ask him to read me the cats that are in HIS dash and sure enough – that’s where the violation cats are hiding, that 2nd Place page (that for a month was a hidden ghost dupe because we could not find it).

    So that’s what I refer to as a hidden ghost dupe. The stage where you can’t find the 2nd Place page but it’s still in partial control of the listing I’m trying to optimize.

    BUT it sounds like you are saying that’s incorrect and not how it works? I mean I think I get the cluster part and that they can surface OTHER data from other sources too. But I have the above scenario happen ALL THE TIME so are you saying it doesn’t happen or just that the way I described it was unclear or???

    (Sorry know you’re traveling, don’t have to answer this today.)

  15. I run into scenarios like Linda’s every day. I have a client right now with a photo “from the owner” of her old office and this has been going on for 6 months and nothing we’ve done can get rid of the photo. We’ve checked every email of hers and cannot find the account this listing is claimed in (in addition to ours) so we can’t remove the photo.

    I also just had a client get emailed from Google with her old address listed as the “correct” info. I am certain her listing remains claimed somewhere but can’t find it and we’ve changed every citation to list her new address so I am at a loss at what else to do…

  16. Reports are starting to come into the forum. Here’s a user who fought for a long time after they moved to get their address corrected and now got an email that Google is changing it back to their old address.

    “I moved 3 months ago. Updated my listing no problem. I found that the map had not been updated-clients were being given directions to old address- while the red ballon had my new address. I reported it several times. Then I got a call from Google Maps. Thats when my real trouble started. Instead of updating the map, they marked my business as permanently closed. I talked to them several times. Each time they tried to tell me I was at my old address. Finally got it all straight. Today I receive email from places saying my account will be updated. (to old address) It says to go to my dash board and put in the right info. It has been correct there all along. I really don’t know what else to do. I feel certain its something with the maps people they called again a couple days ago. They are definitely in another country but I know they understood what I said. Right now everything is correct, but it will change anytime according to the email from Places.”

    Who knows better where a business is CURRENTLY located? The business owner that works there every day and pays the rent or Google who is scraping old data?

    There’s another from post from a biz owner who got an email wanting to update a business he closed 4 YEARS ago. Not sure how they can think using all this bad data is helpful. I mean I’m sure they are making correct updates in some cases but…

  17. Mike there is something incredibly, and deeply BACK ASSWORDS!!!! about this.

    Yes, google’s methodology…is so ASS BACKWARDS…even describing it reflects a need to address faulty operations.

    The claimed record SHOULD BE THE NUMBER 1 SOURCE FOR INFORMATION!!!

    The mass attack by spamming competitors this past summer, causing Google to report businesses as closed was clear evidence that there are a lot of business competitors who will simply use third party sources to create misinformation about other competitors. This has been going on for years with attack reviews, this past summer, with the closings…..and now Google officially announces its open season for competitors to manipulate records.

    Oh me. Which algo loving engineer came up with this idea…..and which algo thinking monkeys who need to take their space ship and land it on the real world agreed with this???

    Back in the day…I did data collection, built a data base of in excess of 1,000 properties, businesses, buildings, land, contacts, phone numbers, decision makers etc. It was done by hand. I got direct information and I got second hand information.

    Nothing was more valuable and/or accurate than direct information. NOTHING. I had to use a lot of 2ndary source information. It was ripe with errors….and it didn’t involve competitors trying to misinform me.

    Putting emphasis on 2ndary sources over a claimed listing======

    STUPID!!!!STUPID!!!!STUPID!!!!

    …..and frankly that is the mild version of my perspective!!!!! :D

  18. I am not happy about this one bit. Google places has a mind of it’s own sometimes, and it doesn’t always make the best decisions (clusterf*** anyone?) I really don’t want to have to deal with bad info on 3rd party sites causing Google to change my categories and effect my rankings – I know that will probably never happen, but it could.

  19. I do not think that Google is putting an emphasis on secondary information as much as they are working to build data integrity. By garnering quality business citations you should have no problem producing a superior result in Google Places.

    As Mike said, “it will be a wake-up call to fix their upstream data.” One of my biggest complaints is that my clients uses countless tracking phone numbers for frivolous marketing campaigns for a limited time and they only make things worst. Now I can put my foot down and tell them to stop.

    I know this has created a bunch of work to do but it also favors those of us who are actively managing the local presence of our clients.

