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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Maps: Manic Merging of Business Listings due to Algo Change

Google Maps Merges Business RecordsAt the beginning of last week, I started to notice posts in the Google Help forum and I received emails from a number of correspondents that their records had merged with nearby competitors. At first blush they appeared to have all of the symptoms of hijacked records however after lengthy, ongoing communication with Google it appears that these merged records are being conflated by Google.

Despite having the Local business Center to provide authoritative information to a business listing, Google for a number of reasons and in a number of situations has always merged some business records inappropriately. The merged records will take on parts of one record and parts of the other in a somewhat willy nilly fashion, the url of one business and the telephone number of the other for example.

Typically these are two businesses at the same address or sharing a phone line. Sometimes the data mixup is from an upstream provider and Google will take the upstream provider’s information as more accurate or important than that in the Local Business Center. In the past Google has advised to slightly modify the two addresses so that Google could do better at distinguishing the merged records. In the case of the bad data coming from upstream data providers, it was necessary to track down the bad data and have it changed or face remergers on a regular basis.

Google Guide Joel described the issue before the recent rollout and snafu: “This is how our system works by design. Businesses that are the same address / location are merged. In general, it’s the right thing to do. However, we’ll take your concern as feedback. We want to improve these systems and are actively looking at doing this in the right way. In the meantime, there’s no way to force an immediate fix to the issue.”

For some, Google Maps has become the ultimate Kafka like nightmare of late, as Google is now merging records between nearby competitors just because they are in close proximity to each other. Apparently the merging algorithm has changed and Google is now merging records that have nothing in common other than being in the same map sector and a similar business profile.

One of the owners of a recently merged records was from a Doctor’s office and noted the following: “Google merged the records for Dr John G Moe and Dr Kenneth Landis and this almost led to a tragic patient outcome this weekend. An emergency room doctor from Kansas tried to contact Dr. Moe to see if a certain drug could be given to our patient. Since the patient was unable to give the ER our phone number, the googled Dr John G Moe. Since Google linked our record, the saw the phone number for Dr Landis and left a message on his answering machine and since he wasn’t on call that weekend, we didn’t learn of the problem until much later”.

Here are some graphic examples of this behavior:

Correct Location Information Site 1 Correct Location Information Site 2
The Inn on Lake Superior  

350 Canal Park Drive

Duluth, MN 55802

(218) 726-1111

(888) 668-4352 

(218) 727-3976 – Fax

South Pier Inn-On the Canal  

701 S Lake Ave

Duluth, MN 55802

(218) 786-9007

Google results after suffering a merger:


Another example:

Correct Location Information Site 1 Correct Location Information Site 2
Holiday Inn Express   

909 N Spence Ave

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Hampton Inn   

905 N. Spence Avenue, 

Goldsboro, North Carolina  27534 

Google results after suffering a merger:


As of late Tuesday afternoon, Google started addressing the issue publicly in the forums as Google Employee Nina noted: “The fix needs to be automatic – not manual. These things usually take several weeks to test and bring live. We know it’s causing user pain and I know they are working really hard on it right now as we speak.”

My interpretation: It appears that this new, more malicious merging problem has yet to be fully assessed or defined and that repair could be a lengthy process.