Google Places: Community Edits of Claimed Listings Are Back!

Andy Kuiper just pointed out to me, that in addition to the random UGC inputs on the Google Places page discussed this morning, that full on community edits of a claimed listing have returned to Places. The new (back to the future sort of new) community editing system allows logged in users to edit any listing via Places whether it is claimed or not by simply clicking on the Edit this place link on a Places Page.

Apparently the edits are referred to MapMaker editors for approval. It is not clear if all edits can be approved by a senior volunteer editor or if they will still require approval by Google staffers. MapMaker, introduced to the US in April of this year, was also introduced into Canada the day before yesterday. Volunteer MapMaker editors achieve trust in the system by doing edits themselves and by doing accurate approvals of other’s edits. What they might or might not know about conditions on the ground is not considered important so editor quality varies.

The return of full blown community edits is an open invitation to abuse. The editors in the MapMaker environment are mostly honest, hard working souls but like those in all Google forums, have more on their plate than can be handled responsibly and it certainly opens up new pathways for corruption. It is not at all clear that adequate safeguards are in Place.

Let the fun begin.

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Google Places: Community Edits of Claimed Listings Are Back! by

22 thoughts on “Google Places: Community Edits of Claimed Listings Are Back!”

  1. Greaattttttttt. Who is making these decisions at Google? Even if it’s “good for users” (which I would fiercely debate), it’s just going to drive more and more SMB’s into the open arms of Facebook, where they can ACTUALLY CONTROL their presence.

  2. @David

    No SMB that I know of likes the idea of being at guest on what they perceive to be their Place page. It isn’t clear how someone in MapMaker could even distinguish between true and false information even with the best of intentions.

    It is not at all clear to me that this level of end user edits can possibly improve the quality of the index. I was just getting ready to go through my back library and highlight tales of abuse.

    And I was just beginning to think that Places was starting to respect and understand SMBs…

  3. It’s akin to someone coming to your place of business (and while you watch helplessly) they change the sign outside to something more ‘appropriate’, then they go to the door where your business hours are posted and change them, “cause that’s what they thought was better” and then they call Yellow Pages and tell them that your business address is not really ‘accurate’ and could they please change it to ‘blah, blah, blah’.

    God forbid, your competitors stumble into your ‘store’.

    However, IF the edits are vetted appropriately by Google staff, I think it’s a good idea. It will rid of us of those “Chiropractor My City Chiropractic Clinic” names, as well as any other crap uninformed SMB’s or black hat’s try to post.

    Andy

  4. @Andy
    Time will tell whether Google has put adequate safeguards in place.

    @Keith
    I would just as soon be out of a job.

  5. I have taken the opportunity to test the “edit this listing” on a Places listing I KNOW has incorrect infrmation. Ill post back to let you know how responsive the action is!

    I also have a client listing with an incorret telephone number scraped from a random Yellow Pages created website. I wonder if a Google Places email will drop into my inbox to let me know edits have been made?

  6. Keeping with the honesty theme, I trust that we all review and approve edits based on the most accurate information. I personally won’t approve anything on MapMaker without full confidence that I have the whole story and the details are completely true.

    I’m sure you all do the same.

  7. Oh dear. What are they thinking?

    I’m up to my eyeballs in bad data changes already. Businesses marked closed, core data changing from one day to the next, dupes and merges. I can barely keep up with the turmoil. I wish Google would leave verified listings alone.

    I do realize that a huge % of Place pages are set up, forgotten and not kept up to date. So I know that’s a problem and why they feel the need for user edits and crowdsourcing.

    I have an idea. What about a paid option called a Premium listing or something? The business owner pays to OWN the listing and prohibit changes. If they are paying for it they are more likely to be pro-active and make sure the info is current. Taking it a step further, the premium Place page could be more detailed and show all the data Google decided to hide in July or whenever that update was.

  8. Sounds like a new “Mischief Maker” to pair with MapMaker.

    Since local florists have been previous targets of large-scale data sabotage, this news will definitely be met with resounding ‘ugh’s’.

    Sure hope any attempted changes trigger notification emails.

  9. The sad thing is it’ll probably be at least 6 months before even the business owners who know about Places and pay a little attention to it know about this latest FUBAR change.

    I haven’t seen the slightest semblance of a publicity effort by Google–on Lat Long or elsewhere–to give business owners even the slightest heads-up.

  10. Today has just been all-around fun in Local, Mike. Great reporting.

    @Linda, I can see how a paid option would start seeming like a solution to this, but I have a serious ethical problem with this idea: you shouldn’t have to pay anyone not to publish bad or at-risk data about your business in their own money-making publication. Having to do so would be no far cry from extortion. Your point about neglected claimed Place Pages is 100% valid, but I think it’s worse to take away the power of active business owners in order to mitigate the risk of bad data on non-actively-managed listings.