  20. @Linda

    Just landed and have a few minutes before my next flight.

    Most definitions of “ghost” imply something supernatural or perhaps mysterious. What you describe is Google, by design, surfacing data from the business’s cluster to show on their Place page.

    Just because the client is mystified as to the origin of that data, its origins are not a mystery. It comes from data inserted into the cluster by a user (or their agent) that has claimed the same business into a second (or perhaps even third) Google account.

    Google has chosen to trust the photo and category data from this second account and to prioritize it as important for display on the Place page.

    I don’t agree with Google’s design decision and there are a number of viable alternative ways for them to minimize the aggravation that showing this data causes. They could for example age out the data if the second account (really the first account in time) is not accessed over a certain timeframe. Or they could give the newer claimant a view of this data and perhaps the option to delete it. Or perhaps just prioritize the most recent claimant’s data and make it the only to be shown. Google has lots of bright people and have obviously chosen NOT to fix this sloppy situation.

    But to describe it as a supernatural occurrence shifts responsibility from the owner for keeping track of their previous logins and from Google who should be offering up a better way to handle the data.

  21. Mike said: ‘They could for example age out the data if the second account (really the first account in time) is not accessed over a certain timeframe. Or they could give the newer claimant a view of this data and perhaps the option to delete it.’

    It’s such a brilliantly simple solution, I’m curious why G has chosen not to pursue an interface that woud allow a little more business owner control while minimizing grief. There must be a reason… right?

  22. @Mike point well taken and I understand and agree.

    However it’s often not the business owners fault, so we can’t always lay the blame there. Sometimes some unethical marketer pretending to be Google duped the temp at the front desk and the business owner didn’t even know it.

    Often it’s a company like DemandForce and others that set up listings as a free value-add but the business owner does not fully realize they set up a Place page and does not know a dupe exists.

    But since it’s almost Halloween…

    Since these mysterious dupes are hidden, invisible and we often can’t find them…

    Since these invisible dupes often do “weird spooky things” to the main claimed listing that SHOULD be in control…

    I’ll probably still call them ghost dupes, at least for now.

    Then after Halloween I’ll try to change my ways and instead will tell clients “I’m sorry your listing appears to be a victim of a Google ClusterF*&#k” ;-)

    I just wish Google would give the most recent pin verified listing complete control or show hidden merged dupes and allow the business owner to suspend them.

  23. @Keith
    The only logical explanation is that they have not yet wanted to.

    My suspicion is that the problem only affects less than 1% of the listings and thus because it has not been highlighted in the press they have it down on their priority list.

    The problem with the 1% answer (from my point of view) is the following. Lets say that this bug that they don’t fix affects “only” 1%” of all businesses (or roughly 1.5 million businesses worldwide) and the State Entry bug only affects 1% so they haven’t fixed that one yet and the Places Closed issue only affects 1% so they have not fixed that one yet (despite what they say)…. To paraphrase Everett Dirkson, 1.5 million here, 1.5 million there and soon you have some real numbers.

    @Linda
    I always tell SMBS: “If you are going to outsource the job get a guarantee that you can access the account and be sure that you have the user name and password.” Yes they may have been swindled and they may not be at fault but in the end, regardless, it is their resposnsibility to manage their assets. And to accept responsibility when they haven’t. Its a brutal world.

  24. The updates can be very dangerous. I got one of these today for a Toyota dealer, telling us they were going to change our website from our main Toyota website to our Scion site. We sell nearly 100 times as many Toyotas as Scions… This would have been a complete disaster.

    I’m not sure what made them decide that Scion was more accurate… They automatically took Toyota out of our business name a while back, too. It’s really frustrating.

  25. While this change will definitely cause a lot of headaches and frustration in the short term, I agree with Mike, that for the long term, this could be a good change.

    As more and more users utilize local search and more competitors enter the field (ex. MQVibe) the recentness, relevance and accuracy of Google’s search results becomes increasingly important to their ability to maintain market share. Google’s ability to capture such a larger portion of the internet search traffic is a boon to small businnesses with a limited marketing budget.

    It is also possible that this move is being undertaken to combat the rise of fraudulent (spammish) listings which are being created by less than reputable local search marketers. These listings often contain tracking phone numbers or are for “virtual” offices of out of state businesses with no actual local presence. Such listings and practices are an anathema to Google, whose ultimate goal is to “create a digital representation of the real world.”

