If you have been keeping up with the technical news lately, Google has been making a lot of changes. By dropping support for applications, (i.e., dropping IE6 support, etc. ), and adding applications such as Google Places and Google +1.
The latest “oops” is out of the application, Google Places. Using Google Places, you may add your business listing and include information about your business, such as operating hours, photos, reviews, etc. It is similar to a lot of online directories, like Yellow Pages, but it’s a Google version. It is a very key application for mobile Internet searches.
It seems there is a built-in flaw, though, as reported by the New York Times, “Closed Says Google, but Shops’ Signs Says Open”. On Google Places, there is a section called, “Report a problem” on Google Places and if enough people report your business closed, Google also reports the same. Now, in all fairness, Google says they do not “close” a business permanently until they have completed a review, but of course, being Google, they won’t discuss the finer points of that “review”, at all.
So that leaves a problem for business owners who rely heavily on mobile searches. Anyone who uses Craigslist to advertise their business knows their competitors very easily flag their ads, making it drop off the listings. We have had our own single ad, the same one we have used for 4 years and placed on Craigslist every Wednesday, flagged repeatedly during the week. Anyone can do it, and no justification need be provided. Result – no one can find you. Of course, there are rumors that people are paid to do this against their employers’ competition, but that is just unconfirmed rumors, right now.
Google has just given competition an easy means of doing the same thing. While you can report to Google that it is an obvious error, there are some reports that Google isn’t handling those requests very well.
Google has said that they are aware of the problem and are working on changes to resolve the fraudulent closings.
So if you have been using Google Places, or are thinking about it, keep a very close eye on your business information. You might find one day that you were closed and didn’t even know it.