Google Places Optimization Tip: Is Your Business Closed?

Jason Rule, who owns and operates Coffee Rules Lounge, a coffee shop in Hays, Kansas, was surprised when he learned about the news that his business was listed for a few days as “permanently closed” on Google Maps. This happened in the middle of August.

In reality, the business is still very much alive and operating in the area. Unfortunately, within that period, those searching for products which they offer, a latte for instance, would have thought that the shop was no more. Since they are not far from Interstate 70, Mr. Rule was sure that many people running up and down had skipped their place.

Google Places OptimizationThis is also true for other healthy businesses running across the country, which in recent months have expired for hours and at other instances, for weeks within Google Places. They were marked either as “reportedly closed” and when a certain number of users clicked on it, will eventually be marked “permanently closed”. This happens primarily because of how surprisingly easy it is to report a business as “closed” in Google Places, the search giant’s concept of the local Yellow Pages.

The typical listing on Google Places includes the address of a business, a description supplied by the owner and links to reviews, photos and Google Maps. There’s also a section that says “Report a problem” wherein one of the problems to report is “this place is permanently closed”. The business will be labeled “reportedly closed” after it is clicked on for a certain number of instances which will eventually be “permanently closed” after Google’s review. Google remains silent about the review methods they use.

Bing Local, Google Places’ rival, also allows users to report the same problem. But since both are still in no fair share of the search giant’s traffic, they are still a place away from the problems encountered by a growing number of businesses.

At present, Google Places has millions of listings and the site was designed to be interactive.  Thus, when owners close without updating their profile, the customers are permitted to keep the information current. However, with this open-source system, there’s a big possibility for abuse. According to search engine consultants, “closing” a business in the online marketplace is becoming a common technique of wayward competitors.

This problem is also a running issue in online forums, according to Linda Buquet of Catalyst eMarketing in California. Google Places Optimization is becoming a growing concern of businesses. In Google Forums alone, dozens of postings are about asking for help with “permanent closings.”

Nobody is sure about the extent of this problem, but it could possibly represent a fraction of productive businesses that have been cyber-padlocked. Search consultants further said that many owners have no idea that they’ve been shut down online, and others simply fix this issue on their own.

Google said that they are aware of this and they’re working on some changes, which will be implemented in the coming days, to solve incorrect labeling. Their spokesman said that they know how important accurate listings are for business owners.

Macadamia Meadows Farm, a bed and breakfast business in Naalehu Hawaii is another victim of online “closings”. Charlene Cowan, the owner and operator said that for weeks their bookings for September have been far lower than normal also because their business is also labeled “permanently closed” for weeks.

Macadamia Meadows Farm is nevertheless open as what both Bing Local and Yahoo Local said. And despite weeks of emails and even a call to Google’s Mountain View office, the owner still remains frustrated with the “permanently closed” label on Google Places.  As her own temporary solution, Ms. Cowan said that she put their Places page an update that they’re running a special, this way she figured out people will read and think that they’re actually open.

What Ms. Cowan did to tell Google Places that their business is still open was actually a brilliant move. Saying something on your Places Page and spending some time and effort in constantly updating it will have a big impact to what people think of your listing.  By keeping silent and without saying something new on your page, Google Places and users might assume that you no longer exist. We at Roja believe that a Google Places Optimization effort doesn’t just end with being included in their list. Ultimately, to let Google and the online market believe that your business is very much alive and kicking, it’s best to be constantly updating your page with special offers in order to continue to attract customers and keep your business thriving.

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