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Caution: Google May Be Sending Your Customers Away

[1]You may want to go take a look at your Google Local Business Listing [2] 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:

[3]

[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 [4] and reminded everyone that Google has a history of inappropriately merging business listings [5], 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 [6] 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 [7] in the appropriate indexes, now’s an excellent time to find out.