These days, the saying goes, if you’re not online, you don’t exist. A business, no matter how big or small, needs to be on social media, Foursquare and local search engine results. And while all of the above is entirely true, it’s equally true that the process is strenuous, not just in terms of set-up, but mostly of maintenance. Add to this some of the usual errors that may occur, such as your business being listed the wrong way by Google – with the wrong location, phone number, email, or working hours. This can either make or break a business nowadays, so this is why it’s important to understand how Google goes about the process of creating business listings.
- Multiple sources
Not many business owners know this, but Google actually pools its information from several sources, which it combines to create a single business listing. The sources are difficult to control by the business owner, though they all ultimately use information directly from them. Google’s sources are:
– Business data aggregators: Google purchases information on businesses from three companies that provide such services in the United States. The information gets to the aggregators from the business owners, then Google buys it, and introduces it into one cluster on one of its massive servers. Naturally, if your business is listed in all three directories, Google is going to aggregate the data from all three.
– The web: this is a somewhat circular part of the process. Google will receive information from the data aggregators, but so will numerous other sites on the Internet, such as Yelp, or the Yellow Pages. Google then crawls all these sites, pulls the data once more, and stores it on its servers.
– The government: registered businesses in the United States have their data stored with county or regional authorities. Google crawlers also index that information, from any government resources that are present online.
– Google Street View: that’s right. Google actually pulls information about businesses, from directions, to actual location, to commercial signage, from the images they collect via Street View. As such if you’re running say, a small, as of yet unknown restaurant in a remote location, Google will likely check to see for itself where you are.
The complicated part comes in around here. If any of the above sources provides inaccurate information, it, too, is going to get indexed along with the rest of it. This is usually the cause behind wrong business listings, even though Google is working on improving such inaccuracies. They have set up a final step in the process, in which human reviewers will actually scour business listings and sometimes even make phone calls to verify them. If your business receives such a call and you are in a situation of misrepresentation, make sure to take the call seriously and provide the right information.
Adding on to the whole process is what happens after the information goes public. Google has a tool named the Map Maker, in which anyone with a Google account can review and amend information. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this information cannot be changed from Google places or Google+; in most cases of mistaken information, a business owner will actually have to verify all of the sources above, in order to correct an error. Strenuous as that may seem, it’s actually an important aspect of online presence, since the days of printed business directories are long gone. To boot, the above info only holds true for the United States. International business owners need to figure out whom Google is pooling information from and ensure that they have all their data right.