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Google Places Spurious Listing Removal

As part of larger SEO engagements, we manage the Google Places listings for some of our clients who have many locations. For these, we help our clients flesh out their listings with keyphrases relevant to folks searching for their services. We ensure that the listings are as complete as possible and we help maintain the data by updating the listings when locations open, close, or change their address.

Well, the tricky part of this engagement is the information in spurious listings. For the data we upload, Google Places offers a nice interface through which we manage adding locations, removing locations, and updates in bulk. It is the listings we don’t upload that sometimes cause us and our clients consternation. Google Places receives data from more than just our uploads. It soaks in data from across the Internet, and unfortunately, sometimes it pulls in old or outdated information.

Recently, we were asked to help because the phone number formerly associated with our client’s closed location had been reassigned to a family. Google Places showed a listing for the now-closed location in the search results, including the phone number, disappointing all concerned as the potential customers didn’t get service and the family was getting interrupted. In the past, we’ve found removing these listings frustrating, because to edit the listing, we would have to claim the listing, which initiates a postcard or phone call process to the address/phone to verify ownership of it. Which is odd in the situation that the listing should not be there at all. Because the business is no longer there, there are no employees to receive the postcard or answer the phone.

In the past, we’ve tried to work with businesses wrongly connected to our client because of a similar name or the like to have inaccurate links removed (for instance when their address was associated with our client’s URL). Inexplicably, we’ve found that some folks find it too time-consuming or confusing to cooperate with us to correct the listing.

This time, a little light went on in our heads. We realized that no one wanted the inaccurate listing removed more than the family. So, we gave them a call and explained that with their permission and participation, we could claim and remove the listing showing their personal phone number as a business number on Google.

Step 1. Claim the Listing

We claimed the listing on Google Places by hitting the “business owner?” link at the top of the Places page. We then requested to suspend the listing. To protect the family’s privacy, we’re not showing that listing in these screenshots. Instead, we’re showing the name and address of a great neighborhood ice cream shop in Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw Dairy.

Google Places page screenshot

Google Places page – we clicked the “Business Owner?” link at the upper right.

Step 2. Ask to Suspend the Listing

We clicked to suspend the listing.

Suspend the Listing

Step 3. Verify the Listing

Validate the Listing

This was the part that felt kind of “cloak and dagger.” We called the family and let them know we were here to help them. We needed their cooperation. We shared that a computer from Google would call them once we pushed the “Finish” button and let them know a PIN number. They agreed to write the PIN down for us. We called back, got the PIN, entered the PIN into the form, and the listing went away within the next hour.

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2 Responses to "Google Places Spurious Listing Removal"

  • Catherine Votaw
    January 3, 2011 - 12:01 pm Reply

    Great article. Do you happen to know how to fix it when Google Places rejects your listing when you claim it. We have been trying to claim our location for months and it keeps getting rejected and then we start all over again. It would be helpful if we could determine why, but the lack of support from Google Places makes it impossible.


    • Dunrie Greiling
      Dunrie Greiling
      April 29, 2011 - 4:59 pm Reply

      Hi Catherine,

      Hmmmm. We haven’t encountered this. How annoying!

      A few things that come to mind: Google Places seems to cross-check information it gets from owners with information it finds elsewhere on the web. So, consider corroborating your location information elsewhere. This can be done through maintaining your own listings on directory sites (such as Yelp http://www.yelp.com/) or through a service such as Localeze (http://localeze.com) and/or Universal Business Listings (https://www.ubl.org).

      Additionally, some addresses are not understood by Google Places. Is it possible there’s something weird with your address that makes it “not compute”?

      Hope this is helpful.

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