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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Maps: Citation Conflation or Where have my Citations Gone?

Mathew Hunt of Small Business Online Coach, recently pointed out what appears to be a new bug in Google’s clustering algo that causes one business’s citations to show up on another business’s Places Page.

It appears that Google Maps, when scraping multiple citations for different businesses that appear on a single unstructured web page, not only conflates the citations for that specific page but brings along other citations not from that page, from one business to another. In my case a number of citations from one of my clients transferred to another client. They are not in the same industry, nor the same part of the country. The only thing they had in common was that both have citations on my client list.

Here is an example of the problem where a number of citations from The Option House Restaurant in Bradford PA appeared on the Sports Reaction Center Physical Therapy (Bellevue WA) Places Page. From the Sports Reaction Center Places Page:

The problem showed up only after I added the Sports Reaction Center to a list of clients that I maintain. That list, which has often shown as citations for individual clients on their Places Page, is not highly structured and initially the two listings where adjacent to each other. Historically citations from the list passed to local clients with no problems. Here is a screenshot from the Google cached page scraped on Feb 4th that seems to have precipitated the problem:

I have changed the page by adding separators and moving the two listings apart to see if clusters will return to a normal state. It appears, given that the problem is being reported in the forums, that it is a bug caused by the mechanism that assigns citations to each business’s cluster. In my case, and I am sure in others, it is not a competitor’s skullduggery. It seems likely to occur to businesses in the same local market that are listed adjacent to each other on a web page that Google does not parse correctly and will, like listing mergings, cause hard feelings amongst close competitors.

Hopefully it is one that Google will address quickly as it will play havoc with the quality of the Places Pages and potentially with ranking.