On October 13th, Google posted information on an update regarding how local business information is gathered and posted on the property. In a move that Google says will “streamline the way updates are made to potentially incorrect or outdates business listings”, the search giant is now going to be actively updating local business information as it is found across various sources, even if a verified account exists for a particular business containing different information.
Google local business listing database has always been comprised of information that originated with a variety of sources, including company websites, online business directories (such as internet yellow pages), social media properties, blog posts mentioning business information, or users who actively provide business information input to Google.
However, in the recent past, if a business owner claimed and verified a business listing via a Google Places for Business account, the verified information would be considered the most relevant, and in theory, within the Google database, would supersede any contradictory information found elsewhere online. Within the new process, verified business information will still be key, however, if more recent information is found elsewhere, Google may publish the updated data, even for verified accounts. The account owner, in such an instance, will be sent an alert saying that their information has been updated, and they will then have the ability to log into their account and modify the updated info if incorrect.
This process change was designed by Google to keep local business listings as up to date as possible, understanding that business owners often lack the resources or time to continually update their business information in their Places accounts. The engine sees this as a proactive way of keeping fresh data in the results. However, this can pose a challenge to businesses, as the changes are made and THEN account alerts are sent. With the amount of information being posted online on a daily basis, much of which is user generated content, there is a high potential for errors. For example, if a user posts a comment within social media about their experience with a business, and inadvertently reverses the numbers in a phone number included in the post, this information is subject to indexing and publication within Goolge’s local business information listings. Additionally, little information is currently available on how quickly information can be corrected within the search results if a listing is to be modified. Anything more lengthy than an instant correction is bound to be met with business owner frustration.
So what should business owners be doing to navigate this change and mitigate any risks of incorrect business information being published in Google’s search results? Below are a few tips that should help to ensure that this streamlined process change doesn’t disrupt your business info accuracy on Google.
- If you haven’t done so already, claim your business listing via a Google Places for Business account. This will enable you to edit or update the current information that exists, and to be eligible to receive alerts regarding any changes that Google makes to it.
- If you already have an account, make sure the account information is correct, particularly the email address to which alerts are sent. (Make sure it’s an account that you access regularly so as to receive timely alerts of any changes that are made.)
- Proactively respond to any alerts you receive as to changes made to your local business listing information. The sooner you respond, the sooner your information will be updated in the search results.
- Devise a strategy for maintaining or updating your business listing information across other (non-Google) sources. There are a variety of ways to feed your local business information to business directories or other search engines online. Remember that even though Google hold a strong market share in local search, what’s found in these other sources can impact what Google will update in their database, so work to ensure the information you supply about your business is accurate and up-to-date.
- Encourage users to post business reviews on your Google Places page, and keep your content fresh (change special offers, update pictures and videos, update business hours, etc.) Active updates can help to ensure your business information is seen as recent vs. other information that may be found online.
Further information on this update is available here: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2011/10/faster-updates-to-local-business.html