Google Maps: Business listings disappear

Over the past several weeks I had experienced a business listing that was present in the Authoritative Onebox, present in the Local 10 Pack (Michael Donnelly Interior Design – Buffalo), but was nowhere to be found in the Maps listing even when selecting the “more” info link showing in the Authoritative OneBox or the 10 pack main search results. It was not visible with a direct Maps search either except as a blue MyMaps entry. This problem had been reported in the Google Maps for Business Groups as well.

Apparently this is a known problem that Google acknowledged last week in the current issues section of the Maps Group:

Alert for Business Owners: Some verified listings aren’t displaying on
Google Maps. Our team is aware and currently investigating. Stay tuned!

My kudos to the king of search for having started alerting users to bugs rather than waiting for several hundred struggling users to fight, fear and futz with the problem. If we are seeing a new openness in the Google Maps Group, that is indeed a significant “upgrade”. (For the record, that is my second compliment to Google this week. :) )

Google Maps Local Business Center now offering instant listings?

One of the dreaded aspects of dealing with the Local Business Center in the past was the long delay of the PIN/postcard validation and the listing process in the Maps business directory. The phrase Awaiting Next Update took on a sinister character that often meant 6 to 8 weeks delay and sometimes never for the record to show in Maps.

Recently Google Local Business Center has been posting my new entries & edits immediately into the Maps listing with no verification and no delay.

Here is a screen shot from the LBC of a listing I created today at 2:30 p.m.:

lbcposting.jpg
Here is the screen shot from Google Map listing within minutes after entry:

newvisionsmaplisting.jpg

The listing is also showing at position 14 on the general search phrase “consulting Olean NY” within minutes of being posted.

This is a dramatic shift in policy on new business listings that I first noticed in early February and I mentioned here. Is Google doing this for every listing? From what I understand, no. Please let me know otherwise.

Is Google auto-approving certain types of business listings or do I have some “super user” privileges by virtue of the quantity of entries that I have made?

If it is some “signal” about the business, what could it be? This particular business is my wife’s run from our home and has been operating under the radar of the data collection world. There is no external indication to Google that it is legitimate other than the whois record with a 2006 creation and the fact that the phone and street address jive. She had no YellowPage listings, no public filings, no listing in other on-line directories or primary data providers that I know of. The phone is residential and has her name listed.

If they are providing me as an active LBC user more privileges due to the large number of entries in the LBC what is the benchmark? I have 43 entries in my Local Business Center and I noticed this on entry number 39 and each of the last 4 have been “instant” on in Maps.

Regardless, this is a welcome update. It is a relief to not have to worry about when it will show up, if it will show etc. It also feels good to compliment Google. I must have the title of grumpy google basher in San Jose.

Google Plus Box – Where does the (wrong) data come from?

One of the more vexing problems in local search has been erroneous address & phone data showing for a bricks & mortar location in the main Google search results in the Plus Box. For a screen shot of the issue click here.

Small business owners have flocked to the Google Maps for Business Group in search of answers on the apparently untrue assumption that the data in the Plus Box comes from the Local Business Center record.

I recently theorized that the primary source for this erroneous information was the business website itself. That seems true as far as it goes. Apparently though there are other web “signals” that will trigger the Plus Box and if a business has relocated in the past several years it is likely that the information will be wrong, even if the website and the Local Business Center record has been correctly updated.

This recent request to the Google Maps for Business Group motivated me to look deeper into where this information might come from if not the business’s website. It appears that the source is either a high page rank directory site with a Maps API display or one of the many Yellow Page resources that Google uses as a secondary, confirming source for address information.

The upshot is that the (incorrect) Plus Box data appears to come from:
•Your Website
•Secondary business listing data suppliers to Google like the YellowPages
•High PageRank Directories that use a Google Maps API to geolocate the incorrect address

These sources would need to be changed for Google to “get it right”. There may be other sources but a creative search of Google should turn those up. I would suggest your prioritize your “cleansing” efforts by the list above. In this particular case, I found 62 web references to the wrong address. I do not think that all need to be changed.

Clearly Google could simplify this correction process in a number of ways. They could simply prioritize Local Business Center data when they have it. Barring that choice, they could provide details as to the sources of their data so that it could be purged more easily from the index.

