Google Places offers people the chance to merge duplicate business listings in an effort for business owners to concentrate on just one business listing and let them comply with Google rules of having only one listing per business location. Google also uses data from other parties to make sure that duplicate listings are identified and merged it into one.
But this can be a problem for some businesses. For example, a competitor hijacks your Google Maps listing by merging it with an account that they control, changes your contact information like your phone number, and adds their own business name to the listing. You can remedy this by manually changing your contact details and everything that has been changed by the competitor. But just when it is changed back (which could take some time), your competitor hijacks your listing again.
For most, however, it is a matter of inconvenience and lost business rather than unfair competitive practices. Some merged business listings show the right name and address for a particular business but it shows the competitor’s website URL and phone number. This leads people to visit the competitor’s website or call the competitor’s office thinking it is yours.
What you could do?
Google offers several actions so that your business listing is not merged with another business. Google explains that they merge business listings together because they get data from various sources including third-party information. They try to merge similar businesses into one so that their listings are not cluttered and to lessen the chances of a duplicate listing.
Google writes that to make sure your business is not confused with another listing and subsequently merged, you should:
1. Use your real business name while keeping your business title accurate and short. This is actually one way for you to comply with the quality guidelines set by Google Places. This also lessens the likelihood of your business title overlapping with another listing. For example, avoid using Las Vegas Accident Attorney because sooner or later some other business is bound to target this same keyword and overlap with you. Your business name is one of the biggest factors that could contribute to your business getting merged again or not.
2. Use unique phone numbers if you have a lot of locations. If you have a lot of physical locations, avoid using a corporate line. Instead, use a local office telephone number. For example, if you run a restaurant that has another location just down the street, use different telephone numbers for each. This would give you unique information to help Google see that these are actually different business listings even if they are close together.
3. Make sure that your location marker is correct and accurate.
But for most, this may not be enough. Here are some additional Internet marketing tips and things you could do to solve a merged listing problem.
Report the problem. Always report a merged listing problem by using the Report a Problem link. If this link is not seen on your listing or nothing happens after a few days, then it’s time to bring it to the attention of a Google staffer who could help you by going through the fix a problem troubleshooter.
Try to fix the problem. Google Places offers you a lot of different ways to fix a problem with your listing, such as the Places Dashboard, MapMaker, Report a Problem, and Problem Troubleshooters. Do not be tempted to do them all. Instead go to the Fix a Problem troubleshooters from Google’s help page at http://support.google.com/places/?hl=en. Then choose the “My listing has incorrect information” link and work from there. Expect a response from Google within 10 days.
Wait. Most people do not understand that changes take time to be reflected on Google Places. This is because Google rolls out the changes in batches, so it is normal to see changes reflected from four to six weeks. In the meantime, do not change anything on your listing anymore.
Check out the data sources Google is using. You might also want to investigate what other third-party information is being used by Google to get data about business listings. You might want to make sure that these sites have your information correctly. (Editor’s note: For that, we recommend using KnowEm, a service for securing all your social media sites.) Use only your real business name, phone number, address and other profile details that you could change. This will help Google know that your business listing is something separate from other business listings.
About the author: A Merged listing in Google Places is just one of many things a business owner has to worry about when it comes to Small Business Internet Marketing. SEO Inc., a locally owned Search Engine Optimization company, has learned how to deal with this issue as well as help businesses both small and large succeed in the Local Search arena.