If you have a Google My Business account, the greatest force working against you may be Google itself. Here’s what you need to watch out for.
Google Makes Updates Without Your Knowledge
Many local business owners and advertising providers alike have noticed that, every so often, little details on their Google listings are suddenly changed without their consent. For users who have been affected, it’s incredibly frustrating. You spent a lot of time and energy setting up your listing and making sure all the information was filled out accurately, but now it looks like someone else updated your account with a totally different street address or phone number. As it turns out, that “someone else” was probably Google. Around 10 years ago, your local competitors were your biggest threat online. It didn’t require much technical savvy to sabotage each other’s listings. They could go into Google, claim your listing as their own, and alter all of the information in it without much difficulty. As Google’s interface and security features became more sophisticated, the frequency of these sabotage incidents dropped significantly. Now, however, Google is the one you have to watch out for. While Google’s intentions aren’t bad, the outcome is the same: your listings are being altered without your consent. Why is this happening? Ironically, as Google pushes for accuracy above all else, it’s chasing its own tail. It automatically scans the web for citations of your company—i.e. mentions of your company name, address, phone number, or URL—to make sure everything matches. If there’s a citation out there that doesn’t match what’s on your listing, Google might decide to update your listing for you so it does match. Unfortunately, this conflicting information is usually from an outdated listing on an old directory site, so the update is incorrect. Google might also update your listing in response to a user who reported that the information in your listing was incorrect. Little does Google know, its effort to maintain accuracy on all of its listings often backfires.
Google Un-Verifies Listings at Will
While the automatic updating is certainly frustrating, it’s nothing compared to Google’s automatic un-verifying of your listing. It may do this for multiple reasons, but it most often happens when Google deems an account “inactive.” In the Google and Your Business Help Forum, Google’s Jade Wang explains:
In some cases, we may contact Google My Business users via email to confirm that they are still actively managing a business page. If a user is unresponsive to our attempts to contact him or her and has not logged into Google My Business for a significant length of time, then we may unverify pages in the account. We’re doing this in order to continue to provide users with the best experience when they’re looking for local businesses like yours.
Matt McGee of Search Engine Land confirms that this “significant length of time” of inactivity is at least six months. Although Wang claims that Google will notify a business owner before un-verifying, this doesn’t always happen, as we’ve seen firsthand with many of our own clients. While inactivity is the most prominent reason for Google to un-verify a listing, other reasons include multiple listings and multiple advertisers. Sometimes, if a business has a listing for each of its multiple locations, Google sees the various addresses and phone numbers as “conflicting” with one another and randomly chooses one listing to un-verify. Other times, Google will un-verify a business’s listing if it is being accessed and updated by more than one advertiser. That’s because it thinks something fishy is going on if account managers are logging in from disparate locations. (This is just one of the many reasons we advise against working with more than one advertiser at a time.)
Constant Vigilance Is Crucial
To avoid trouble, Jade Wang advises, “It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the inbox associated with your Google My Business (Locations) account. It’s also a good idea to regularly log into Google My Business (Locations) to confirm that your business information is current and accurate.” We’ve always said that business owners have to be more proactive about their advertising, and this is just another reason why. You must track your listing(s) frequently to make sure it’s always accurate and in good standing. However, we also understand that most business owners don’t have the resources to constantly track their listings. Frankly, after you been out on the job all day, it’s hard to find the time or energy to scan your Google My Business account for any red flags—and that’s if you can even remember to do it at all.
MapTrax™ to the Rescue
Thankfully, there are services out there like MapTrax that will do all the tracking for you. MapTrax monitors your listing daily and automatically alerts you of any changes to your company’s address, phone number, or URL, and if the listing has been suspended or un-verified. This way, you can immediately address any problems that may arise. For only a few dollars per month, MapTrax provides insurance and peace of mind without requiring you to lift a finger. Our system does all the work for you! It will protect you from spammers and other wild cards, as well as Google itself, that could do harm to your company’s listing. If you sign up in July, you can get MapTrax for just $5/mo. That’s 50% off! It’s very reasonably priced insurance that will save you time, money, and future business.