    What a mess this all is!

  11. How someone in Southern India can be sure about changes in North Dacota? There should be rules and every reviewer should follow them. You can’t trust that the reviewers will stay “honest”.

  12. Hi,

    I agree with Linda about a paid return of ‘our’ details about ‘our’ business.

    Also I would like to go back to a stage where I could pay, like paper or Yellow Pages, for an advert for each business stream I have, paper or Yellow Pages headings, with the SAME phone no.

    I do not mind google emailing me about stuff they have picked up off the web if Submitting my Places entry will always over ride the push of data. It would be nice if the push of data was then permanently marked as ‘not wanted on journey’. My often asked for ‘Stop list’.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  13. @Plamen
    I have heard rumors of MapMaker Editors that “are on the take” as well.

    @Phil
    75% of the businesses in the US have not even claimed their listings yet and if you assume that 50% of those that have are clueless, this could affect ~12-15 million businesses. And I agree, Google has not done a good job now or over the years of communicating. They should have sent out another email.

    @Linda and Andrew
    There is a paid listing option. Its called Adwords Express. It will show regardless of whether Google thinks the listing is accurate or not… it will even show rejected or suspended listings.

  14. What is the point of claiming a Places listing to control its accuracy if you cannot?

    After recently noticing that Places referral traffic went down for one of our client’s apartment property websites I found that the main image in the owner-verified Places listing had been changed to the logo for an apartment referral site and was linked to an unclaimed Citysearch listing for the apartment property, one set up by this referral site. The Citysearch listing showed the referral company’s website URL and phone number, rather than ones for the apartment property (of course). I had to claim the listing, revise it, and a week later call to have them manually make the revisions because those I made online wouldn’t stick.

    I’ll say it again – What is Google thinking??

  15. @Miriam, I totally agree with you on all fronts and my comment about a paid option was more out of desperation. If there is no other way to force them to leave verified listings alone, then as a last resort let people pay for the right to control their data if it’s important to them.

    I just got a new client that has a big dupe mess. Before I start clean up I asked him to forward any emails from Google. He has 3 listings. He’s gotten 4 change emails, all of them wanting to remove his suite. (How is that accurate OR good for the user?)

    Luckily I’ve been in the habit for a long time of copying or doing a screenshot of everything I see. So even when I 1st do a consult I copy their NAP, cats, desc and reviews so I have a record and can tell if anything changes. All his listings just had his main local #. And one had the smooshed phone # bug, but that same #.

    The very next day I check his listings and WITHOUT NOTICE Google added an 855 Voip# (that acts as an 800) as a second # and also added his fax # to all his listings. They didn’t ask, it wasn’t in any of the change emails. They just added it. Since not in dash they can’t be removed without going through report a prob. I’m almost afraid to check listings these days cuz I have no idea what I’m going to find.

    So ya I’d pay to lock down records. Is that the right solution? No, the right solution is for Google to not change verified listings or at least give a 1 month notice before they do EVEN with these user edits.

    I’m worried about how these user edits are going to show up. Do they just happen without warning like the added phone #s did? Do they show up in a change email? Doesn’t sound like it. Sounds like mapmaker editors just approve the changes and they go live. Scary.

  16. HA! President Obama thinks there should be a class action lawsuit against Google.

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Places/thread?tid=00d78c4e075f24ce&hl=en

    “The Google site is bloated and a nightmare to navigate when one wants to change something about their own listing which Google, without any authorization from the business owner, has decided to post. Some law firm should look into this. For example, my business name is MY business name and where does Google, or anybody else, get permission to post it without my permission FIRST.

    Then, Google makes it a living hell to make any changes and the erroneous info stays there until, by some act of Allah, it gets removed or changed. What give Google the right to post ANY information without the business owners permission FIRST and without allowing the business owner full right of removal, editing with a few simple steps? Rather than me having to verify that I own the business, YOU, Google have to verify from ME that you can post anything. I can see the law suit coming and I can’t wait. I’ll gladly join a class action suit to block Google from unauthorized use of intellectual property….my company name.”

  17. Google, you have created an environment which supports virtual RAPE. I am stunned by your lack of accountability. It’s like creating a cocktail lounge for people to mingle and leaving a backdoor open, allowing lions to rush in. How can you do this? How can you take my business name and concept, my life, and allow absolutely anybody in the world to graffiti whatever they want on my front window. (reviews) How can you do this? What is your plan to protect business owners from slander? NONE!?! How is a business to protect itself from the quite obvious threat of unjustified wrongdoers? NONE!?! I spend my entire life building my business and you allow it to be raped and taken away out of your random carelessness. I just discovered that my listing cannot even be removed. What!?!?! How can you tell me my business “MUST” be on your map, subject to attack from hostile parties. Shame on you! Shame on you!! Shame on you!!!

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