If you were ever of the opinion that Google was a kind-hearted “we care about your businesses” organization, get that foolishness out of your mind now. They don’t care about you… they really only care about what consumers want and about making money. One of the ways they do that is through establishing social trust, reliance and getting "real-world input".
It’s the “real-world input” that I want to focus on today. You see, Google is an information glutton. They figure, the more info they have, the better decisions they can make. While that makes logical sense, they don’t seem particularly good at distinguishing good info from bad info. If a competitor was so inclined, they could feed bad info to Google, and Google would eat it up like everything else they take in. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t seem to either A) care, or B) be well equipped to vet whether the info they’re being feed is genuine.
Now, there are two ways specifically where Google can let people (like your competitors) potentially poison your Google My Business (GMB) listing by feeding Google with bad information. This first is by Google allowing general users to passively give direct feedback about the business via search. The other is by Google actively soliciting information about a business
I decided to pick on one of my favorite local businesses to describe to you just how easy it is for someone to suggest that some of the info on this listing is wrong. Now, once a user taps “suggest an edit”, you see that Google allows the user to suggest that your name, address, phone number, website, hours or main category is incorrect. But, it doesn’t just stop there. They also give the user the option to say your location is closed, a duplicate, or never existed altogether. Way to be super-helpful, Google!
I’m not trying to be Chicken Little
here, saying that "the sky is falling". After all, these are “suggestions”. But, we do see Google try to apply the suggestions every now and again and we have to be vigilant to catch them when Google passes them through and we’re forced to reactively correct them. A recent example can be found below. Evidently, someone suggested that this business is closed every day of the week
and Google wasn’t smart enough to figure out that it wasn’t
Having incorrect information (like your competition’s phone number) on your GMB listing can have a devastating effect on your business. That’s why it’s so important to own your own listing and to either manage it directly yourself or have someone (like us, for instance) keep a watchful eye on it for you. All that being said, if you do move or some aspect of your business changes, please let us know. We’d rather hear that you’ve moved from you rather than hearing it via a suggestion in Google.
This is the part that gets really unsettling. Google solicits users to contribute information about a business that they realize they’re presently at or have been to recently (based on big brother having access to your GPS location). If you’re so inclined to take advantage of this opportunity, Google enrolls you into the ‘Local Guide’ program. Local Guides are bombarded with notifications to give input on wherever they are. I’ve included just some of the ones that I received in a few weeks’ time span below. Local Guide suggestions are also more trusted than the general user feedback, some observations suggest. People can even add photos of your business and 10-second video clips. (There’s no way that could ever backfire on you, right?)
I even get notifications to give feedback on our HVAC and Plumbing business since we share the same business address because Google sees that I’m sitting in there. Fun Fact – it has even told me before how many feet I am from the (center of the) building. (Yeah… that’s not unsettling for anyone.)
In the interest of full disclosure—Yes, I have been to Dairy Queen.
What does this mean to you?
You have a vested interest in making sure that you’ve got a pulse on what people are telling Google about you (false or otherwise). Google is doing everything they can to remove all the friction away from getting info about the real world. They’re doing all this without any real consideration of “who” the information is this from under the premise that “more is far better”. Google lacks any decent means of vetting the legitimacy of the info provided to them.
Some food for thought – In case you think Google’s “got it together” and your Google My Business listing is safe, think again. Over the last two months, we’ve seen Google’s own Google My Business dashboard corrupt different aspects of more than 40 business listings and the pace hasn’t slowed up! Because of the widespread impact of this, we developed a tool that alerts us daily whenever a change has been made to a GMB listing we are charged with managing.
At the end of the day, you need to either watch it yourself or have someone in your corner keeping an eye on this kind of stuff for you. Although you could do it yourself, realistically, you have a business to run and probably don’t have the time or the inclination to do so. However, if you are one of our Business Class or First Class customers, this is already something we do for you—so you don’t need to worry about it! If you don’t already have this SEO monitoring service with us, give us a call at (888) 966-4785.