The current system of begging in the Groups is obviously an inadequate response to a problem that from the SMB’s perspective is pressing. It is particularly so when customers end up at the wrong address due to the erroneous Plus Box. In these cases the business complaint should be addressed immediately and the business treated as a partner that helps Google generate accurate data.

Here is the original query from the Maps Group in its entirety and my research and response:
Continue reading

Local Links of Interest

KML: HTML for the Geoweb – Christopher Schmidt, TechnicalRamblings
KML has become the “HTML” of the Geographic Web. With limited semantic meaning, a combination of mostly-human understandable XML tags for the majority of the usages, widespread use and abuse for purposes far beyond the original thoughts and intentions of the designers, and more, KML fits well into the geographic version of the niche filled by HTML in more generalized content publishing.

Beneficiaries of UGC in Map and Location Updating – MDob, Exploring

This is part of series on the implication, benefits, winners and loosers in having users updating Mapd and Business listing data.

Yahoo! onePlace Offers Front Door to Mobile Internet – Greg Sterling LocalMobileSearch

One of the many things holding the cell phone back from being a functional internet and search platform in the terrible user experience. This product might solve some of that for non iPhone users.

Do Ratings Matter Part Deux – Greg Sterling, Screenwerk

Yahoo’s response to Greg’s response to Matt’s posting:

  1. Ratings (stars) always matter and factor into the presentation of ranked local results in Shortcuts/Direct Display and Yahoo! Local.
  2. Most of the time the local results presented in search results and in Yahoo! Local will be identical (top three) but not 100% of the time.
  3. Reviews/review text don’t factor as a weighted variable in the algorithm for the presentation of local results via Shortcuts but may, on occasion, play a part in the ordering of results on Yahoo! Local.

Google and the PlusBox Blues

The Google Maps for Business Group has had countless requests for help with erroneous Plus Boxes like this one:

=================================================
TOPIC: “+” Sign shows Wrong Address & Phone # in Google Search Results! HELP!
=================================================
Date: Mon, Mar 3 2008 12:10 pm
From: rjfny
Hi Jen,

Here is the link to our search results page

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=top+hat+dance+studio+philadelphia

Top Hat Dance Studio is listed on the search results page twice. Thelisting at the top of the page has the correct address which is….

Correct: 10771 Bustleton Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19116

However, there is an incorrect listing with a “+” Sign that shows the wrong address.

Incorrect: 3114 Willits Rd Philadelphia, PA 19136

We have tried for a year to have this address changed to no avail. The address has been changed in Google local business, Google maps, the business web site, and on search engines throughout the internet. No one seems to know how to change the “+” Sign Google address or determine the source of the incorrect listing data.

Thanks in advance for your help!

-Robert

Most writers to this group assume that since the information in the PlusBox is local in nature that Google must logically be taking the information from a verified business listing in the Local Business Center. One would naturally come to that conclusion. The assumption is that the most reliable local data would be taken from the business controlled and updated record in the LBC. That appears to not be the case. Continue reading

Google Maps: The cacophony of complaints continue, links to the dead?

I have in the past noted the number and similarity of complaints to the Google Maps For Business Group. I have also noted the need for more more staff support for the group. The other day the summary of the daily conversations seemed to embody all of that and then some. Many of the complaints have a familiar ring but the link to a dead person complaint offered a new twist on the merged record problem. Here are the posts for the day taken verbatim from the group:

Phone number not displayed in Local One Box Results
  Recently Google stopped displaying my business phone number in the Local One Box summery however if you click on details it shows my phone number. Is there a checklist I should go through to figure out what happened? Yellow Pages has a different phone number for my company so they can track which customers called from their ad. Is it possible that the… more »

By aplusperfect Mar 11 new of 1 message

 

automated category selection…
  I get that Google wants to automatcially select a category it thinks best suits a business, so why do they ask us for categories? I created an entry for our daycare center and used “daycare, preschool, private school”. All of these make perfect sense. Google put us in “Colleges and universities”. I know why. We are called:… more »

By Corey Mac Feb 291 new of 1 message

 

