Post-edit: Google has contacted me to explain that this problem is NOT related to the new Service Areas feature that’s being tested. Please scroll down for a full explanation.
If you’re a small business owner or a marketer with small business clients using Google Maps’ Local Business Center, a warning: Do not use the new tools for service- and home-based businesses yet. These are, in Google’s words, still “in testing” and may cause problems with your local business listing. (Again, this is wrong and an explanation is below.)
They did to mine. Read on for pictures and a description of what happened.
Shortly after I published this post today about the new LBC options, I tested them out by modifying my wife‘s business listing. She’s a real estate agent who works in a wider region than just the city indicated in her business listing.
Within an hour, while checking to see if her listing was showing up for any new queries, I noticed that it had been merged with business info from another real estate agent’s listing:
She’s always been in the top spot for “richland wa real estate agent,” but that’s not her web site and phone number. It should be www.carimcgee.com and (509) 430-5342. Her name now links to someone else’s web site. Ugh.
Worse, the data had also spread into Google Maps (as you’d expect).
That’s the wrong phone number. And, it’s even worse on her place page, where the other agent’s name, phone numbers, and email address show up — along with some data and a photo from his listing.
This is a complete cluster-you-know-what.
Less than an hour ago, I changed the listing back to its original form — I undid the new option and re-checked “No, all customers come to the business location.” And now it’s a waiting game to see how soon — if at all — Google fixes this problem.
The moral? Much like new products from Apple, where you never, ever buy the first version, I’ve learned to never, ever use a Google product while it’s still in testing. Don’t you make the same mistake I did today.
One: 18 minutes after publishing this post, and about an hour after changing her business listing back to normal, the listing has started to correct itself. (Or Google is fixing it manually?) See below — the URL is correct, but the phone number is still wrong.
Two: Having seen this post, Google has looked into what went wrong here and sent me a statement saying it’s not related to the service areas tool:
After some investigation, we’ve found that it’s not related to the service areas feature we released today.
As you know, Google Maps creates listings by using algorithms to merge data from many sources. And we’re aware that this merging can be over-aggressive at times. It looks like that’s the entire cause of the problem here.
In this case, there’s data in Local Business Center about two different real estate agents (one of them your wife) who share an address and have very similar business names. That data has been merged in our index for some time. Today, both of the Local Business Center users updated their data, and that caused some of the displayed information to change.
We’re working hard to solve the problems of merged listings, in this case and in general.
So to sum up, we have a situation where two real estate agents in the same office both updated their LBC listings on the same day, and that caused Google’s algorithm to cluster some of their data into one listing. Yikes.