At this point, we all know the importance of claiming your business listing on Google Places and making sure your listing is updated and the information is consistent with other local listings. This can help improve your visibility in local search, drive traffic to your website, and give you control of your business information, hours, photos, and videos…until now.
Google announced that based on information from users or other sources on the web your “organic listing will automatically be updated and the business owner will be sent an email notification about the change”. Google has always given users the option to provide feedback about business information, but owner information outranked that feedback. But now if a user provides information about your business, or Google detects new information from another web source, your listing will be automatically updated. However, Google will send an email to the owner of the listing about the change. This will give you the opportunity to log in to your Google Places account and make updates. If you are running AdWords with location extensions or AdWords Express, your ads will not be affected by any of these automatic updates, although other aspects of your listing may be affected.
According to Google, this new feature is to ensure listings are as accurate as possible because they feel for some business owners, “to update their Google Places account may not always be top of mind”. But, this is a surprising and somewhat problematic update. Many business owners would rather update their own information instead of putting that task in the hands of others, or at the very least be alerted of the change before it happens rather than after. Also, this could be potentially devastating to business owners to have their listing changed erroneously or maliciously. This article from the New York Times tells a cautionary tale of competitors’ labeling businesses as “reported closed”.
Because these automatic updates expose businesses to possible abuse, owners must now be more diligent about monitoring their Places listings. As a business owner, the best things to do are to make sure your email address in your Google Places account is up-to-date, and to stay on top of emails from Google and to watch your listing closely.