Caution: Google May Be Sending Your Customers Away

Caution: Google May Be Sending Your Customers Away

You may want to go take a look at your Google Local Business Listing to verify it still exists and is sending people to the right Web site. It seems that due to what Google is calling an “algorithm change” many Google business listings are being merged with other companies located in the same building or with competitors who work nearby. Broken down, that means customers looking for you may actually be sent to the Web site of your competitor instead. Its great fun and just the latest in Google Map hiccups.

If you’re not familiar with the Google Business Center, it’s a service that allows companies to go in and create full business profiles in Google. Business owners can claim their listings and include information, like their Web site URL, hours, locations served, description of the business, products, etc. This information is then displayed in local searches, often as part of the “Google 10-pack”, when a searcher performs a search for a business similar to yours located in your area.

For example, the query may look like this:

[It’s worth noting that if you don’t fill in the information yourself, Google will attempt to pull it from 3rd parties and the data may not be accurate. It’s always recommended that you list your business in both Google and Yahoo.]

These local business listings have the power to drive a considerable amount of targeted traffic to your small business site, so the idea that Google may be merging your listing with another business (especially a competitor’s) and then drive your visitors away is definitely something to be concerned about.

But this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Mike Blumenthal was among the first to cover the latest Google Maps snafu and reminded everyone that Google has a history of inappropriately merging business listings, usually when two businesses are located in the same building or share a phone line. Not exactly uncommon for small businesses renting space in an office building. But now the problem seems to affect businesses that simply work in close proximity, which means its getting worse, not better.

Google representatives have been fielding questions and comments via a Google Groups thread and while they seem to be aware of the problem, it doesn’t look like they have an immediate fix in the works. It is recommended, however, that you check your listing and if there does seem to be a problem, let Google know. Perhaps if enough small business owners speak out, Google will be pressured into moving a bit more quickly.

Even though we’re seeing some buggy effects in Google Maps, it’s still very important that small business owners take the time to list their sites in all the appropriate local directories, including Google, Yahoo, BOTW Local, and the third-party data providers. With more than 40 percent of searches being deemed local in nature, the search engines are paying considerably more attention to local indicators and are serving local results for more and more queries. If you’re not sure how to list your local Web site in the appropriate indexes, now’s an excellent time to find out.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

21 Reactions
  1. Yikes, thank you for letting us know about this. I’m going to let others know about this little mishap after I double check my own listings.

  2. Travis Campbell

    Excellent post Lisa, thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention!

  3. Hi Lisa,

    Honestly, I am not really aware about this. Poor Me. 🙁

    Anyway, thanks a lot for informing us with this problem. It is very important for entrepreneurs to know about this esp. that it involves the major SE where most of our customers came from.


  4. Hi Lisa,
    Wow. Great update. I’m a huge Google fan and use a bunch of their tools/apps. This “small” blunder/snafu seems like one even a behemoth would want to fix and make right. There are an awful lot of small businesses and Adwords customers that might get more than a tad upset.

    Trust in a brand is such an important, and fragile, thing.

  5. Geez, this sounds like more than just a little hiccup. I hope they get their act together and get this corrected soon. Thank you for pointing this out.

  6. Martin Lindeskog


    Thanks for your investigation! Do you think that Google is starting to lack focus on its core business?

    I wonder how relevant this service is for international users. I haven’t looked at the business listing. Here in Sweden you have strong players that have experience from the old format with white & yellow pages and then turned this information online and developed the service with new additional features.

  7. Wow, I wasn’t aware of this and it seems to be a real problem, as one would imagine. How unfortunate. There are a few folks I know that would be interested in hearing about this. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  8. So what you essentially do here (please don’t take this as bashing, I think you make a great and valid point!) is outlining a great and actually working plan on how to hijack your competitor’s listings.

    Good thing is that the more business owners will get more conscious about their internet presence. Bad thing is that bad guys are way ahead in the game.

  9. Thanks Lisa. I’ve found it a bit of a challenge verifying the google local business listing – via phone anyway. I’ve set it up on both my cell phone and my home phone but couldn’t get it to work. I’ve had to chose the postcard mailing. Could be because I’m in Canada (which means the mail is even slower). I hope it makes a difference once I have the local listings set up.

  10. Wow Lisa, this is really important because we use Google all the time and we don’t want to lose customers.

  11. WOW…thanks for the post. As crucial as web searches are, this could be very damaging to some businesses. I am definitely heading over to confirm our profile. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Craig - Internet marketing

    Ouch, that’s a scary thought! I’m probably in the danger zone since I share a location.

    Thanks for the tip off.

  13. I did research and did not find anything wrong Google local business listing.


  14. Email Marketing Tips

    Thanks Lisa for letting us know about this. Another thing we have to deal with in the digital age. It’s important as online marketers to check our searches for our businesses & verify search accuracy. It’s necessary to address “funnel leaks” where ever they may exist.