Google’s problem solving paths for fixing things that go wrong with a business listing have always been confusing. There are a range of possible options (Report a Problem, MapMaker, Troubleshooters, Places Dashboard) to fixing a problem and there is the temptation to keep trying one after the other in an effort to get the problem fixed. Most SMBs and SEOs figure that getting a simple data error fixed should happen in near real time and think that if they just tweak one more variable then the fix should be in tomorrow.
The reality with Google Places is that doing more and trying more and not being patient will lead to more, overlapping problems as Google reconciles the many data sources that are affected by your repair efforts. This is true in most cases but particularly true with the most serious & deleterious artifact of their algo, the merging of two distinct business listings. Reader Susie made this recent inquiry:
It seems that Google Places is a fan of combining businesses.. We have been having a bit of trouble with our listing lately. Google places has somehow combined our business with another competitor’s… Our website and placement on google places will show up, but underneath our website our competitor’s phone number will appear. Keeping in mind that our addresses are the same (as it is a dock location) and we do have similar competing services………… How do we insure that our business phone number stays attatched to our website in the google places format and not our competitor’s? We have already tried switching keywords, posting pictures in order to differentiate our business, but that has not seemed to be working……….. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Nothing can be more frustrating and nothing needs a more Zen like approach than merged listings. Here is my advice on the best way to currently fix the situation:
Step 1) Make sure that your name is short, that it is your actual legal name and different than your competitors. Change the Places listing to reflect this name. A long name, particularly one with the same keywords as your competitor can contribute significantly to the problem. This is critical long haul as your business name is one of the primary items that you have control over that causes merges and it is an important signal to keep your cluster intact.
Step 2) The only sure way right now to get a merge taken care of is to have Google split the two listings. Once it has occurred it is almost impossible to fix by any fiddling you might do with your data at Google. The recently added Fix a Problem troubleshooters on the Google Help page offers the best current option for a fix as it goes directly to a well trained staff that have the tools and the knowledge to solve the problem. Use the My listing has incorrect information option and take the following path on the questions:
-What’s the status of your listing?
—I have verified my listing in my Google Places for business account.
-Have you tried the Report a problem link?
—Yes (or it is not available on my listing)
– If you have attempted to update your business’s information from within your Places for business account and have not seen your changes take effect within a few days, you can complete this form to specify your correct business information.
Step 3) Once you have filed your repair request with Google, do not keep changing things or trying to fix them with one of the other data input or repair options. Google will respond within about 10 days and it will take 4-6 weeks for the fix to become “permanent” and public. In the meantime STOP play with it. Be patient and wait. This is the most difficult part to understand and by far the most difficult to do. Google assembles the data for the Places index in a batch way, collating and reconciling changes over a given period before pushing out the new data. The Troubleshooter team has the ability to inject correctly unmerged data into this collation but it is necessary (hard to believe yes but necessary) to wait for the corrected data to show up in the next index push.
Step 4) You need to be sure that going forward that the signals coming from across the local ecosystem to Google’s algo send clear, consistent and distinct information about your business listing. Verify that your business name is listed properly with the primary list providers to Google in your country, get listed identically on every directory, local resource and travel guide that you can. Be absolutely sure that you use the legal business name (DBA) noted above. Clean up any errant records that might have a variation in name, address or phone number. Going forward, continue in your efforts to obtain these mentions of your business at your location as they will reinforce the view that Google has of your business as distinct.
Good luck and may the gods of fortune and patience be with you.