Bulk Feed Upload still Awaiting next update after 4 weeks
  Hello, I uploaded a bulk feed list file on Jan. 31st 2008 and it doesn’t appear to be working. On my administration page for business location lists all statuses as following: Awaiting next update. Changes take up to 4 weeks to appear on Google Maps As i understand it, this status should report Active if they are live…. more »

By Eric Feb 29 1 message

 

URGENT My business listing is linked to a dead person URGENT
  I have a business listing and the name is incorrect. I made a request to edit the business listing Feb 12 and it is still not corrected. The link is costing me many concerns with my career and business as linking to a dead prior agent can be viewed as improper on my part. I NEED to remove the name Sam Carrello from my address. THIS is an… more »

By chris caraisco Feb 29 1 message

 

LocalBusiness
  Can anyone tell me why my business is not showing up under the local business. It was and now I do a search and it will not find it?

By TAB Feb 29 1 message

 

Does Bulk Upload Work? What is verified?
  Does bulk upload work? There seems to be many messages about it does work, doesn’t work, has stopped working, takes a long time, etc. Is there any definitive statement on whether this function is currently working (as of 2/29/08)? and How long is it taking for bulk upload submissions to show up?… more »

By Jim Feb 29 1 message

 

Wrong categories
  I have posted both of my business under services attorney’s and servies legal aid. My business does not show when you do a earch for an attorney in my city. When you do a search of the business name one of them comes up under colleges and universities and the other comes up under dentist and orthodontics…. more »

By Mike Feb 29 1 message

 

At wits end on how to get on Google Maps local directory
  Please can someone help as this is keeping me awake at night. We have a guest house in Oban Scotland. ( The Old Manse in Oban). Since the introduction of the local directory with Google Maps – which now comes up first in any search – we have seen our bookings go down the pan. We used to come up… more »

By ronac Feb 29 1 message

 

Postcard Mailer Problem
  Hello, I’ve got multiple locations for the same business that I’m trying to list on Google maps. I can only verify my listing via the postcard mailer because the phone goes directly to VM. Some of my locations have received the mailer and others have not. I’ve tried to re-send it a couple of times to locations that did not get the mailer, but with… more »

By Raven Feb 29 1 message

 

Adding a Category
  Hi I have been trying for ages to try and get our business listed under a category that actually fits what my company does. I have noticed that there is a company in North Vancouver that shows the Category they are listed in as Leather. I cannot find this Category anywhere. I wholesale leather to interior designers, so when… more »

By DragonFly Surfaces Feb 28 1 message

When Google finally fixes Maps it might very well precipitate a midlife blogging crisis for me. I won’t know how to spend my time.:)

Google Maps:The Authoritative SpamBox?

englishlanguage.jpg

Update: 03/04/08 1:30 pm This listing no longer shows on the search.

The Authoritative Onebox when returned on general search phrases is very powerful. The result dominates the page. Google assumes that they know exactly what the searcher wants. We saw last December the impact that this had on a florist in Denver. What happens though when that Authoritative OneBox result is spammy?

An English reader has reported a case where the general search phrase “english language school london” is now returning an Authoritative OneBox on the Google results page that certainly isn’t totally on the up and up.

The address is actually occupied by the Little Italy Restaurant, the photo with the Maps record is bogus, the phone number is used by several businesses but seems to be located at another address, the domain owner has several websites with apparently fabricated adresses. The domain record indicates that the domain holder of record is located in another part of town with the same phone number. It may well be a legitimate business (how legitimate could they be?) that has gotten overly aggressive an getting an address near the center of the city. Maybe they were just following Google’s own ill considered advice and getting a mail location closer to the center of the city.

The problem however is made worse by the fact that Google has returned an Authoritative Onebox for the result, adding legitimacy to the suspect business and denying legitimate exposure to the other businesses providing the service. The problem here is certainly with Mapspam but perhaps even more so with Google’s confidence that they know so surely what the searchers intent is and return such an “indisputable” result.

Local Links of Interest

The No. 1 Thing I Learned at SMX West (about Local Search) Matt McGee, Small Business SEM

Brian Gill was talking about the Yahoo “Local Shortcut” — when they show three local business listings in the regular Yahoo SERPs. Here’s what he said:”Reviews and ratings have no impact on reaching those top three spots in the regular SERPs.

