The Google Maps Terror Continues, Another Business Goes Down

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Local business listing theft

Your rivals might be up to no good at this moment. Don't let them get your customers.

The two facts are that the Google Places page for the restaurant stated 'closed at weekends' and the premises suffered a 75% reduction in weekend traffic. Proving that the first caused the second is not as easy as you might think....The restaurant also had bad reviews on Yelp! There could well have been increased competition, rising rents might have reduced profitability. The Serbian Crown was known for its exotic meats, such as Lion, and over 40 years attitudes towards the idea of dining off the king of the jungle may have changed.

While the relationship between the decline of the Serbian Crown and it's inaccurate listing is hard to prove, the existence of malicious editing of Google listings is undeniable. There are just far too many examples for them all to be mistakes and some instances at least have been traced back by webmasters to rival business. Some cases are blatant; in 2010 the listing of Barbara Oliver & Co Jewellery was 'community edited' to show the business as permanently closed and flooded with unfavorable reviews at the same time. Barbara Oliver had an advantage that Mr Bertanga lacked, she'd already retained a web consultant who spotted the problem and repaired the listing promptly. Other instances of changed phone numbers or mass site hacking and redirecting abound.

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Some experts have gone as far as setting up fake Google listings to demonstrate the loopholes within the system, maybe the most notable being Bryan Seely's fake FBI and Secret Service listings, he even managed to intercept their phone calls. Sometimes it's hard to know if one should laugh or cry. The situation is ongoing and far from clear cut, openness and crowd contribution is the heart of the internet, this is where its power, strength and splendidness lie. It's also where the weakness and vulnerability to exploitation lies. The extent to which Google is responsible for what's posted by users is an ongoing conundrum. In the USA at the moment federal law CDA 230 gives internet services broad immunity from claims stemming from user-contributed content. Recent developments such as 'the right to be forgotten' show that the courts in both Europe and the States holds Google accountable to some extent. The limits and boundaries around the degree of accountability are likely to shift over time and why wouldn't they? Everything else in the internet shifts at high speed, there are no precedents to this brave new world.

In the meantime, any small business owner is potentially at risk of defamation, unfair reviews, manipulation and down-right lies. This is the 'negative' reason for monitoring the internet and your own reputation and representation on it, something that Local Fame will gladly do for you if you don't have the time or the skills. Our packages also include Online Marketing for Restaurants. The positive reason for establishing a strong internet presence is that it can do so much for you. So, we urge caution, but not fear. Like any tool, the World Wide Web can work for you or against you. It's simply a question of the degree of skill with which you wield the tool.

One Response

  1. Pat Marcello says:

    Google shouldn’t allow “community editing” of Google for Business listings. Assuming that Mr. Bertagna added the appropriate hours for his restaurant that were changed by someone else, Google should be held accountable.

    Business is business and the Internet “community” is the Internet “community.” Social sharing is great, but a bad review is a bad review. The onus is on the business owner to insure his customers are happy, and reviews have become really important, so they should be concentrating on customer service harder than ever before. Still, bad reviews will happen, and they could come from SEOs, trying to boot a listing from top spots in search. Shame on those people! This is the kind of stuff that makes we SEOs look bad.

    Still, allowing changes to business results should never be possible, ever. But then, Google is also the search engine which claims there’s little “negative SEO” going on. Uh-huh.

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