Posted by , Senior Natural Search Specialist

Every company seems to be the same.  They’re all made up of a bunch of different departments and it seems like none of them ever talk to each other.  While this is slightly annoying if you work for the company, it can be really annoying when the result is giving people the wrong information for months at a time while they swear the problem has been fixed. 

If you’re seeing weird things in your business’s Google Places listing, you’re not alone.  While cruising around the Web, we did a search on Google for a business name and a location, as shown in the following screenshot:

The top result was the Google Place Page for the company, which included the company address and telephone number shown below:

Google Place  

This is the right company, but this isn’t the right phone number.  This can be very frustrating if you happen to own the business and the #1 result keeps showing your customers incorrect information.

Luckily, though, Google wants to provide the right information, so it provides a link that says “Is this accurate?”  Google Places allows business owners to claim the Google page that describes their business, and the “Is this accurate?” link allows business owners to fix situations like this.

When you click “Is this accurate?” you go to the Google Places page for the business.  On this page there’s a link that lets you edit the information.  Similar to Wikipedia’s “View History,” Google Places has a “Show all edits” link where you can see which parts of the page have been edited:

Show All Edits 
 As we can see when we click on “Show All Edits,” a new phone number has been submitted and approved by Google Moderator Mayurir.  The following screenshot was from June 3, 2011:

Edit History
Here, the change has been approved, but as we’ve seen in the search results, the Google Places number for the business is still showing the incorrect telephone number. 

It turns out the business has been trying to get Google to fix their listing for some time; scrolling to the bottom of the “Edit History” page we see the same correction has been submitted no less than 39 times:

Edit History  
It gets even more interesting, because if you do the same search from within Google Places instead of the Google Home Page, the listing has the correct telephone number.

One might ask “Well why doesn’t the business just claim their Google Places listing?  The phone number they provide as the business claimant would override the incorrect listing.”  This would work, but Google keeps calling the incorrect number in an attempt to verify the business owner.  Google also offers verification by mail; this takes two weeks but it appears to be the business’s only option at this point.

What Went Wrong?

After some digging, we found that the incorrect company telephone number was being promulgated on several different Web pages.  The number was associated with the location at some point in time via a database from a data compiler and/or a paid directory submission.

Google verifies location database information it licenses via “citation authority.”  Data compilers (like Infogroup, Acxiom and Localeze) receive location database submissions and sell them to licensees. These licensees, in turn, use the data to populate their own databases for whatever services they may offer.  Google relies on these databases if it is not provided a claimed location from an official source.   The more often Google finds the same core data for a particular location (name, address, phone number), the more strongly Google perceives that information as valid. 

The lesson here is to take a look around the Web and make sure the information there is accurate.  While Google Places is a powerful help for businesses, there can always be slip-ups.  The ultimate responsibility for managing your online information is on your shoulders; if your information is incorrect in Google Places, try to track down all the sources that are “re-broadcasting” the incorrect information, which include the data compiling companies mentioned above, as well as licensees of that location data. 

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