He said they do play a role in the Yahoo Local rankings, but not on the main Yahoo SERPs.

Blended Local Results with Unverified Listings Eric Lander’s Blog

Yellow Pages: The Way into Google Maps? Greg Sterling, Screenwerk

The coming Duopoly Greg Sterling, Screenwerk

Review Sites in the Restaurant World – Dallas vs. Buffalo

Last week I looked at which review sites were considered by Google in the ranking of the Top 10 Restaurants in Buffalo, NY. Here is a similar analysis of the review sites for Dallas compared to Buffalo:

Directory 2008 February Buffalo 2008 February Dallas
10best.com 1 2
AOL.Com 7
ChefMoz.org 8 2
Citysearch.com 70 80
DallasObserver.com 4
Dine.com 4 14
DiningGuide.com 9
Dinnerbroker.com 5
Dishola.com 1
Frommers.com 1 1
Gayot.com 4 7
Google 5 7
InsiderPages 20 2
Judysbook.com 41 3
Mytravelguide.com 1 2
RestaurantRow.com 2
SuperPages.com 1
TripAdvisor 31 19
Virturaltourist.com 4
Yahoo.com 20 11
Zagat 69

Several items of note:

• There were 7 additional review sites referenced in Dallas (those in bold)
• Judy’s Book which shut down last October (although the site is still live) seemed to have much more of a Buffalo presence
•Zagat has a very strong presence in Dallas but little in Buffalo, I wonder why?
•The Dallas Observer, an obviously local site, has a presence
•CitySearch is the obvious leader in both cities

How many Reviews does a Top 10 Restaurant need?

Buffalo, NY has a population of 276, 059. Dallas Texas has 1,232,940 folks and San Francisco has 744,041 people. Yet the number of reviews bears no correlation to their populations in the Google Local 10-Pack results:

Rank Buffalo Rest. Web Site Rev.Totals Buff. Dallas Rest. Web Site Review Totals Dallas S.F. Rest. Web Site Review Totals S.F.
1 Anchor Bar Y 60 Bob’s Steak & Chop House Y 49 Zuni Cafe Y 154
2 Chef’s Restaurant Y 27 Lola the Restaurant Y 18 First Crush Restaurant & Bar Y 145
3 Hutch’s Y 14 Stephan Pyles Y 40 House of Prime Rib Y 142
4 Pearl Street Grill & Brewery Y 13 Old Warsaw Restaurant Y 26 E & O Trading Co Y 28
5 La Nova Pizzeria: Buffalo Location Y 33 Abacus Restaurant Y 43 Restaurant Gary Danko Y 285
6 Duff’s N 35 Capital Grille Y 30 Slanted Door Y 233
7 Pano’s Restaurant Y 24 Campisi’s Restaurant Y 31 Farallon Y 123
8 Mother’s Restaurant N 23 Javier’s Catering Services Y 20 Michael Mina Restaurant Y 126
9 EB Green’s Steakhouse Y 10 Steel Restaurant & Lounge Y 23 Delfina Restaurant Y 138
10 Olivers restaurant Y 13 Nick & Sam’s Catering Division Y 25 Cheesecake Factory Y 84
    Total 252   Total 305   Total 1458

It makes sense that San Francisco has such a large number of reviews; the city has a technically savvy population, has a large amount of tourism and is the home of Yelp. But why would there be such a similar number of reviews in Buffalo, a declining NE city of a quarter million, and Dallas, a much larger and still growing area? Are Texans slower on the uptake?

Some items of note:

•The top review getters in Dallas or Buffalo are in the 50 range vs. SF’s 150

•Only 2 of these 30 restaurants do not yet have websites noted in Google Maps•In Dallas the #1 sites had 2x’s the number of review of the 10th ranked site

•The Anchor Bar has 4x’s the number of reviews of the 10th site.

•Note that while generally the more the reviews the higher the rank that is not always the case. E & O Trading Co in S.F. is a case in point as is Restaurant Gary Danko.

•Several listings appear to have obviously attempted to modify their business name to influence ranking ( La Nova Pizzeria: Buffalo Location, Restaurant Gary Danko).

Developing Knowledge about Local Search