  26. To all

    Thanks for keeping this conversation going in my absence I really appreciate your inputs and opinions.

    Time to get to work and see what was changed on which listings.

  27. Got several calls & emails yesterday. All of the changes that Google has stated they will make – ARE FULL OF INCORRECT INFORMATION!!!

    “Dear Google: Please keep your sticky hands out of our business listing. If you want to help out, please make it easier for us to provide you with correct information.”

    This is terrible. Almost as bad as Quikster. Wait, I think I spelled that wrong. Qwickster. Damn. Quickster. Ah…forget it.

  28. Nothing makes me angrier (well there might be a few things) then seeing this email “report” some time after I sent in a clearly worded ‘Report A Problem’ message. Do they think I’m an idiot!? This is NOT what I would expect from a billion dollar company. C’mon Google, you can do better.

    “You should know, however, that XXXX is an owner verified listing and some updates require the approval of the business owner before they can take effect.”

    I see you too receive the same messages Mike – so that makes two fools Google is aware of – ack!

  29. As for this absolutely scary, insane decision to put the algo to work ‘correcting’ CLAIMED local listings… I just don’t get it. I could understand they might be trying to deal with inaccurate business names (fictitious examples. Los Angeles Chiropractor, Dallas Locksmith), but I think they are dealing with that by substituting the meta title tags instead (a better fix… maybe). But it’s very, very dangerous to go down this road when so much is on the line for a business.

    Andy :-)

  30. Wow – Huge backlash in the comments with this updated “report a problem” feature.

    I don’t know. I’m curious to see how it plays out. Anything to try to improve some of the problems in GP I see as a good thing.

  31. I am going to make a few changes (as the public) to one of my personal Places accounts, and see how much information can be changed if an owner isn’t paying attention.

    As always we will see how this play’s out. Seems like it could be a big problem for those of us who deal with large numbers of accounts, or highly competitive categories.

  32. Yes, you would think that credence would be given to the claimed business listing and authority given to its data. However, my belief is that Google simply does not want to truly confer control over to SMBs, in order to prevent “black hat” techniques. Otherwise, they will then have to monitor these accounts more closely with personnel. Which means more overhead and less profits for a FREE platform. I agree that it is a pain in the butt, but if you truly know what you are doing as a local SEO, you can work around it. Who would be willing to pay a monthly fee of $10/month for an upgraded listing, that would allow the SMB to have more authority with their data in their listing

  33. Now more than ever, it is important to scour the web for erroneous data that Google can find and mess up your listing(s). I do this anyway for my clients, because it helps your ranking and keep Google from generating duplicates. If you do local SEO for a living – this change will be great for your business.

  34. Amen on that Jeff! If a business moves, and is listed in several directories, it is always best to go back and manually update all the informqation to reflect the new address.

  35. I’ve noticed that many of the revisions Google is suggesting have to do with changing my clients’ local phone numbers to toll-free 888 numbers. This seems to be in contradiction to Google’s statement that local phone numbers should be prioritized. Is anyone else experiencing this?

  36. I got one such email.

    For the record, Google has never said that an 800 is verboten. If they have more current information from a trusted source they will suggest that rather than old information. Thus it means that Google has recently received a feed with more current information from a trusted source. The problem is that use of it may confuse the cluster and reduce to a loss of prominence.

    In general an 800# is less trusted in local than a land line.

  37. @Caleb – yes I’m noticing this a ton! Most of the emails I’ve got want to change it to a toll-free number, a fax number, or a 2nd line number. It seems like they list everything other than the actual business number!

  38. @Joy
    Any trusted source including places like Yellowbot. Superpages, & Citygrid could be a source. These are all Yext network partners.

    Another source could be MapMaker (from end user edits).

  39. I recently re-verified a listing by phone that was already verified by a former employee who has moved out of the country however when I try to “edit this page” it says “This Listing Is Unavailable –
    You may only access listings that you own. If you created this listing with a different Google Account, please log in to that account and try again. If you’ve deleted this listing, you may create it again in Google Places. ”

    How do I solve this problem to make this an editable page?

  40. @Gabe
    I assume that you are in some country other than the US?

    Just goto google.com/lbc, login in with the email used to verify and edit it there.

  41. @ Mike
    I verifyed the page yesterday however unlike my other place pages when I tried to make an edit this message appears – “Please note that changing your address or business name will require additional verification via mail or phone. ” and also it tells me to verify again

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